We Need to Talk About Michael Myers...
Who is the greatest horror villain ever created?
Arguments such as this have been going on since the beginning of time. Whether they be about political, religious or literary staples, there seems to be a silent agreement to disagree. While I’m unqualified to weigh in on those centuries-old debates, I like to consider myself qualified to lead the charge in one decades-old argument.
Who is the greatest horror villain ever created?
This debate has been going on since the rise of the horror ‘elites’ in the 70’s and 80’s. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Pennywise, John Kramer, Jack Torrance (arguably) and of course: Michael Myers. And while all these villains have the power to invoke fear beyond belief in viewers, I find none as complex and terrifying as Myers.
***Before I dive in, I would like to clarify that I am using examples and details from John Carpenter's Halloween movies and his depiction of Michael Myers.***
Now, I know this opinion ruffles feathers. I argue regularly with my friends about why I find a man in a mask and mechanic coveralls more terrifying than one who can kill you through your dreams, or a clown that hides in sewers and has killed hundreds (if not thousands) of people over years. And while I agree that Myers’ presence doesn’t immediately strike terror in viewers like some of his counterparts, the fear he possesses comes from a much more complex idea.
To start from the beginning, Michael Myers began his reign of terror in 1963, brutally killing his 17-year-old sister at the age of just six. 15 years later, he escaped his imprisonment to return to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. He sets his sights on 17-year-old Laurie Strode (played by the legendary Jamie Lee Curtis). Now, why he does this, we won’t ever know, sadly. Writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill have not, and will not, entertain the notion that Myers’ attack on
Laurie was premeditated in the first film. It’s believed that Strode was just the first person Myers saw upon his arrival to Haddonfield, and set his sights on her for no reason other than the desire to kill a supposedly easy target.
***Side Note: In the Halloween II movie, it is revealed that Laurie is the younger sister of Michael and was adopted after the tragic death of her parents. The adoption records were then sealed in order to protect Laurie. It’s unknown whether Michael knew in the first movie his relation to Laurie.***
So let’s begin to unpack! So far we know that Michael Myers is a senseless killer, with no supposed motive or reason other than the satisfaction of bringing death. He acts alone, never even saying a word in the classic series.
So is this a case of mental illness? A person drawn to horrible acts based on the advice of voices or spirits that walk their mind? Not quite! Michael appears to be mentally sound up until killing his older sister. And even after, his acts are always methodical and planned, not sporadic or unorganized.
So Michael is just a normal person drawn to the act of killing? Again, not quite! Michael Myers seems to possess certain amazing abilities, though none strong enough to be considered paranormal or superhuman. He is an expert at stealth with amazing strength. None of these point to him being a supernatural being, but it does make you question how even after being locked up for 15 years he has gathered the strength and skills to kill without police detection.
So what is the deal with Michael? What makes him superior to other villains? Well, there are several reasons why Michael Myers possibly kills, and even more reasons why he is the supreme horror movie villain! Myers has been killing since he was six-years-old in 1957 and since then, through all ten movies, has collected a total of 121 killings. During some of these murders, he was shot, stabbed, beaten and presumed dead several times. But there is no confirmation he ever dies. In the first film, for example, Michael is stabbed in the neck with a knitting needle, stabbed with his own knife, shot at least five times and falls from a second story window. However, after he falls and they assume he’s dead, they look over the edge to find his body has disappeared. So did he die? Was he caught?
Can you even kill Michael Myers?
This is where I get excited! Can Michael Myers Die? If not, does that make him a supernatural being? Well first thing’s first - the theory accepted in most groups is that you cannot kill Michael Myers, but he isn’t necessarily a supernatural being either. I know, a bit confusing of a concept. But let’s backtrack!
Michael Myers was born in 1957 into a normal family, he even speaks in one movie as a child before the killings took place. However, after his stay at Smith’s Grove (the sanitarium he spent 15 years at after killing his sister) he never utters a single word. Before the killing of his sister, Michael appears to be a normal kid born to a normal family in a small town in Illinois. So is he a supernatural being made for the sole purpose of terrorizing a small town? No. He’s just a normal guy… Kind of.
Michael cannot be killed for one reason and one reason only - he is evil.
And no, I don’t use that word as an adjective. He isn’t described as evil, he is evil.
Horror movies have a tendency to touch on the darkest aspects of life. They find the rawest, most terrifying and sometimes the saddest details in life and use them to create people’s worst nightmares. It’s one of the reasons that so many people are drawn to the genre, including myself. In the Michael Myers movies, though on the surface they seem like good, slasher fun, they have a much deeper detail that so many people miss.
Michael Myers is a character created by John Carpenter based on a real interaction he had with a young boy in a mental institution. Carpenter visited the institution as a part of a class and came face to face with a 12 to 13 year old boy who later inspired the terrifying horror character. He had Dr. Loomis, Myers’ psychiatrist in the film, describes how he saw the boy in a scene where the Dr. was describing Michael. He Says, “This blank, pale emotionless face. Blackest eyes. The devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized what was living behind that boys’ eyes was purely and simply evil.”
So when I say that Michael Myers is evil, I mean it like this. Evil is something humans live with everyday they walk the Earth. It comes in many forms, and for this movie, Carpenter used a young boy’s “devil eyes” as the base of what true evil looks like. Michael Myers can’t be killed, because he is the human embodiment of evil. And though so many have tried throughout years of wars, treaties and negotiations, there is no killing evil. You may defeat it for a moment or two. Sometimes people will go years without interacting with evil. But at some point, every person will come face to face with it. Although it may not always wield a knife, I think that’s something everyone can agree is a terrifying idea.
I find Michael Myers fear inducing, not because of how many he’s killed, but because through his character and movies, I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try or how good I am, there is no defeating pure evil. It will always find me and it will never die. It’s real. And that’s why it’s the most horrifying of them all.