Michael Myers, the fictional knife-wielding maniac from Haddonfield first appeared in 1978’s Halloween, a film directed by John Carpenter on a shoestring budget. This week he made his tenth appearance in a Halloween film. There have been eleven Halloween films in total, but fans have generally agreed to ignore Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the only film in the franchise to try and scare up a plot without ol’ Michael. 2018’s Halloween reboot erases every movie from canon but one: the original.
That means if you’re headed to theaters this weekend to see the newest iteration of Halloween, it’s cool if you’ve only ever seen the original. You won’t need any information from subsequent films if you’re just a casual observer. However, horror nuts and cinephiles might find it exciting to review Michael Myers’ curious development over eleven films and four timelines. That’s what we’re slicing apart here.
The dark magic in the first Halloween was Michael’s lack of backstory — of fans only saw a glimpse of Michael as a child. To make him even seem more mysterious, the Halloween franchise credited the role of Michael as “The Shape” in the first two films. In 1988, the fourth Halloween film finally admitted that Michael was the centerpiece of the franchise, crediting the character as “Michael Myers.” Unfortunately, the fourth film also attempted to explain too much of the original films’ events. Neither critics nor fans were happy about it.
Who is Michael Myers?
So, who exactly is Michael Myers? Inside the fictional world of the Halloween franchise, there’s a lot of conflicting about him and why he’s obsessed with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Sometimes he’s built like a professional wrestler, and sometimes he’s kind of a dumpy everyman. Sometimes he has magical Irish powers, and other times he wills himself into an annual coma. The only things that stay the same across franchises are the mask, the knife, and the fact that he breaks out of a psychiatric hospital every year on Halloween Eve. Seriously, though, why do they keep putting him in the same hospital?
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Outside the films, details about the character’s origin and development are just as complex and strange. Before you see 2018’s Halloween, take a moment to review what we’ve learned about Michael in the past forty years.
The original Michael who started it all
Based on information released in the first two Halloween films, Michael’s fictional biography goes like this: In 1963, a Haddonfield, Illinois six-year-old stabs his teenage sister Judith to death while wearing a clown costume and mask. He’s admitted to a psychiatric hospital, Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis, who comes to believe that Michael’s inner life is cruel and dark beyond the realm of normative child psychology. In the 1978 film, Loomis says, “I met this…six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and…the blackest eyes - the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”
Fifteen years after being admitted to the hospital, in 1978, Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, steals Dr. Loomis’s car and drives home to Haddonfield. It’s later discovered that he carved the word “sister” on the door to his cell before breaking out. On the way into Haddonfield, he murders a truck driver and steals the man’s uniform.
Michael hides in his now-abandoned childhood home, and the next day, he watches from the doorway as a teenager named Laurie Strode drops off a key for her father, a realtor. He stalks Laurie around their neighborhood, taking breaks to steal his sister’s gravestone from the cemetery and break into a hardware store for gloves, knives, some rope, and a white mask.
After murdering some teens in the neighborhood, Michael attempts to kill Laurie, but she manages to stab him with a wire hanger and his own knife. Dr. Loomis shows up and shoots Michael six times in the chest, but his body disappears before Loomis and Strode can get to it. That’s where the first film ends. All we know at this point is that Michael killed his older sister, hung around in the hospital for fifteen years, and broke out on Halloween Eve. This is narratively where 2018’s Halloween picks up its continuity.
The first Halloween sequel and Michael the Gaelic supervillain
In the first Halloween sequel, Michael flees to the elementary school after being gravely injured. There, he kills a teen girl named Alice Martin and writes the word “Samhain” on a chalkboard in her blood. He then spots Laurie’s location in a news report and tracks her to the local hospital, where he kills a ton of people trying to reach her room. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis discovers that Laurie is Michael’s biological younger sister, who was adopted by Morgan and Pamela Strode after Michael was sent to the hospital.
Loomis and Laurie set an explosion off in the hospital, effectively setting Michael on fire. That’s where the second film ends, and it’s also where the Halloween timelines split open. Two films, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), pick up from here, both ignoring each other.
The 4-6 Timeline
As mentioned above, the third Halloween film departs from Michael’s story and has no bearing on the events of the other films. We’re setting that one aside because no on cares.
What’s unveiled in films four, five, and six has been categorized by Halloween fans as its own timeline, as later films tossed out the information in a ret-con effort. According to the 4-6 Timeline, Michael falls into a coma after the events of Halloween 1978, and he wakes up again, ten years later, on Halloween Eve, 1988. He learns that Laurie, his younger sister, has died, but that her daughter, Jamie, is still alive. He breaks out of the ambulance moving him between psychiatric hospitals and heads to Haddonfield again, though Dr. Loomis spots him at a diner and begs him to leave everyone alone.
Once in Haddonfield, Michael steals another white mask from a store, not realizing that his niece Jamie is nearby. Word gets out that Michael is back in Haddonfield, and as he travels around on Halloween killing policemen, regular citizens take to the streets with their guns. The state police arrive, they take Jamie Strode out of town, and Michael appears in the backseat of her getaway car. Jamie manages to hit her uncle with the car, and when she examines his body, she touches his hand and inadvertently strikes up a psychic connection between them. Michael stands up and attempts to attack her again, only to be met with a flurry of bullets from nearby policemen. He falls into a mine shaft and the police throw a stick of dynamite into the shaft after him. Later, Jamie stabs her foster mother Darlene with a pair of scissors. That’s where Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers ends.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers picks up with Michael floating down a river, where he’s picked up by a random hermit. He falls into a coma for a year and the hermit cares for him. On Halloween Eve, 1989, Michael wakes up again, kills the helpful hermit and heads back to Haddonfield, assumedly to meet up with his niece. He kills a bunch of people — this movie is pretty bad, so we can fast forward — and eventually Loomis-the-insane-psychiatrist, whose credentials should really be taken away, decides to set a trap with Jamie as bait. When Michael finds Jamie, she convinces him to take his mask off, but when she touches her uncle’s face, he goes berserk. Loomis shoots Michael with a tranquilizer and beats him with a piece of wood until he collapses. Later, a mysterious man shows up at the jailhouse to break Michael out.
In the sixth film, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, we learn that the mysterious man from the previous film also kidnapped Jamie from the police station. Six years later, Jamie gives birth to a baby on Halloween Eve, 1995. She runs away with her baby and Michael murders the midwife. Inexplicably, everybody heads back to Haddonfield.
Michael catches up with Jamie and murders her horrifically, though before she dies, she says, “You can’t have the baby, Michael.” Her role as protagonist goes to Tommy Doyle, the kid whom Laurie was babysitting back in 1978. We discover that Tommy has been obsessed with Michael since that fateful night, and he happens to discover Jamie’s baby at a bus stop.
We then learn via Tommy that Michael is supernaturally resilient because he’s cursed with the gift of “Thorn,” a magic ability from Celtic lore. That’s why he’s been writing “Samhain,” or the Gaelic equivalent to Halloween, on stuff throughout his life. According to the Curse of Thorn, Michael must sacrifice his next-of-kin every Halloween.
Of course, receiving all this backstory bummed out fans of the Halloween franchise, which is why subsequent films tried to backpedal. Thus, the seventh film in the franchise marks the conclusion of the “4 to 7” timeline.
The H20 Timeline
In 1998, Dimension Films tossed out the continuity of the last three Halloween films to be released in theaters and decided to revive the original franchise with the confusingly titled Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Hoping to find that dark magic again, this film invited Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fray as Laurie Strode, and nixed all of the Gaelic curse stuff entirely.
According to this timeline, Michael survives the hospital fire and shows up twenty years later to kill Laurie, who faked her own death in 1978 and relocated to California. This time, Laurie manages to decapitate her uncle after a lot of back-and-forth.
The next Halloween film, Halloween: Resurrection, is a part of the H20 timeline. In this one, we find out Laurie didn’t decapitate Michael at all, but instead murdered a lookalike. She sits in a psychiatric hospital, waiting for Michael to show up yet again. When he does, Laurie hesitates when she gets her chance to kill him, and in return, Michael stabs her and tosses her off the roof of the hospital, finally killing her.
Michael then attacks the cast of a horror-themed reality show for unknown reasons. Though Dimension Film reportedly wanted to continue the franchise from there, Halloween was rebooted completely in 2007, this time by Rob Zombie.
Rob Zombie’s Reboot Timeline
According to Rob Zombie’s two Halloween films, which serve as a total franchise reboot, Michael begins his murders at 10-years-old, rather than six. He kills his older sister Judith, but their younger sister, Angel, survives. He’s carted off to the same psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr. Loomis, and Angel is adopted by the Strode family and renamed Laurie.
During the years of Michael’s care, his mother commits suicide after learning that he’s murdered a nurse. The events of the first film play out again in the reboot, though it ends with Michael unsuccessfully attempting to tell Laurie they are siblings. She shoots him in the head.
In the sequel, Halloween II, Michael wakes up and pursues Laurie again, this time plagued by ghostly visions of his mother calling them both home. Laurie eventually kills him and dons the mask.
The 2018 Timeline
According to screenwriters Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green, the new franchise from Blumhouse will toss out certain parts of Michael’s backstory yet again. In this film, Michael and Laurie are not siblings, Michael doesn’t have mysterious Gaelic magic powers, and nothing has happened in the forty years between 1978 and 2018 in the Halloween universe.
Michael in the real world
According to Jamie Lee Curtis and other sources from the original film’s production, Michael Myers’s iconic mask is simply a costume Captain Kirk mask with all the identifying features sanded down. So, the Halloween killer is just a white-painted William Shatner.
To date, Michael has been played by 15 actors, including Nick Castle, Tony Moran, and Will Sandin in the first film, and Dick Warlock, Adam Gunn, George P. Wilbur, Tom Morga, Erik Preston, Don Shanks, A. Michael Lerner, Chris Durand, Brad Loree, Tyler Mane, and Chase Wright Vanek. The 2018 version sees Nick Castle, the OG Michael, in a single scene with Jamie Lee Curtis, and all of the sounds of Michael breathing come from Castle as well. For the rest of the film, he’s played by James Jude Courtney.
Halloween, a new sequel to the 1978 horror classic which bears the exact same name, hits theaters Friday, October 19.