40 years after he first terrified Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode in Halloween, ‘The Shape’ is back for an eagerly-awaited sequel directed by David Gordon Green. But who is Michael Myers and why does that name strike fear into the hearts of so many? Ahead of Halloween’s return, we present this essential guide to Haddonfield’s notorious bogeyman…
The most shocking thing about the opening scene of director John Carpenter’s original Halloween from 1978 is the first reveal of the killer… We see through his eyes as he watches a teenage girl – his sister Judith, it turns out, sneaks into her room and then proceeds to stab her to death.
But it’s not just the violence that’s so shocking, but the perpetrator. Michael is not only her brother – he’s only six years old. Young Michael is quickly discovered by his family and spends the next 15 years in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he waits patiently, biding his time…
An elemental evil
Why does Michael do the things he does? Nobody knows – and that’s why he’s so terrifying.
Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance) spent the 15 years of Myers’s incarceration trying to understand why, only to reach one terrifying conclusion: “What was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.” During that time Michael does nothing but simply stare at the wall of his cell until the time is right – October 31, 1978 – when he breaks free and returns to Haddonfield, ready to kill again. He succeeds, slaughtering three teenagers and attacking a fourth, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first film role). survives, however, and with Loomis’s help, defeats Michael, leading to his capture and imprisonment.
Loomis’s description of Myers is terrifying, making him sound utterly inhuman; an elemental force or death personified. It’s precisely this unknowability that makes him such a fearsome foe.
40 years later… he’s back
David Gordon Green’s film is a direct sequel to the original Halloween, but you don’t need to know anything about Carpenter’s classic before you see it. The set up is simple and streamlined: 40 years later, Michael (now in his 60s!) breaks out once again and returns to Haddonfield. This time, however, Laurie is waiting for him and she has vengeance on her mind…
A cosplayer’s dream…
Michael has one of the most distinctive looks in horror cinema – simple, sinister and a godsend for Halloween parties!
Myers wears a simple dark blue boiler suit and a terrifying white rubber mask. In one of the odder bits of movie trivia, the mask was of William Shatner – Captain Kirk from Star Trek – leading to the ever in-on-the-joke Shatner going trick or treating as Michael Myers on at least one occasion.
The man beneath the mask
No less than three people played Michael in the original film. As well as Nick Castle who plays the masked Michael – known simply as ‘The Shape’ in the film’s credits! – Will Sandin played the six year old Michael, while Tony Moran appeared as his unmasked adult self at the end. In the new film Michael will be played by character actor James Jude Courtney.
Every screen monsters has their weapon of choice… Freddy has his claws, Jason has his machete, but Michael goes for something simple, ubiquitous and easy to replace should he be disarmed: a large kitchen knife.
Making the tool of his villain’s murderous wrath something so everyday was a stroke of genius on John Carpenter’s part. Every house has a knife like Michael’s and everyone can imagine how much it would hurt to be stabbed with one. As with its setting in the autumnal suburbs of Haddonfield, Halloween gets its power from feeling so plausible and real.
Myers has a relatively low kill count in the original film: as well as slaughtering Judith, he kills all of Laura’s friends: Lynda, Annie and Bob. No wonder she’s still carrying such a grudge against him… he hangs Bob’s body up, stuffs Lynda in a closet and drapes Annie’s corpse out on a bed with the stolen headstone of Judith Myers above her. Brutal!
At the close of 1978’s original Halloween, Doctor Loomis shoots Michael six times but when he goes to check on the body he’s gone. Leaving Michael ample opportunity to return to terrorise Laurie all over again 40 years later.