The Complicated Continuity of the HALLOWEEN Movies, Explained

We’ve been intrigued by the David Gordon Green’s forthcoming  Halloween film, which he’s co-writing and co-producing with Danny McBride, with  John Carpenter and Blumhouse involved. The initial reports were that the movie was going to pick up right after 1981’s Halloween II, which I took to mean would set the movie immediately after.

But then it was announced that Jamie Lee Curtis would be returning, meaning it’d take place 40 years after the original. Now Carpenter has said the new one will take place in a kind of “alternative reality” after the first movie. This is all a bit confusing, but the Halloween movies have never been free of continuity-busting entries. Let’s break down what we know.

What just about everyone in the world can agree on is that Carpenter’s 1978 original is a masterpiece of tension and modern horror, setting up escaped mental patient Michael Myers and his obsession with Halloween and girls that remind him of the teenage sister he killed when he was a child. It’s just as resonant and frightening today as it was then, and continues to be incredibly influential.

In 1981, Carpenter and his partner Debra Hill produced and wrote a sequel, with Rick Rosenthal directing. It picked up immediately where the first movie left off with the Shape out on the loose, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) hunting for him, and Laurie Strode (Curtis) in the hospital following her ordeal. It’s eventually revealed in this entry that Laurie is a secret little sister of Michael whom the killer needs to kill to fulfill the curse of Samhain, explaining why it’s Halloween that drives him. At the end of this movie, Michael and Loomis die in a fiery explosion in the hospital and Laurie goes off with her hunky, orderly friend.

That was meant to be the end of the Michael Myers saga, and Carpenter had envisioned doing more Halloween movies as an anthology series of different horror stories set on October 31. This became Halloween III: Season of the Witch which is totally unrelated to the plight of Haddonfield and the Myerses. But people complained about the new premise, and Carpenter never got to produce any more of these anthology movies.

In 1988, Moustapha Akkad, who’d executive produced the earlier films and owned the rights to the franchise, wanted to revive Michael Myers, and so Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was produced. Both Michael and Dr. Loomis returned with scars on their hands and face, respectively, giving a Pythonesque “tis but a scratch” explanation as to how they somehow survived complete immolation. Laurie is dead offscreen and her young daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) is now the target of Michael’s rage, and has to be saved by her teenage foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell).

This became the continuity for the next few movies, though even that isn’t fully comprehensible. Michael is riddled with shotgun blasts at the end of the fourth movie, and he falls down a mineshaft and is pulled downriver. The movie ends with Jamie now taking on the mantle of young Michael, in a clown costume, attacking her foster mother with a knife. But in the next movie, 1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Jamie has been catatonic in a children’s mental hospital for months, while Michael has somehow survived yet again, and his mask inexplicably changes even though it’s definitely supposed to be the same one. Rachel gets killed unceremoniously in the second act, and the story ends with Michael under the protection of a mysterious Man in Black who wants to use his evil for something.

The Man in Black and the “Rune of Thorn” cult that has decided Michael is the perfect unstoppable killing machine to do their machinations, became the focus of the sixth movie, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers in 1995. Jamie Lloyd, played by a completely different and older actress, is brutally killed by Michael after having his baby (ew, it’s her uncle!!) Tommy Doyle, the little boy Laurie babysits in the original movie, is played by Paul Rudd and teams up with Laurie’s cousin (?) Kara (Marianne Hagan) and her six-year-old son Danny to stop Michael again. Dr. Loomis is back and the movie gets incredibly bogged down in the stuff about the cult and Michael being its vessel, while pretty much ignoring all the Samhain stuff from part two.

Though part six ended on a cliffhanger, insinuating Dr. Loomis has been branded with the Rune of Thorn and is Michael’s new protector, much to his shrieking dismay, this would be the last movie in this continuity. Donald Pleasence passed away before the reshoots of Curse could be completed, and the behind-the-scenes turmoil on the movie was such that the theatrical cut is intensely terrible, and even the “Producer’s Cut,” which makes more sense, isn’t that much better.

So in 1998, it was decided to do a 20th anniversary follow-up, going back to the continuity of Halloween II. Halloween: H20 (or “Halloween Water” as you all should speak it out loud) has Curtis reprising Laurie Strode, who faked her death and went into hiding in the pacific northwest under the name of Keri Tate. She’s now a teacher at a private school attended by her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett). But, wouldn’t you know it, Michael Myers survived the damn explosion in this continuity too, and though Loomis also did, it’s established Loomis died years before.

Michael stalks John and his friends in his pursuit of Laurie and the movie ends with a confrontation between the siblings. Laurie hijacks the ambulance carting Michael to the hospital, and she ultimately decapitates her brother with an ax. Sure would have been a satisfying ending, were it not for Dimension Films’ love of money. In 2002, Halloween: Resurrection came out, which explains that Michael had somehow switched places with an ambulance driver, so the person Laurie decapitated was actually an innocent man, and she’s sent to a mental hospital, where Michael finally catches up to her and kills her in the opening scene. The rest of the movie is not worth discussing.

Not surprisingly, people didn’t like this approach, and the franchise remained stagnant for five years before Rob Zombie rebooted it in 2007, which gave us a bit of history of Michael Myers’ home life (hint: it’s horrible and white trashy) and then once Michael grows up in the mental hospital, he escapes and a truncated version of Carpenter’s original could take place. This was then followed by a sequel in 2009 in which Zombie went very dreamy and surreal with everything.

So, in ten movies, we have at least three distinct timelines, if we’re to believe Water and Resurrection take place in the original two movies’ exact continuity. Four, if we count Halloween III. And now we’re going to have a reboot/remake/requel (a sequel done again) that might follow on from Halloween II or might just follow on from Halloween. Really, they could pretty much do anything they want, as long as a guy in coveralls and a William Shatner mask stalk people with a really big kitchen knife. At the end of the day, is anything else really that important?

Images: Compass International/Miramax/Dimension/De Laurentiis Entertainment/Trancas International

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and the host of the horror documentary series One Good Scare. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

Top Stories
Trending Topics