The Shape Comes Again

Ranking All the Halloween Continuities

The Definitive List

As a nerdy guy, and as someone that writes a lot of articles for this site, I have a temptation to categorize and rank things. Although I don’t do actual ratings on this site (a conscious choice because I feel like star ratings, or letter grades, or whatever is entirely subjective and what’s really important is the discussion of the work, not a simple grade for the work) I do feel the need to list and organize my thoughts on films and series into categories and ranks. “What’s the best Marvel film? Which superhero has the best power? What horror villain has the coolest hair?” Ranking and filing things is something every geeky person does, right down to, “which superhero would win in a fight?” It all goes with the territory.

I’ve wanted to actually start doing ranking articles for a while here, but some of the topics I’ve started on (like the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) are so dense and long that it’s taking me forever to finish those articles. But there are plenty of things we can categorize, and we’re going to start our (probably infrequent) attempts at putting everything into tidy bins with a goofy start: a definitive ranking of all the HalloweenThe franchise that both set the standard for Slasher horror and, at the same time, defied every convention it created, Halloween has seen multiple time lines and reboots in its history, but one thing has remained: Michael Myers, the Shape that stalks Haddonfield. continuities. Not the films; the continuities.

Remember, the Halloween series has seen more reboots, ditches sequels, and side continuities than just about any other franchise around. There are films that specifically contradict other films, which are then contradicted by further films, and trying to keep everything straight is a lesson in futility. But we’re going to try, and lay it all out for you so that if, for some reason, you really wanted to go through all the films and find the one continuity, the one version of the adventures of the Shape, that worked for you, then you could. And, naturally, we begin with the worst of the lot:

#6: Laurie Doesn’t Exist Here

Films Included:

This is the weirdest of the various Halloween continuities because, of course, it isn’t related to anything else in the series. After the first two films were released, John Carpenter (creator of the original film and overseer of the franchise at that point) wanted to take the films in the direction of an anthology series. Every film or two would see a new situation, a new villain, and a new continuity introduced. That would allow for more creative stories without getting bogged down in deep lore of a single killer who, let’s be clear, has no personality of their own. Thus, after the first two films tied up the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, a new film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, brought in new characters for a different, Halloween-themed adventure.

Audiences hated it. While the third film has its moments, it’s not very good (you can read the full review to see all our thoughts on the matter). It’s slow, it’s silly, and it really doesn’t make much sense. But the big issue is that, after two films, audiences were primed for a return of Michael Myers (even though he was stabbed in the eye and then burned to death, making for a rather definitive ending to his story). It wasn’t Halloween without the Shape, and audiences rejected the film. Now, maybe it’s possible that had Halloween III been better then maybe the whole anthology idea would have taken off. But kicking things off with this misbegotten mess of a film only ensured that the series would go back to the Shape as soon as possible.

That leaves Halloween III sitting in its own continuity, just one film all by itself. It’s an interesting footnote, a curiosity for Halloween fans, but easily the worst continuity of them all.

#5: Laurie is Michael’s Sister, Has a Son

Films Included:

Most of the Halloween continuities accept the first film in the franchise as the keystone, the one film that has to exist for everything else to follow. Hell, those continuities that don’t accept it at least reference it (via an Easter egg trailer in Halloween III) or remake it (in the Zombieverse). But two of the different timelines also accept the second film as law and lore as well. Those two films established everything we needed to know for the movies going forward. First, Michael Myers really wanted to kill Laurie Strode, and then anyone related to Laurie Strode, anyone she knew, drove past, waved to, once sat next to on the bus, etc. And second, he wanted to kill her because she was his long lost baby sister. It’s a family thing, and Michael really hates his family.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later marked the first partial reboot for the franchise. After the failed attempt of Halloween III, the series went back and said, “no, Michael isn’t really dead, he was just horribly burned and then left to rot in a psych ward once more while he healed.” That was the solution to get him back for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and then that led to a three film series that got worse and worse (as we’ll cover soon) before everyone gave up and said, “we need to go back to the drawing board.” Kevin Williamson (of ScreamWhat started as a meta-commentary on slasher media became just another slasher series in its own right, the Scream series then reinvented itself as a meta-commentary on meta-commentary. fame) came in and wrote the script, and anything that came from Halloween 4 or after was ignored.

In this new continuity, after Michael was horribly burned (read: not killed), Laurie went into hiding. She moved away, changed her name, pretended to be someone else. She started working at a boarding school, had a son, enrolled him at the school, and moved on with her life. But Michael didn’t move on, and when he finally escaped (as he always did) and went on the hunt for Laurie, carnage ensued. H20 was meant as the start of a new continuity for the series, and it might have worked except for two issues. One, this film isn’t very good. It’s a fine, if bland and largely staid slasher, but it certainly didn’t meet the high pedigree of the best films in the series. But then, two, it was followed up by Halloween: Resurrection, which is arguably the worst film in the entire series (or, at the very least, it’s in a tight battle with the other worst film, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers). After that sequel, which only brought in half as much money as the previous movie and bombed in theaters, the franchise was once again put on ice.

Technically that makes this a four-film series, if we could the original two in its run, but realistically this was a two-film continuity that died before it could really live. Frankly that’s par for the course as two-to-three films is all this series can manage before it has to shut down and try again.

#4: Laurie Gets Rebooted into the Zombieverse

Films Included:

Look, I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s two Halloween films. There are parts I do really like, but the first film does a late-game swerve and loses all that made the film interesting (note: the interesting bits were the exploration of Michael as a kid, investing in him as a person), while the sequel is a mean-spirited, abusive, violently toxic movie. But for all that I can complain about his movies, at least he had vision. All of the other movies are desperate to try and regain the magic of the original Halloween from 1978 but Zombie didn’t really care about that. He had his own thing to do, his own direction to take with the story and the characters, and he was going to do what he wanted. I respect that a lot.

That helps these two films, which sit in their own truly separate pocket from everything else in the franchise, rise above much of the dreck of the series. Are they good? Well, I don’t think so but these films do have their fans. But they are at least distinct and different and that counts for a lot. I’ll take these over yet another reboot that tries, and fails, to live up to the legacy of the original film. Better this than sloppy retreads like H20 or Halloween ‘18. These films had scares, and gore, and upsetting moments that made them stand out. I found that interesting, and in a franchise as filled with movies rehashing the past, interesting is very much needed.

#3: Laurie Isn’t Related to Michael at All

Films Included:

It was hard for me to decide which of the reboot continuities to put first. While I don’t like the Zombieverse films they are unique in the franchise. I’ll watch them over H20 and its terrible sequel, but frankly I don’t want to revisit any of them. I would, however, be willing to go back and watch the David Gordon Green trilogy of films, so long as I had a group of friends with me and enough snacks to get me through the lesser parts of the set. These movies aren’t great, but there are enough watchable moments to at least make the series passable.

Credit where it’s due, this trilogy had the audacity to fix the biggest flaw in this series: making Laurie into Michael’s sister. I can see the desire to add that detail in as it then means there’s an explanation for why Michael keeps stalking Laurie movie after movie (and when not her, family members, pets, religious figures, etc.). But the worst part of a horror movie monster is the explanation for why it does what it does. Monsters are better when they remain mysterious and Halloween II removed that when Laurie and Michael became connected.

Halloween ‘18 ditched all that. With a single, off-hand comment made by Laurie’s granddaughter (“no, she’s not his sister”) the reboot ditched every single film after the first and said, “we can do things better and differently.” I mean, then they didn’t, as these three films didn’t really understand how to build suspenseful horror even when working Carpenter on the vision of the films. While they aren’t the worst sequels in the series (although the middle film, Halloween Kills, is pretty dire) it also doesn’t feel like they do enough that’s new or interesting to really update the films. They feel tired, beholden to the past, uninterested in what comes next.

Of the three, the final film, Halloween Ends, does the most that’s new and daring. It’s still a muddled movie, don’t get me wrong, but it has more going for it than any other film in the set (or, really, the series). I appreciate fresh ideas, and bold choices made, and I can appreciate these movies just like I can appreciate what Rob Zombie was trying to do with his set. I think these films (muddled as they are) were more successful in creating their vision and making it watchable. But they still aren’t as good as they could have been. They’re flawed, and not as good as the real thing. Still, of all the reboots attempting to write the train, this was the best of the set.

#2: Laurie is Michael’s Sister, Has a Daughter

Films Included:

It’s hard to top the original and if we’re going to discuss any continuity we’re going to have to go bad to the first that was made, the one that brought back Michael and managed to give him five full, consecutively running, adventures where he really kills the shit out of the people of Haddonfield. There’s nothing bold or daring about these films, simply trotting out Michael again and again because the Shape can never die. But at the same time, these were the originals, and they helped to set the template (good and bad) for everything in the series to come. This is where it all started and, in many ways, these are the films that did it best.

Make no mistake, the best of the lot (as in every continuity that shared this film) is the original movie. Halloween ‘78 is a brilliant film and I could gush, on and on, about it for ages. It’s the best slasher film ever made and every other movie in this franchise (and many other slashers that came after) have tried (and failed) to recapture this magic. It’s no wonder that four more sequels were able to come out of this first film. It is the bones, the heart, and the soul of this franchise. Nothing can top it, but you keep hoping that something would be able to live up to the legacy.

Of the sequels, the first two were the best of the set. Halloween II is flawed, being overly long and not anywhere near as scary as the original film. It did set the killings somewhere different, in a hospital building, and didn’t try to retread ideas from the previous film. Plus, the goal was to kill Michael Myers, and while that didn’t stick, that’s not the fault of the sequel. Halloween 4 is also not a perfect film, but it did manage to bring back Michael in a logical way. Plus it gave us Jamie Lloyd (a young Danielle Harris), Michael’s niece who ends up with a dark connection to him. Had the films followed that thread, and played more with the family ties (and need to kill) I think the following films could have been great. But the producers chickened out and gave us the increasingly terrible Halloween 5 (which is at least passably watching) and Halloween 6 (which effectively killed the continuity and forced the first big reboot). That’s three watchable films in the series, before reboots were expected. That’s a solid run for any slasher franchise.

Sure, yes, they got terrible over time, and none of them could match the original, but I’ll still take three good films and consider that a win. Although…

#1: Laurie Kills the Shape in 1978

Films Included:

If we’re going to look at all continuities then we have to acknowledge the intention of the original films. John Carpenter didn’t want Michael Myers to continue past the first sequel, Halloween II. Had the anthology format been successful, the studio may not have brought back the Shape at all, ever. That would mean that while, yes, Laurie was Michael’s sister, she also killed him and ended his reign of terror in a single night. Then the connection between the two isn’t so much a continued explanation that has to be brought up again and again but just the final note of the film before Michael goes up in a (literal) blaze of glory. Taken from that perspective, it actually kind of works.

You have to respect the idea of killing your main attraction so that (you assume) they could never come back. Carpenter couldn’t have known at the time that Halloween III would be a bomb and that the studio would trot Michael back out seven years after he died. The premise of these two films is that Michael came back to Haddonfield, tried to kill his sister, failed, and that’s the end of the story. And it’s a good story. Nice, tight, connected, and complete. The studios screwed up that vision, but for nearly ten years it held. And if that had remained the case, I think we’d all have a different perspective on the Halloween franchise.

I like that vision, and I like the continuity where Laurie gets her happy ending in 1978. I think, above all else, that’s the best and truest continuity for this franchise, and it’s the one we should all stick to in the end.