A HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
CORRIDOR of HORROR
VOL. 3, No. 47
Ron Miller The Most Feared
Trick-or-Treater in Halloween History
Michael now has stalked us
for 24 gore-soaked years
By RON MILLER
This column was written before the current series of
"Halloween" remakes by director Rob Zombie.
He first appeared on Halloween night in 1978, his features hidden behind a hard, white mask, his hand holding a large, broad-bladed carving knife, his eyes burning with the urge to kill a pretty babysitter named Laurie Strode. His name: Michael Myers.
Slashing mindlessly to the nervous, staccato sound of John Carpenter's "Halloween" theme, Myers quickly carved out a major place for himself in the hideous history of horror movies with the first of a long string of "Halloween" movies that has now lasted 24 years--and may not be over yet, even though his principal quarry, adopted sister Laurie Strode, finally expired in 2002's "Halloween Resurrection," eighth film in the series.
The concept of a sociopathic slasher-killer, driven to kill because of his poisoned childhood, may have originated with the bizarre Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 "Psycho," but Michael Myers took the concept way out on the thin ice where no movie protagonist had gone before.
Yes, I said "protagonist." Like Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers has long since made us ignore the fact he's not the hero of all those "Halloween" movies. The heroes and heroines are pretty much expendable. The character who draws the crowds to the "Halloween" franchise is the vicious killer himself. He's the raison d'etre for the "Halloween" movies, except perhaps for "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch," the only film in the series without Michael Myers.
Imagine the revolutionary notion behind Michael Myers: He's a leading character that you actually fear and despise. He has no redeeming qualities. He's not even played by an actor anybody has ever heard of before. He's just a presence, a force. And defnitely NOT a force for good.
With Michael Myers, Hollywood finally has made us root for pure evil. When he "dies" at the end of a film, we pray he'll somehow survive because, if he doesn't, then there might not be any more "Halloween" movies, a possibility fans of the series simply don't want to consider.
You may rightfully wonder why anyone would care if the "Halloween" movies finally came to a halt. Well, my answer is that they're often stylishly entertaining, even if I could do without quite so much of the stabbing, slashing and energetic evisceration.
For instance, there's the charming little bit in "Halloween 5" where a female citizen of Michael's hometown--Haddonfield, Ill.--considers the carnage he's personally responsible for over the first decade of his local bloodletting campaign and observes, "They should ban Halloween in this town."
Indeed. One wonders why the Haddonfield Chamber of Commerce didn't have the old Myers place levelled years ago and the soil purified by priests, rabbis and ministers. Yet there it was back in the headlines again this year in "Halloween Resurrection," serving as the "haunted house" location for a live TV broadcast that turned out to be so sanguinary once Michael showed up that not even the Fox network would consider it a suitable "reality" show.
The original "Halloween" logo
from the 1978 movie.
The first question anyone might have after seeing just one "Halloween" movie is why doesn't Michael Myers die after being shot, stabbed, torched, blown-up and annihilated at the end of all those movies. After all, isn't he supposed to be a real person, sent off to the psycho ward in 1963 at the age of six after slashing sister Judith to ribbons in the old Myers place?
The answer: Yes and no. Michael may have been a real person once, but he is now quite something else. Little Tommy Doyle, who lived in Michael's neighborhood in 1978, the year Michael first escaped from the loony bin, told us Michael is "the bogeyman," which is why he can't die.
The film series later gave us a more complex answer leading up to the same conclusion. It came from the grown-up Tommy Doyle, who had become a researcher into things supernatural. He reasoned that Michael is descended from a tribe of Druids and, as we all should know by now, those Druids were heavily into blood-letting and sacrifices. Each tribe supposedly was required to choose a single child to be the carrier of the "curse of thorn," which requires him to kill all members of his family, but to carry out his attacks ONLY on those Halloween nights in which the "sign of thorn" might be seen in the heavens. Michael Myers is the official "cursee" of his tribe.
By a curious coincidence, the "sign of thorn" only seems to appear in the heavens in those years when the studio has a new "Halloween" movie to release. Timing, as they say in film distribution, is crucial to success.
For five of the eight "Halloween" films to date, Michael's nemesis was Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), who might still be chasing after him like a modern-day Dr. Van Helsing if actor Pleasence hadn't died right after completing "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers," sixth in the series. Loomis had the good sense to fear Michael--and the courage to keep going after him anyway.
In a delicious speech in the original "Halloween," Dr. Loomis told of his many long years spent studying Michael in the asylum--and why he knew the young man never would be reclaimed for society.
"I spent eight years trying to reach him," said Loomis, "then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was behind those eyes was simply...evil."
Unlike Frankenstein's monster, who was an innocent babe trapped in a body made up of parts from cadavers, Michael never generates sympathy. Unlike Dracula or The Wolf Man, he never talks, so he can't get us pulling for him to find a way out of his Druidic curse of eternal homicide. Still, he somehow has managed to seem "cool" to a large segment of each generation of youngsters. Perhaps it's because he keeps on ticking after each licking. Americans of all ages love a guy who climbs off the canvas, shakes his head to clear it, then goes right back to trying for a kayo.
I'll have to admit I came close to cheering when Michael gut-stabbed the obnoxious Adam Arkin, who was playing Laurie Strode's latest swain in 1998's "H2O: 20 Years Later," and literally lifted him off the ground on the blade of his carving knife.
Another great appeal of the "Halloween" series has been the frequent appearances of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. Curtis was the "scream queen" of her generation, following in the footsteps of her actress mom Janet Leigh, who did some healthy screaming in Hitchcock's "Psycho" before Norman Bates spoiled her on-screen shower. The ultimate trivia moment to date in all the "Halloween" films was the one in "H2O" where Leigh and Curtis appear together in one sequence.
Some may think the new trend away from "slasher" movies and the death of Laurie Strode in the latest Halloween film means the series has had its day at last. I don't think so. If Michael can come back, so can Laurie. However, if she does, I hope she is immediately put into the federal witness protection program.
What does the popularity of a character like Michael Myers portend for human civilization? Nothing positive, I'm sure. Kids who watch him, then grow up thinking it's cool to commit vicious murders without any trace of conscience, may be the natural harvest of our increasingly sick attitude about what we call entertainment.
In the meantime, though, anyone who reads the papers or watches TV news is bound to know that there are lots of evil characters like Michael walking around these days. The bad thing about it is that they walk every night, not just on those Halloweens when the sign of the thorn is in the heavens.
So, if you are sending the little ones out trick-or-treating anytime soon--or just walking to the mailbox--my advice is to send armed guards along with them.
© 2002 by Ron Miller. The Michael Myers and "Halloween" images are © 1978 by Falcon International Productions.