Sometimes the most elegant of terrors are the simplest. No complex, nonsensical, pseudo-morality motives like Jigsaw, no strange voodoo rituals like Chucky, no strict mythologies like Dracula, the Wolf-Man, etc. Simply a shape. The shape of Michael Myers, a pale expressionless face watching from a distance, from the darkness. He follows, he kills. Why? He is The Shape, a being of pure evil, his thoughts beyond the comprehension of mortal man. His resolve steel, his resistance to bodily harm impossible, his conviction absolute.
The mask renders his face unreadable, his slight readable emotions coming solely from body language, the stellar silent performance of Nick Castle. Castle has frequently undersold his performance, making claims that he just walked. But the mechanical deliberateness of the walk captures something inhuman, something along the lines of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator mode; each move is purposeful, calculated, no hotheaded decisions. However, Castle adds to this a childlike innocence—his reaction shot to Bob’s murder is one for the ages.
There’s an almost indescribable air in this shot. Myers is nearly unreadable, far enough removed from any semblance of humanity as to remove any definite readings, but with enough vestiges to create several plausible hints towards his emotions. Is it possible he doesn’t understand death? Is he simply admiring his handiwork? Is he soaking in the bloody details, committing them to memory? Does he enjoy this, or is it simply what he is? Honestly, the only correct answer is itself a question: Who’s to say?
Does Donald Pleasence’s brilliantly hammy Dr. Loomis hold any shred of truth in his conviction that Myers was possessed by evil? Is there something demonic behind Michael’s great strength, or is it simply the result of a madman’s conviction? Is Myers simply a victim of debilitating mental illness, or is something more sinister at work? Did Loomis’s detainment without treatment for seven years worsen his condition? Was Myers doomed from birth, or was it environmental? What was his home life like? The true answer is: we’ll never know. At least, discounting the sequels, and I think we can all agree there’s not much of worth in those.
Michael Myers is, if you’ll pardon the use of a cliche, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Little is known about him, certainly only counting his first cinematic offering. So what do we know? On Halloween night 1963, at the age of 5, a young boy named Michael Myers stabbed and killed his sister. He was institutionalized, and this being the 1960’s, with incredibly low mental healthcare standards, was committed to the care of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Of course, I mean to say Dr. Samuel Loomis. Though calling him a doctor may be an exaggeration, he’s more of a gatekeeper. He keeps the terror contained, instead of curing it. His words:
“I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the 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 that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”
Not exactly the words of a mental health professional, are they? Then again, Loomis thinks himself not a therapist, but a stalwart guardian against evil, the wall that keeps the Boogeyman at bay. And perhaps in a world of such unspeakable evil, a warden, not a doctor, is needed to keep the madness at the fringes. But enough on Loomis, his character is an examination for another day, we’re here to examine his number-one patient.
Michael Myers, interestingly is never credited as such—always referred to in the end crawl by a name he’s never verbally referred to as: “The Shape.” But how apt a title, how appropriate—it sees Myers not as a man, but as a thing. He is evil in the shape of a man, in the guise of Michael Myers. Whether or not the evil arose from within Michael Myers is irrelevant; it has overtaken him. It has ripped from him the self-preservation instincts of an ordinary human—while injury clearly harms Michael, at least in initial installments, it does not slow him down. It’ll take 6 bullets to the chest to even take him to the ground, a subsequent 2 story fall won’t keep him from getting back up. And, counting the sequels (both the 4-6 and H20-Resurrection timelines), Michael Myers can survive a full-blown hospital explosion with as little as small burn scars that vanish between films. He’s been shot, blown up, stabbed, injected with poison, beaten with a pipe, voodoo cursed by a young Paul Rudd, burned, judo-kicked by Busta Rhymes, crushed by a car and had his head chopped off with an axe, and the worst he’s suffered medically is a 10-year coma he snaps out of without muscular atrophy. He’s killed 111 people across 3 timelines, all while wearing that same, unflinching mask. He’s had a 31 year career, with a franchise anti-reboot set to undo Rob Zombie’s two-part bastardization of the series currently stuck in development hell. But Michael will come home. Michael always comes home. And with the recent It Follows proving there’s still a market for teen slashers, and the downturn in financial fortunes for both franchise remakes and found-footage schlock, it appears there may be a knife-sized hole in the horror market for Mr. Myers to fill. But until then, we have John Carpenter’s Halloween. We’ll always have John Carpenter’s Halloween, and that will always be enough.
But, before I bow out, here’s a convenient little infographic charting Myers’s kills (both of the human and canine persuasions) over the years. Pretty cool, eh?
Until next time, I bid you adieu. Peace!