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A Brief History of the ‘Halloween’ Franchise

After 40 years, he’s coming back home… and in one of the biggest horror film events of the year, a new Halloween film is coming out, reuniting series veterans like Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter. In anticipation of this new film, I’ve taken a brief look back at the Halloween franchise, looking at its high and assorted low points.

Needless to say the success of the film led to a sequel

After watching Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), producers sought him out to direct a film a about a psychotic killer stalking babysitters (initially titled The Babysitter Murders, it was suggested that the film be set on and named Halloween instead). The film had a low budget and tight schedule, resulting in a focus on suspenseful restraint and few well-known actors (the only real big name was Donald Pleasance, who played ‘Dr Samuel Loomis’). The low budget also resulted in the creation of Michael’s iconic look (created by modifying a cheap William Shatner mask) and the series’ theme, a simple piano melody in 5/4, composed by Carpenter himself. The film itself tells the story of ‘Michael Myers’ (credited as ‘The Shape’), who was committed to a sanatorium as a child for the murder of his sister. Fifteen years later, he escapes to stalk and kill the people of the town of Haddonfield, pursued as he does by his former psychiatrist, ‘Loomis’. Michael eventually comes up against ‘Laurie Strode’ (Curtis, in her film debut), who fights to survive. The film performed well at the time (especially with little advertising), but it has since gone down as a hugely influential film within the horror genre and horror film academia. Needless to say, the success of the film led to a sequel.

Halloween II (1981) picks up immediately after the events of the first film, with Michael following Laurie to a nearby hospital, and Loomis in hot pursuit. The film tended more toward graphic death scenes than the original, but it included certain elements intended to evoke that movie (first-person camera perspectives, for example) and introduced a key plot element that would last long into the series – the fact that Laurie was Michael’s sister. Intended to conclude the story of Haddonfield, the film ended with Michael and Loomis perishing in a hospital explosion.

The franchise was initially envisaged as an anthology series, leading to the temporary retirement of Michael and the bizarre film Season of the Witch (1982). It features ‘Tom Atkins’ as a doctor investigating the death of one of his patients – it transpires that the murder is linked to Silver Shamrock Novelties, a company that produces Halloween masks (and the world’s most irritating jingle – it appears a lot during the film), and which hopes to use witchcraft to resurrect the ancient Celtic aspects of the holiday. Although it’s not the world’s worst film, it is a really strange watch (and arguably more frightening than the series’ later dabbles with magic).

A poor critical reception and box-office performance lead to The Return of Michael Myers (1988). Loomis returned, this time trying to protect Laurie’s daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) from her uncle (in this timeline, Laurie has died in a car crash). This mission would continue in The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), a standard slasher that sees Loomis capture Michael in a child mental health clinic, from which he is sprung by a mysterious stranger.

The film is enjoyable and well-paced

This stranger is a villain in The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), in which Loomis and Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd, in his first starring role) try to protect Jamie’s child. The film gives Michael a motivation, stating that he is driven by the Curse of Thorn, which explains both his immortality and his drive to kill his family. It was to be Donald Pleasance’s final film role, and he died eight months before its release. Curtis expressed an interest in returning to the series for its 20th anniversary, and so the seventh film effectively retconned all but the first two out of existence. H20: 20 Years Later (1998) takes place in a private school, where a post-traumatic Laurie has faked her death and gone into hiding. She must fight to protect her teenage son when Michael returns. The film is enjoyable and well-paced, and features a fun cameo by Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh (the name ‘Sam Loomis’ came from Leigh’s most famous film, Psycho).

A sequel was released in 2002 – Halloween: Resurrection sees Michael finally finish off Laurie, before returning home and finding that his house is now the setting for an internet-based reality show. It’s known by fans of the series as the one in which Busta Rhymes defeats Michael Myers with kung fu – I think that probably tells you all you need to know. Despite heavy criticism, the film was a moderate box-office success, but this strand of the Halloween series drew to a close. In 2007, Rob Zombie decided to reboot the franchise. His Halloween differed by spending a good deal of time looking at Michael’s past and psyche (because, as any horror fan knows, backstory always adds to the fear). Despite a few good points (including the casting of Malcolm McDowell as Loomis), the film was slated as failing to get anywhere near the suspense of the original, instead focusing on violence and gore. A sequel followed in 2009, which focused on the connection between Laurie and Michael and how the events of the first film affected the survivors – it had a mixed reception, but one which definitely erred towards the negative.

Despite his legendary status, Michael Myers really hasn’t had that much in the way of good films to enjoy

Early reviews suggest that the new Halloween is a return to form for the series – set 40 years after the original and disregarding all other sequels, the film sees Laurie ready for a final showdown with Michael on Halloween night. Despite his legendary status, Michael Myers really hasn’t had that much in the way of good films to enjoy – here’s hoping that this Halloween is a horror move befitting a horror icon.

Halloween (2018) will be released on 19 October.

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