October Country ('Halloween' franchise (1978-2022))

It's October 24th, 1978, and 'Halloween' is about to debut in theatres, relying mostly on word-of-mouth in the hallways of schools. Pressed against lockers, everyone's talking about Jamie Lee and Michael Myers. Or so I assume. I've been told it was scary at the time- though I can only go off the teenage-midnight-drive-in atmosphere of the 70s and 80s that has been built up to almost mythic status. I can only imagine.

Personally, on my first watch I found it quite boring. It's a paint by numbers of a horror movie, I thought. I understand, of course, that watching things that re-vitalised the genre, after all the derivations, you re-visit and they seem banal, but still. In 'Halloween', killer and victim are not only archetypes, but the primary facets of characters where things like emotional depth, motivations, arcs and such should be. I'll get back to this later.

I couldn't understand why Michael had reached such infamy and status- I found him quite a bore. I came to believe that was his appeal. He's nothing, just a blank slate, and that is literalised through his lack of speech, clear cut motivations beyond 'he's evil', and expressionless white mask. Michael's appeal is through his blankness, and anyone can project whatever they want on to him.

Even the franchise itself has taken a fair stab at this projection. He has been the escaped maniac, a family guy (with a psychic connection), the victim of a curse and the cult that wield it. He's been a kid failed by mental health professionals, a borderline supernatural entity that draws power from violence, and a metaphor for terror. Quite a decent CV.

I'm someone who finds the 'Halloween' movies mostly mediocre but loves Michael's legacy. I love that when you think of Halloween, the holiday, you will always somewhat picture him looming with a knife. I like his status in horror. I like that he's just outright referred to as the boogeyman, archetypal and mythic. I like him in rumours, and screams.

For that reason, I've found that I've liked all of David Gordon Green's instalments, the newest trilogy (though they're far from perfect films and seem to have everyone howling in pain, screaming and banging pots and pans in anger). His status as this mythic legend of October-Fear (my preference) is probably best epitomised in a scene in 'Halloween Kills':

A black background, high-key lighting on his blood-flecked mask, slow-motion, background noise dimmed. He kills his way through members of the town mob after being beaten, stabbed, and shot. Apart from the wet schlick of his knife and cries of pain, all we hear is Jamie Lee Curtis's voiceover as Laurie, taking about how he draws his power from his own legacy, from fear. That he is the essence of true evil, and that the more he kills, the more he transcends.

There's something vaguely tulpa-esque about it that I love. For that reason, something that made me give the 'Halloween' films a second chance was Ice Nine Kills' song 'Stabbing in the Dark', from their album 'The Silver Scream', every song referencing a horror movie. 'Stabbing' is, of course, 'Halloween's. There's something almost biblical, bigger than the man, as to how Michael's described in the lyrics of that song.

But that's just my bias, and mine isn't the only one. I've seen thirst-traps of Michael, him being quite a big (and ruthless, I'm sure that's part of the appeal) guy. I've seen self-insert fan fiction where 'y/n' is the only one Michael will not kill, instead turning his powers of violence to protecting you at all costs. I've seen fanart of him unreasonably muscled up.

Another personal favourite, I've seen people talk about him as a metaphor for queer identity. The idea of something terrorising the suburban-white-picket-fence way of life and preying on your children. The gist of the metaphor is Michael Myers not fitting into the model of ideal suburbia from the age of six and being institutionalised to be fixed (insofar as all asylums in horror movies can represent a type of conversion therapy).

He then becomes a blank slate (LITERALLY wearing a mask) but an even more monstrous version of what he was before. Deemed by therapists and professionals to be evil, the product of the devil- being told this to his face. The trope of the sexually promiscuous teen being offed in horror is then transformed to an act of revenge at being denied that coming of age right because he was locked in a sanatarium. He resents that although teen promiscuity is still against the morals of society, this transgression is allowed a pass, whereas he was denied life.

I'm a mega-gay, so obviously this appeals to me, but I still feel Michael works better as a condemnation of how neurodivergent people are treated, if you want to humanise him with sympathy at all.

Because apparently, we shouldn't do that. Doesn't Laurie herself survive because, unlike others, she sees Michael as how he truly is- evil removed from humanity. She is the only one that doesn't try to humanise or personify him, give him a motive, and therefore seems attuned to the actual danger he poses.

So, theorising to distract from how boring Michael is seems to skip the point. Everyone subscribing their ideas as to his motivations might be trying to put post-it notes on a black hole. But it's hard not to try to personify characters (I say, stating the obvious). Especially considering that the franchise seems to struggle with this as well.

So, here's one more explanation, on the house.

When I watched 1978's 'Halloween', to re-iterate, bored, I was struck by how literally it took its interpretation of 'villain' and 'victim', with the characters having very little to offer that didn't fall under those two categories. It was all quite one note. I was, however, quite taken with the contrastive lighting (deep blacks and bright bright whites) that seems to have died in recent cinema.

Tommy Doyle's house, lit up by a studio 'moon', backdropped by John Carpenter's score, feels very set-like- almost as if you're watching a stage play. In one of my reviews, I wrote:

"I saw you once. I thought we were pretending. Why else would I wait for you to send the children away? Did you ever wonder why it took a while for me to break down the closet door? Me, a man that can punch through solid wood and pin a man to a wall with only a knife. I grazed your arm- only a warning. I constructed a scene for you. I have made you something else. I saw you once, and you will see me forever."

I think of young Michael who, at six, dons a mask and kills his sister for no reason. For no other reason than the film needs a villain, a killer, it seems. I'm hunched over muttering and sweating to myself because I know we're not meant to humanise Michael, but when they pull the clown mask off the kid's face, there's something indescribably sad in his expression, like even he doesn't know why he's done what he's done.

There's something cruel about long-running horror franchises that seem to repeat the same formula in every instalment. Characters doomed to go round and round in circles, and at every conclusion a new beginning lurks around the corner ready to repeat the violence again and again. In this way, Michael would be as much a victim as Laurie, trapped by the narrative- but this veers into 'Funny Games' territory and when I think more about it, it seems to make less sense.

What's my takeaway from all this? Well, in creating Halloween and Michael, John Carpenter and Debra Hill initially envisioned an anthology franchise, with each film instalment featuring a different story, characters, all taking place on Halloween. Everyone knows an attempt was made with 'Halloweeen 3: Season of the Witch' (which you'll notice I haven't talked about a lot, and that's because I hate it), but due to Michael's popularity, the next film again centred on him.

Again, this is one of the merits of the Gordon Green trilogy. They seem to be able to tell wider stories that aren't technically about Michael but have him in them. They seem to say, as Carpenter and Hill originally wanted to, that bad things happen on Halloween. It's the night when tensions run high, and escaped patients are transformed into boogeymen, unfortunate babysitters into monsters, towns into mobs. Everything is heightened and seems to serve some sinister purpose. People go insane with fear and guilt, people relive the past. You are alone, you are never alone.

In conclusion, and fitting this, the ideal 'Halloween' trilogy: 'Halloween' (1978), 'Halloween 2' (2009) (YES the Rob Zombie one. It's interesting, bizarre, and it fucking rocks), and 'Halloween Ends' (2022).

And that's all I have to say about Michael.