The Halloween franchise and the horrors of Michael Myers have been terrifying audiences since John Carpenter brought the Boogeyman to life 40 years ago. There are plenty of horror series out there that span numerous films, but there’s something special about the simplicity of the Halloween movies. Michael Myers is a force of nature, and there’s something deeply unsettling about his unstoppable presence. The franchise has seen a rocky reputation build throughout its previous 10 films, but David Gordon Green’s reboot/sequel is taking a fresh look at the series.
Green and company had their movie follow the events of the original 1978 film, but disregard all other installments in the series, including Halloween II. Those events are actually a lot more complicated than some fans may realize, as the Halloween series has a timeline full of many twists and turns. In order to properly prepare yourself for the latest offering in the series, here’s a breakdown of what’s happened in what used to be the main timeline and beyond. After this you’ll be as big of an expert on Michael Myers as Dr. Loomis himself.
1963 – 1978
The film opens up in 1963 and provides the first glimpse of a young Michael Myers when he stabs his older sister Judith to death on Halloween night. Michael’s hospitalized at Warren County’s Smith’s Grove Sanitarium following the attack. Fifteen years later on Oct. 30, 1978, Michael is on his way to be escorted to court when he steals Dr. Samuel Loomis’ car to escape back to his hometown, Haddonfield.
Once there, Michael murders a mechanic to get his classic workman’s uniform and also acquires his now iconic mask and knife from a hardware store. The following night is when Michael begins his killing spree and develops his obsession with Laurie Strode. The first Halloween film concludes with Loomis saving Laurie by shooting Michael six times and knocking him off a balcony.
Yet his body is missing when they go to examine it…
The sequel picks up immediately after the events of the first film, even though it was produced three years later. Laurie is hospitalized following her attack, and Michael follows her over to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and carries out a murderous rampage on everyone that tries to keep him away from Laurie.
This is the film that also reveals Laurie is Michael’s younger sister, who was given up for adoption as an infant. Not only is this familial connection provided, but the film adds in some more supernatural lore. Michael is driven to kill his younger sister in order to fulfill the curse of Samhain. The film concludes with the threat of Michael Myers supposedly over when an explosion that Dr. Loomis causes consumes both himself and Michael.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
At this point, it was John Carpenter’s intention to end the Michael Myers portion of Halloween and turn the series into an anthology where each film would tell a different horror story set on Halloween night. 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the first (and only) step in this direction. The film looks at an evil novelty company that uses the magic of Stonehenge to weaponize Halloween masks against children (it’s amazing, though). It also featured the most spectacular jingle from hell you’ll ever endure.
When fans weren’t responsive to this change to the series, Carpenter’s anthology plan was scrapped, and Michael would be back in full force in the following entry. However, when Jamie Lee Curtis declined to return to the series, Halloween had to set up a new target for Michael, which leads into the “Jamie Lloyd Saga” of the next three films. We wrote more about why this movie deserves another chance right here.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
The first soft-reboot of the franchise has to suspend a little disbelief so that both Michael and Loomis survive their fiery deaths at the end of Halloween II. Now, despite being visibly turned into a blind slab of barbecue, Michael has a few scars and is doing fine, awakening 10 years after the fact from a coma. He’s in the process of being transferred back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, but upon hearing that not only has Laurie Strode died in a car accident, but that she also left behind an eight-year old daughter, Jamie Lloyd (and thus Michael’s niece), The Shape awakens and does the whole murder and escape thing. He returns to Haddonfield to track down wee little Jamie, her older foster sister, Rachel, as well as a back-in-action Dr. Loomis, who is hot on their trail.
Since mere bullets and fire aren’t enough, Loomis takes out Michael this time by shooting him up with a shotgun and knocking him down a mineshaft. The film attempts a shocking final visual that sees Jamie in a similar clown costume to the one Michael wore back in the prologue to the original film. Jamie goes on to attack her foster mother with a knife and with Michael now out of the picture, it looked like Jamie would become the killer in the following entry as this evil passes on. Dr. Loomis even attempts to shoot her before he is thwarted by the police and Jamie’s foster father.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
However, the next movie abandons that plan for more and more Michael. Jamie has been in a children’s mental health clinic for months after her outburst at the end of Halloween 4; she is also completely normal despite her “episode” and is visited regularly by Rachel and a much cuddlier Dr. Loomis, if not her traumatized foster parents. Michael has also taken a year to nurse himself back to health and survive the onslaught of an attack he received.
The film establishes some sort of psychic connection between Michael and Jamie, and it allows him to once again track her down. Rachel meets her unfortunate end, but Loomis is successful in capturing Michael and putting him away in custody. Halloween 5 boldly goes out on a legitimate cliffhanger to set up the final film in this new trilogy. An obscured “Man in Black” cult figure breaks Michael out of prison and implies that he’s a part of something bigger—something the filmmakers clearly had no idea how to explain when they shot it.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
This belated follow-up really goes all in with the supernatural mythology and attempts to explore the source of Michael’s evil. The Curse of Michael Myers tries to push a firm explanation for both Michael’s motives and his supernatural strength that most fans think is wholly unnecessary. Apparently Michael has been chosen as a conduit by the “Rune of Thorn” cult to become the serial killer juggernaut that he is.
This curse indicates that Michael becomes the cult’s vessel and is forced to murder his entire family as some kind of sacrifice for the protection of mankind. The Cult of Thorn are all chosen people (they’re literally branded) who risk everything to protect their vessel so that he can complete their goal. This is all fairly silly (and also contradicts the Samhain curse from Halloween II), but largely becomes the focus of the film.
The Curse of Michael Myers picks up six years after the prior film and reveals that the Cult of Thorn—the same individuals who rescued Michael from jail—also kidnapped Jamie Lloyd (who’s been recast from fan favorite Danielle Harris to J.C. Brandy) in order to help fulfill their prophecy. The Cult uses Michael to impregnate Jamie and after she gives birth to Michael’s son, he messily kills her with farm equipment. Still, he can’t track down her child.
Curiously, a grown-up Tommy Doyle—the boy that Laurie babysits in the original Halloween—finds the child and opts to protect it from Michael. Oh, and Tommy Doyle is played by Paul Rudd. The Curse of Michael Myers goes out on another cliffhanger as Tommy heavily sedates Michael with tranquilizers and Loomis is branded as Michael’s new guardian in the Cult of Thorn. As interesting of a direction as this would have been, Donald Pleasence’s death effectively ended those plans and this more or less ends the first full Halloween timeline in 1995, where it is implied Michael finally kills Dr. Loomis off-screen (we hear what sounds like his cries).
Halloween: H20 (The First Major Reboot)
1998 marked the 20th anniversary of the original film, and so the series decided to take a rather different approach and put out Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The film marks the second timeline in the franchise and is set 20 years after the conclusion of Halloween II, choosing to ignore the Jamie Lloyd material (although the character was mentioned in the original script, which is interesting, if not confusing). Laurie has faked her death and changed her name to Keri Tate so as to elude Michael for all of these years.
Michael in turn uses Laurie’s son, John (Josh Hartnett), to get to his true target. The film’s big finish centers on the reunion between these extremely dysfunctional siblings.
Halloween: H20 has an incredibly cathartic conclusion, as Laurie derails a conventional ending of an injured Michael escaping via the ambulance he’s being driven away in (he of course escapes and kills the EMTs). She does this by literally driving Michael off the road and then decapitates her brother as he attempts to guilt her. Laurie is the true hero, she’s conquered her demons, and the canon of Halloween, Halloween II, and H20 would tell a beautiful story if that was it.
But that’s not it…
Halloween: Resurrection is the absolute nadir of the franchise and it’s the result of money driving a project rather than passion. Jamie Lee Curtis was fairly appalled at how the existence of this film would undercut H20’s ending, and has since inferred she only did the film due to contractual obligations, however she demanded Laurie be killed off in it so that her story would be over.
The film does exactly that and in one swift moment, Halloween: Resurrection’s opening scene undoes all of the goodwill that the previous film earned. A distraught, frightened Laurie is murdered by Michael after spending three years in a mental institution. It’s an awful end to such a powerful character.
Michael also survives his decapitation from H20 courtesy of some rather sloppy retconning. Apparently Michael put his mask on an ambulance driver and switched places with him, so Laurie actually decapitated an innocent man, and her evil brother got away free. This is really what’s important from the film since the rest of Halloween: Resurrection sees a bunch of teenagers set-up an internet reality show in Michael’s childhood home in Haddonfield. Michael doesn’t appreciate the publicity, but Busta Rhymes electrocutes Mikey to death before the film’s over. With that disastrous ending, this timeline’s conclusion sees Busta Rhymes’ reality show producer as the true champion over Michael Myers. The end.
1991 – 2007
Technically speaking, this remake is more or less a retelling of the same story as Carpenter’s original film (at least with Halloween II’s sibling angle thrown in). Michael Myers stalks his sister, Laurie Strode, with Dr. Loomis on the hunt to stop him. While the larger story beats are the same, Zombie digs much deeper into Michael’s broken childhood, his relationship with his mother, and the rough life that he had that helped turn him into “The Shape.” He even has an assortment of masks that represent his many emotions, not just the iconic white mask.
More of a character study for its first half, Halloween attempts to find the man and psychology behind the Boogeyman, turning him into a more realistic serial killer whose attacks are truly gruesome.
Zombie’s Halloween II (set one year later, though released in 2009) goes more in its own bizarre direction, with Michael finally speaking for the first time as an adult (he says “DIE” as he finally kills Dr. Loomis, played here by the always welcome Malcolm McDoweel), and with Laurie then stabbing Michael to death and being sent to a mental institution, perhaps to continue on the cycle. Like the end of Halloween 4, it is hinted she’s inherited her relative’s madness, especially since Michael killed her best friend over the two movies, Annie, played here by Danielle Harris. Yep, after evading her terrible sendoff in Halloween 6, Ms. Harris still endured the fate all Michael Myers survivors apparently must succumb to.
Even though a sequel was planned, Zombie’s direction for the series was abandoned until David Gordon Green’s vision could finally come to fruition nearly a decade later and 40 years after the release of the original film.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is a return to form and has earned the approval of both Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter. It also very much feels like a soft repudiation of Zombie’s psychological profile and all the many intricacies of, well, canon and timelines. By wiping out everything that came before it, save the original, it returns to the basic elemental horror of Carpenter’s original picture with the aim of having some fun at remembering that Michael was originally the “Shape” before he became Big Brother Mikey, then Uncle Mikey, and finally Busta Rhymes’ vanquished foe, Mikey.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that sequels are in the works, even though we think its ending is pretty final. Provided that these new films remain a success, this most recent timeline of Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018) should remain the new canon in the foreseeable future. Which is fine by us, given that it also gives the franchise a newly feminist bent. And frankly, Michael Myers might go berserker on the producers themselves if they try to attempt another reboot.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic. Read more of his work here. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.