“Everyone’s entitled to one good scare,” said the town sheriff in the 1978 horror classic “Halloween.”
Better make that 10, because rubber-masked killing machine Michael Myers is on his way back to movie screens.
Dimension Films and Trancas International Films have announced “Halloween Returns” will go into production next month.
Marcus Dunstan will direct, from a script by himself and Patrick Melton. Some of their credits include multiple entries in the torture-porn “Saw” franchise. (And please don’t forget “Piranha 3DD.”)
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“Returns” will be the 10th “Halloween” movie to feature Michael Myers — so why the fascination?
“In the world of golf there is Tiger Woods. In wrestling there is Hulk Hogan. In horror cinema there is Michael Myers,” wrote filmmaker and writer Justin Beahm in an email. “After 10 films, generations know him and he is the most famous face in fright films.”
Beahm knows his “Halloween.” He writes for influential horror publication Fangoria, and in his previous role as VP for marketing and new media at Trancas, he was the go-to man on the franchise.
“Myers, or The Shape, is fear incarnate, his blank white visage begging to be populated with whatever scares each person in the theater,” he wrote. “In the original film he was motiveless, penetrating the space suburbanites hold most sacred: our homes. In ‘Jaws’ you had to enter the water to be threatened. In ‘Friday the 13th’ you had to go to camp. In ‘Halloween,’ you just had to go home.”
Myers’ story sprawled out over seven original movies, which followed two different continuities. The first had its world premiere in Kansas City in 1978, and by the time the sixth film was released in 1995 (“Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,” which happens to be Paul Rudd’s ignominious big-screen debut), Myers had almost turned into a joke, having become a super-being, imbued with ridiculous supernatural powers.
A classy reboot three years later breathed temporary new life into the story, but it was short-lived.
In 2007, rock musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie reimagined “Halloween” with the first of two brutally gritty films that took an entirely different approach. He significantly fleshed out Myers’ burgeoning psychopathy as a child.
The adult killer that little Michael grew into was a real man whose resiliency came from his madness and incredibly imposing size. He was played by former professional wrestler Tyler Mane — 6’4” and 240-plus pounds, according to Muscle & Fitness — and could hardly have been more different from the slight Nick Castle, who first donned the mask.
Zombie’s intellectual but uncompromising vision drew praise from some critics (The Star’s review gave it three stars), and its reputation has grown over time. But it also came in for heavy derision from some vocal “Halloween” fans, who hated its literalness.
So will “Halloween Returns” continue Zombie’s story, follow one of the two branches the original film spawned, or will it stand alone?
Despite the Internet rumors claiming to know about the new entry’s plot, Trancas is keeping its cards close to the vest for now.
But Michael Myers’ history suggests he will continue to stalk even beyond this next installment.
The history of ‘Halloween’
While “Halloween” is synonymous in many people’s minds with the ’80s slasher sequel trend, the franchise has had a surprisingly fractious history.
When John Carpenter’s stylish, ultra-low-budget movie about creeping killer Michael Myers was a surprise hit in 1978, it spawned a slew of copycats over the next decade. Many featured cunning, masked murderers picking off young people one by one, often with a holiday or special occasion theme (“My Bloody Valentine,” “Happy Birthday to Me,” “Prom Night”).
“Halloween” played the sequels game, too — but it took a path with more than a few twists and turns. Take notes, because things get complicated. Warning: Major spoilers ahead.
▪ Carpenter and partner Debra Hill followed up the original film with their own “Halloween II” in 1981, directed by Rick Rosenthal. It was a clever and effective continuation of the first installment, beginning exactly where things had left off: after being shot multiple times and falling from a second-story balcony, Myers disappears into the night unseen to continue stalking Laurie Strode.
In an inventive retcon, “II” revealed that Laurie, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is actually the killer’s sister. Myers had murdered his other sister as a child in the opening scene of the original film, so his relentless pursuit of Laurie suddenly made much more sense.
In the final moments of the movie, we see a blinded Myers engulfed in flames, lurching down a hallway before he finally collapses, seemingly dead. The last shot shows him motionless on the floor, fire pouring out of his mask.
▪ “Halloween II” was a box office success, but Carpenter and Hill decided to take a 180-degree turn with 1982’s “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” It ditched Myers completely, and instead told an unrelated and deeply silly story about electronic/magical rubber masks programmed to murder children en masse. It also threw in such disparate elements as murderous androids, Druid sorcery, and even Stonehenge itself.
The film was an ugly, amateurish mess, and flopped with critics and moviegoers alike. Carpenter and Hill scrapped their plan to continue the series with a different Halloween-themed movie every year. The “Halloween” name seemed to have reached its end.
▪ In 1988, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to bring the notorious masked murderer back with “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,” made without the involvement of Carpenter and Hill. It told a simple, direct story in line with the first two installments, this time introducing a new relative for Myers to stalk: the orphaned daughter of Laurie.
The movie notably set a new precedent for Myers’ physical presence by casting the strapping George P. Wilbur in the role. The previous two actors were of average height and slender build, but “Returns’” Myers appeared to belong to a gym, despite having lain in a hospital bed in an unresponsive fugue state for the seven years since “Halloween II.” Subsequent sequels would features similarly hulking actors behind the mask.
At the end, Myers goes down in a hail of bullets shot by the posse chasing him, and he falls down a well to boot. That has to be his demise, right?
▪ Yeah, right. “Return” was enough of a success to merit the hastily produced “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers,” released just a year later. Despite some good performances and a genuinely terrifying scene with a child trapped in a laundry chute, the movie suffered from an uneven tone and inconsistent production values. (Myers’ tiny wood-frame childhood home, featured prominently in the first two movies, has become an ornate brick Victorian mansion, for example. And what’s with that bizarre mask, which doesn’t resemble any of the previous ones at all?) Add in audiences’ growing boredom with the serial-killer genre, and “Revenge” made a disappointing showing at the box office. The reviews weren’t kind either.
In a twist, Myers doesn’t bite the dust in the final moments this time. Instead, he’s violently busted out of his jail cell by a mysterious man in a wide-brimmed hat, long black coat and clinking cowboy boots.
Oh, and Laurie’s daughter is also psychically connected to Uncle Mike now.
Yeah, things really started to go off the rails with No. 5.
▪ It would be another six years until Michael took another stab with “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,” which happens to be Paul Rudd’s ignominious big-screen debut.
Easily the worst Michael Myers movie, the 1995 sequel featured a bizarrely convoluted supernatural plot, unrealistic music-video cinematography, and a cheesy electric-guitar update to Carpenter’s haunting electronic score. And no, the Internet-famous “Producer’s Cut” version doesn’t improve things one iota.
Its largely incoherent ending suggested the unkillable Myers was finally dead for real, and the “Halloween” series looked the same.
▪ In 1998, “Halloween” got an unexpectedly high-caliber recharge, with Jamie Lee Curtis revisiting the role that made her and Michael Myers world famous.
The “Scream” franchise had simultaneously codified the tropes of the slasher flick while re-introducing the genre to a new generation of moviegoers, so “Halloween” producers decided to undo some of the series’ previous mistakes.
“Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” smartly ignored the sequels that took the story so far off track, and picked back up as if only the first two films had ever happened. “Scream” and “Dawson’s Creek” scribe Kevin Williamson helped punch things up.
Laurie Strode has changed her identity and is now serving as headmistress at a tony and secluded private school. While outwardly holding things together, she’s an alcoholic PTSD sufferer who thinks she sees her brother — whose body was never found — reflected in every shop window.
The movie got mixed reviews, but did well at the box office. To fans who had grown disillusioned by the franchise’s slip into ridiculousness, its rejection of the series’ meanderings was a breath of fresh air. At the thrilling moment when Laurie finally decides to quit running and confront her brother head on, cheers rang out in movie theaters.
Myers’ fate is crystal-clear at the end of “H20”: Laurie decapitates him, and his lifeless eyes stare directly at the viewer through the holes in his mask. There’s no way back, Michael. The “Halloween” saga had finally come full circle.
▪ Except there was more to come, of course. 2002’s “Halloween: Resurrection” saw Myers on the loose again. See, Laurie cut the head off the wrong man, who wasn’t able to alert her because Myers had crushed his throat and disguised him with the iconic rubber mask.
Jamie Lee Curtis says goodbye to the role in a fun opening scene, but the movie falls apart after that. Myers returns to his boyhood home, where he becomes a character in an Internet-broadcast reality show, picking off anonymous young people while Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes chew scenery with reckless abandon.
Myers’ fate this time out is to be electrocuted. But in the final shot, we see him wake up suddenly on his slab in the morgue. Natch.
▪ In 2007, director Rob Zombie started from scratch, reinventing Michael Myers with an all-new continuity that was anything but silly. His “Halloween” took the bones of Carpenter’s original concept and characters, and told a similar story in an altogether different way.
Although its stylish filmmaking and standout performance by Malcolm McDowell drew some praise, the film’s brutality was too much for most critics (who tend to be prejudiced against horror films, many fans justifiably contend). But it was a box office success, and counted some influential reviewers among its fans. Michael Myers was reborn.
The ending of Zombie’s movie is ambiguous. Laurie has a gun pointed at Myers, and in the final moment we hear it go off — but we don’t know whether it hits its target or goes astray.
▪ Laurie missed.
She’s back, and so is her brother, in Zombie’s 2009 follow-up, “Halloween II.” Its harrowing opening scenes take place in the hospital where Laurie is being treated for her wounds, in an ingenious nod to the hospital setting of the original film’s first sequel.
But Zombie takes the story off in an entirely different direction for the rest of the movie, which is the most violent in the series. It follows Laurie’s sad descent as she and the few fellow survivors try to cope with the attacks that killed their friends and family two years earlier. Of course, Myers shows back up to complete his unfinished business.
Most critics weren’t kind to the film, especially its dream sequences where Myers envisions his mother as a ghostly figure in white, leading a white horse. It was still a relative financial success, but Zombie vowed not to return to direct a third.
At the end of “Halloween II,” Myers seems really dead this time: shot multiple times, impaled, then repeatedly stabbed in the chest and head. And in the bleak final shots, we see that Laurie has taken up her brother’s mantle of psychosis.