The Halloween Franchise: Why We Love It
Shout! employees are big horror fans and have strong opinions on Michael Myers and the Halloween films, so they've provided their own defenses of why each movie is a worthy entry into the iconic series.
Halloween – Emily H.
Few films have had as much impact on the horror genre as John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). With its well-developed tension, eminently enjoyable Final Girl, and the birth of an iconic villain, there’s a reason the original become a franchise. It has become so embedded in popular culture that you can open TikTok at any point in the month of October and see a small child doing a dance in a Michael Myers mask.
There is a duality at the heart of Halloween – the faceless killing machine that is Michael Myers (Nick Castle) and the babysitter who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Michael’s haunting mask, expressionless and devoid of humanity, allows the viewer to assign their own worst fears to what lies beneath. His relentless nature established the blueprint for the silent killers that would go on to dominate the slasher genre, inspiring countless imitations. Laurie is earnest and kind and you can see every emotion flicker across Jamie Lee Curtis’s incredibly expressive face. She is appropriately young and terrified for a high schooler going through such horrors, but also resourceful and resilient in a way that makes it believable when she triumphs.
When you revisit Halloween now, especially if you are well-versed with more modern films in the horror space, it’s almost shocking to see how little blood, gore, and jump scares there are. One of the film's remarkable achievements is its ability to induce fear through subtlety and suspense. Carpenter employs a slow-burn approach, building tension through the expert use of cinematography and a haunting musical score. The minimalist piano notes of the main theme have become synonymous with impending doom, setting a benchmark for horror soundtracks and it is of course Carpenter himself who is responsible for this score. This film is built on storytelling and suspense and its through the evolution of the characters and what they face that you feel shock and not through any cheap gags. The film is crafted incredibly well, at a tight 91 minutes without a moment of wasted space. It deserves its place as an all-time great in the pantheon of horror films, and as an incredible achievement in the realm of filmmaking as a whole.
Halloween II – Joey G.
Armed with nothing but a word processor and an endless cache of Budweiser, a begrudging John Carpenter was convinced (see: paid handsomely) by producer Moustapha Akkad to write a sequel to his uber-successful horror slasher, Halloween.
Tapped for ideas, Carpenter switched things up with an unexpected retcon: Turns out Michael Myers, the mysterious killer-of-babysitters, had a very good reason for pursuing the seemingly random Laurie Strode – they were siblings! This reveal proved to be more divisive than the “where’d Michael learn to drive a car?” discourse introduced in the first film. (Answer: Anyone can drive a car. It’s not neurosurgery.)
Despite this controversial new trajectory, there is much to love about the Rick Rosenthal-directed sequel.
Though it was filmed 3 years after the original, the sequel picks up right where the first one ended, following Laurie’s trip to the hospital after surviving Michael’s attack. The seamless transition Rosenthal accomplishes is a nifty little parlor trick that immediately hooks the viewer.
Dean Cundey returns as the director of photography and once again dazzles with his nighttime camerawork. The alleyways are jet black; the street lit parking lots are ominous; and the labyrinthine basement of the hospital is all shadows and utility lights – all delivered in a beautiful 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Michael is truly scary here; Loomis is as doomsayer as ever; and Laurie – well, she’s mostly catatonic. But Rosenthal’s sequel manages to up the ante while remaining respectful to the original. And man, what an all-timer of an ending!
As far as horror sequels go, Halloween II may be one of the best.
(Rosenthal’s contributions to the franchise would not prove to be infallible: He’s also responsible for directing Halloween: Resurrection, perhaps the lowest point in the series.)
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch – Ben S.
Who doesn’t want a little variety in their trick or treat haul? Halloween III: Season Of The Witch is the installment that said “so long” to the already iconic Michael Myers and said “hello” to an equally insidious villain: the Silver Shamrock corporate jingle that will work its way into your head, no matter how hard you try to fight it.
In what remains one of the gutsiest experiments in franchise cinema history, John Carpenter and Debra Hill envisioned the series as an anthology of stand-alone feature length terror tales, each culminating in a totally different but decidedly dreadful Halloween night. I can’t fault them for detouring from that plan and giving us more Myers after the original became a hit, but I’m in awe of their conviction to veer back on course to their original vision.
And the vision for this installment? Ba-na-nas. Microchips, pagan ritual, fatal family focus groups! The aforementioned insidious jingle doesn’t just work its way into the viewer’s head. It WORMS its way into the heads of television-addicted, Halloween-hungry consumerist kids after being weaponized by a mad scientist hell-bent on sewing societal havoc and beaming a mind-altering evil of Videodromic proportions into the average American household.
Prophetic warning of modern-day device usage? Possibly a stretch, but it’s certainly Carpenter’s best anti-social takedown of mass media this side of They Live.
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers – Emily H.
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers resurrects everyone’s favorite silent killer. Set in the familiar town of Haddonfield, Michael Myers has awakened from a comatose state and resumes his usual activities: stalking and lurking. This time, he’s targeting his young niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). The film further explores the psychological aspects of evil, delving into the inherent darkness that seemingly resides within the Myers bloodline.
Jamie’s struggle to confront her familial link to evil and the imminent threat imposed by her uncle is made all the more terrifying by her very young age. Rachel (Ellie Cornell) stepping in as her protector turns the film into a touching tale of love and found family even as it forces you to wonder what impact nature and nurture have on who we become. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) must ask himself the same question as he sees what happened with Michael all those years ago coming to pass again with young Jamie.
Embracing the penchant in the ‘80s for escalating gore and increased body count, the film balances the tension of its origins with the evolving expectations of horror audiences who want to be scared by the villain in inventive new ways. Plus, the film is largely praised for its autumnal vibes, so it’s nice to set the tone for October with this entry into the series.
Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers – Emily H.
Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers continues to lean into the more supernatural elements of Michael’s existence by creating an eerie telepathic link between Michael and his niece, Jamie Lloyd (played by Danielle Harris).
Jamie became a critical character in Halloween 4 and Danielle delivers a powerful performance despite not speaking at all after the trauma of the previous film rendered her mute. Jamie hiding in a laundry chute is one of the more tense moments of the franchise, and of course we see no one is safe when final girl Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell) suffers a gristly fate. After seeing how she protected Jamie in the first film, this film is made especially terrifying when Jamie is left to look out for herself at only 9 years old.
Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) returns to team up with Jamie in stopping Michael once and for all, and any appearance by Donald is a welcome one. Even when he’s using a child as bait. When facing the Shape, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Does Michael get his revenge? Unclear. We see a new side of the terrifying killer (“Uncle?”), and he succeeds in offing one of his best rivals. But it’s never enough to sate his thirst for blood.
Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers – AJ
Although it takes Michael Myers’ mythology in puzzling new directions, the theatrical cut of Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers is an entertaining sequel that launches the masked icon into the mid ‘90s with frantic cutting, nonstop sound effects, strobing light flashes, and a baby-faced Paul Rudd fresh off his Clueless film debut.
For Michael Myers, this installment picks up in a new decade, after more than 12 years of trying to exact his fury on an unsuspecting Haddonfield. By this point, he’s tried everything to gain the upper hand, from refining his blade skills to forming an alliance with a Druid cult. Even getting swole like a linebacker didn’t really help him gain a step over the Strode family or his long-standing rival, the meddling Doctor Loomis.
Forced into a state of re-evaluation, Michael decides to change his approach. This time around, there’s no more room for subtlety. He puts some pep in his step and accompanied by his very own Pantera-style guitar riff, ties his own record with 17 creative kills, each one more gruesome than the last. This convoluted entry in the Halloween saga may not be on the same wavelength as Carpenter’s original, but Curse still remains a guilty pleasure in cult circles … just not the Celtic kind.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later – Emily H.
We all have eras of horror that we gravitate toward, often whichever one made us first fall in love with the genre, and I happen to be a big ‘90s slasher fan. The Halloween series has now been around long enough to have films across 6 decades and the 1998 release Halloween H20: 20 Years Later pays homage to its tense ‘70s origins while maintaining the veneer of a 90s slasher. It makes good use of a large cast and a remote high school with enough star power that anyone watching will think, “Oh, they’re in this?!” about someone in the cast.
This timeline (because of course there are several branching paths you can take in the Halloween universe) features Laurie Strode as a mother and headmistress of a private prep school who seems well-adjusted on the surface but has never truly healed. She has dealt with the trauma inflicted by Michael Myers by starting a new life in a new place, and it’s a fantastic continuation of her story. She has been living in fear, not committing fully to anything in her life like her boyfriend played by Adam Arkin, but you see how her intelligence, her resourcefulness, and her resilience have served her in the “real” world and how these traits once again allow her to win out against the Shape.
This time, Laurie isn’t on her own. Her son and his friends become Michael’s targets despite her thinking she has gotten her family to safety. Josh Hartnett is a perfect angsty teen who wants out from under his overprotective mother’s thumb and decides to skip the school trip and stick around his boarding school and get into mischief. His girlfriend is played by Michelle Williams, an Oscar-winner who also read the audiobook for the Britney Spears memoir, perhaps her greatest acting achievement. Rounding out their tight-knit circle is Adam Hann-Byrd (Jumanji) as the lascivious friend and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (She’s All That) as the more daring friend who is ready to get into trouble. LL Cool J is the school’s security guard and in the behind-the-scenes features, multiple actors in the film talk about how excited they were to work with him. Janet Leigh plays opposite her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as the headmistress’s secretary in a fun exchange referencing her storied career. The stacked cast navigating the creepy empty private school lends itself to unique set pieces like a dumbwaiter and plenty of wrought iron bars.
Josh Hartnett’s haircut and Michael’s multiple masks (including one fixed with CGI) are a little goofy but can be easily overlooked in service of the greater story. The ending is incredibly satisfying if you ignore that it wasn’t allowed to stand in Halloween: Resurrection and when paired with the original Halloween, makes for my favorite timeline in the series.
Halloween: Resurrection – Emily H.
Halloween: Resurrection is controversial among fans. It reneges on the ending of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later to revive Michael Myers, but we all should have known he could never really die.
This entry into the series from 2002 delves into the found-footage genre a bit with a plot centering on a reality show about Michael’s killings set in the original Myers house. The real Michael crashes, of course, and begins picking off the contestants and employees.
This film has perhaps the biggest cast of names of any of the films up to this point, with Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks leading the Dangertainment reality show team and contestants played by Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie), Daisy McCrackin (Angel), Katee Sackhoff (The Mandalorian), Luke Kirby (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance), and Bianca Kajilich (The Winchesters). The reality show conceit means that a fake Michael stalking the house has our contestants thinking the killings are part of the game, but they quickly learn that they’re in very real danger.
I enjoy seeing the early concepts of reality TV and how it might affect our lives, especially looking back now when it takes up so much of our bandwidth. Those watching the stream thinking that they’re watching entertainment while actually witnessing brutal killings is such a horrifying concept, as is the idea that you’re never truly safe. Especially when you’re taking part in the exploitation of someone’s darkest moments as this reality show was meant to do. They are selling tragedy, and that has become the norm in modern day in a way that seemed unthinkable in 2002.
While the film may not align with the traditional beats of the series as a whole, its attempt to innovate within the horror genre, and continued reinvention via new storytelling techniques and tropes make Halloween: Resurrection a distinctive and unforgettable installment for those revisiting the series.