When Did the "Halloween" Film Series Jump the Shark?

The original! (1978)
The original! (1978) | Source

"Was it the boogeyman?" "Yes... it was."

John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) is one of those rare movies that you just can't throw sh*t at. It was critically acclaimed, scary as hell (for its time), and perhaps most importantly, it was a massive hit that set box office records for a small independent horror film. It's a movie that has held up well over time and still deserves every bit of its iconic status.

Halloween's deceptively simple premise - an escaped maniac stalking a group of high school girls babysitting on All Hallow's Eve, leading to a climactic battle with the lone surviving "nice" girl - has been copied so many times that its conventions have become well worn cliches. If it weren't for Halloween we wouldn't have had a Friday the 13th, a My Bloody Valentine, or any of the hundreds of other clones that jumped on the slasher bandwagon throughout the late 70s and '80s.

Unfortunately, Halloween was also the beginning of a "franchise" that encompasses a series of increasingly unnecessary sequels, remakes and reboots which have caused no small amount of audience frustration along the way.. To call yourself a fan of the Halloween series nowadays involves an almost masochistic urge to be consistently disappointed with each new installment.

Halloween (1978) trailer:

Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II (1981) | Source

The Beginnings of Sequel Mania

Since it made a ton of money, it was inevitable that Hollywood would want a sequel to Halloween. 1981's Halloween II picked up moments after the end of the first film - with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) still trying to escape the maniacal slasher Michael Myers, this time in a hospital setting. This time the film was made in conjunction with a major studio (Universal Pictures) rather than independently, and it had a noticeably larger budget and body count than the original. The onscreen blood and gore factor was also much greater than in the first film. John Carpenter wrote the screenplay and took part in the behind-the-scenes production of the sequel, but turned over the directors' chair to Rick Rosenthal. Halloween II wasn't quite the box office phenomenon that the original was, but its ticket sales were respectable enough that Universal demanded a third movie for the following Halloween season.

"Halloween II" (1981) trailer

"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" poster
"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" poster | Source

Okay... so now what?

There was just one problem...(SPOILER ALERT) Michael Myers died at the end of Halloween II - burnt to a crisp when the heroic, self sacrificing Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance) blew himself and Myers up in a hospital operating room by igniting the oxygen supply. How could the series continue without its main boogeyman? John Carpenter suggested that they move the "Halloween" franchise away from its slasher-film origins, and turn it into an annual anthology series centered around the Halloween theme. It was a nice idea .... in theory. However, horror film fans stayed away from the not-nearly-as-bad-as-you've-heard Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) in droves as soon as word got out that there was "No Michael Myers" in it, and the movie died a quick box-office death.

A lot of fans will tell you that "III" is the point where the series jumped the shark, but y'know what? I actually kind of like that flick, it's a nice mix of creepy '50s paranoid sci-fi and '80s splattery goodness. If it had been released merely as "Season of the Witch" without the "Halloween" tag, I think it might be more fondly remembered today.

"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" (1982)

"Halloween 4" poster (1988)
"Halloween 4" poster (1988) | Source

4th time's the charm?

The Halloween series lay untouched for six years after III crashed and burned, but The Shape was eventually resurrected for 1988's Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.. I can only assume that the owners of the franchise had observed how much money the Friday the 13th gang had been raking in by constantly re-animating THEIR guy in movie after movie, and decided, "Hey, y'know what? We can do that too!" In this film, audiences were supposed to swallow the idea that Myers and Dr. Loomis were NOT killed in the climactic explosion that ended Halloween II, though Michael has been comatose since that incident and a burn-scarred Dr. Loomis now walks with a cane. Since Jamie Lee Curtis' mainstream film career was at its peak by the late 80s, she declined to return to the series to reprise her role as Laurie Strode, so the creators of "4" wrote her out of the series by killing her off in an offscreen car crash. This time, when Michael Myers mysteriously "activates" on Halloween night, his target is Laurie's 8 year old daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris). How Michael is aware of Jamie's existence is left unexplained (since Laurie Strode was in high school when the two last met), but that's OK because Dr. Loomis comes running to the rescue, waving a pistol and screaming about "EEEEE-VIL!"

Halloween 4 may not be an especially great film, but it holds some nostalgic value for this writer because it was the first Halloween film that I was old enough to see in a theater. Either way, it looks like solid gold when compared to just about everything that came after it.

"Halloween 4" trailer (1988)

"Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers" poster
"Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers" poster | Source

Michael hits the wall...

Slasher fans were happy to see their favorite Boogeyman on the big screen again so "4" made money despite its massive flaws in logic. Therefore, a "5" was naturally rushed into production for the next Halloween season. In my book, "5" is where the wheels officially came completely off the Halloween franchise. As "5" begins (subtitled: The Revenge of Michael Myers), little Jamie, still traumatized by the events of the previous film, has been institutionalized when her Uncle Mikey comes to call once again. The business-as-usual slice-and-dice scenes were nothing to write home about, but the end of the film was what killed the whole deal for me.

(BEGIN SPOILER ALERT)
After carving up a good portion of the teenage population of Haddonfield, Michael Myers is captured by the State Police... but as he waits in a holding cell for the Federal Marshals to pick him up, a mysterious "Man in Black" randomly busts in out of nowhere, machine-guns everyone in the police station to death, blows a hole in the cell wall and aids in Myers' escape. Fade to black.
(END SPOILER ALERT)

I can vividly remember sitting stunned in my seat at a Staten Island, New York movie theater when that ending unspooled and the theater lights came up. I was literally speechless for about a minute until finally I yelled at the top of my lungs:

"WHAT THE F***??? THEY RUINED IT!"

Halloween 5 did a fast fade from theaters in the U.S. and ended up being released directly to video outside of North America due to the toxic word-of-mouth from critics and fans. You would've thought that the Halloween makers might have realized that they'd hit the wall, but nope, they kept on truckin'...

"Halloween 5" trailer

Michael Myers hasn't been seen onscreen since Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009)
Michael Myers hasn't been seen onscreen since Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009) | Source

Several more Halloween films followed - but none of them are really worth mentioning. 1995's Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers attempted to continue the "Man in Black" mystery by revealing that he was an agent of an ancient Druid cult which worshipped Myers as an Angel of Death -- or some such nonsense. The movie was subject to massive behind-the-scenes tinkering and last minute rewrites/reshoots, to no avail - it was another box office bomb, Even bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and erasing the "continuity" of the previous three movies in 1998's Halloween: 20 Years Later didn't stop the bleeding, and the less said about 2002's Halloween: Resurrection, the better.

Eventually the Halloween team had no choice but to go the remake route. Fans remain divided over Rob Zombie's pair of Halloween retreads in 2007 and 2009 (I didn't hate the first one, but didn't love it either; but the second one suuuuucked!) ... and currently, a long-rumored new Halloween 3D appears to be trapped in Development Hell. Maybe we should all be thankful!

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Nothin' Beats the Original!

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Comments 16 comments

HeadlyvonNoggin profile image

HeadlyvonNoggin 19 months ago from Texas

There's no discussion, right? It's part 3. 1 and 2 were basically one story across two movies. Both directed by Carpenter. But that third one. I remember being super pissed, and I was like eight years old, when I found that instead of watching a Michael Myers movie I was watching some dumb movie about cursed masks. What?!? How do you decide to make a sequel, presumably based on the success of those that came before, with that? If you want to make that movie, call it something else.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 19 months ago from The Garden State Author

Hi HeadlyvonNoggin - yep, I'm pretty sure that most fans will point to "III" as the series' shark-jumping moment... though as I mentioned, I actually kind of like that one. It's spent so many years being hated that now it's actually kinda underrated.


HeadlyvonNoggin profile image

HeadlyvonNoggin 19 months ago from Texas

Yeah, it would have been a halfway decent Halloween movie, just don't call it Halloween. Call it something else and I have no problem with it. How are you going to build a franchise with such an iconic character, then make a movie in the series that has nothing to do with him?


Josephf bailey jr 19 months ago from Atlanta Ga

I actually sat down and watched Halloween the season of the Witch for the first time last year , I guess because I'm older ;as a teenager I it was just boring and when i didn't see michael Myers I was PO and I couldn't stay awake to watch it , I was waiting for the climax but it never happened season of the witch was just awful. Now I liked Halloween 2 , and the 2007 remake , but like the author said michael Myers died with his Psychiartrist in the fire ; the 80s was great time for the Halloween Franchise I still get creeped out by Michael Myers he's a POP ICON!!!!!


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 19 months ago from Baltimore, MD

Thank you for writing a thorough hub about one of my favorite movies... and then my not-so-favorite sequels. Sometimes I even forget the order they were in. I did not like how the characters were not consistent in the sequels. First Laurie is dead with a daughter, then she's alive with a son. Nope!

I did think Rob Zombie's Halloween was ok, but he should have done it as a prequel, not remake. The first half of the film was all backstory, so he should have focused on that. He did not do any justice for the characters in the later part of the movie. I wanted all those obnoxious teens to die. And his version of Halloween 2... awful!


Zelkiiro profile image

Zelkiiro 19 months ago

It's gotta be Part 4. Season of the Witch should've been the direction the franchise took (y'know, be an anthology series centered around the Halloween season), but they just had to keep beating the dead horse with the Michael Myers crap. Couldn't let him be after two films, no no. Gotta milk this franchise dry with the same old unimaginative slasher flick over and over again. Don't try something creative like with Part 3 again--that would require effort.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 19 months ago from The Garden State Author

@josephfbailey - Michael is definitely a pop icon, but sadly it seems he hasn't been properly used in more than half of the movies he's featured in!! Haha

@Jeannieinabottle - I felt that RZ's first Halloween film spent WAY too much time on the backstory...by the time he was finally grown up and breaking out of the asylum, the movie was already more than half over. The rest of it was like watching the 1978 original in fast-forward mode. Don't even get me started on his "Halloween II." Haha.

@Zelkiiro - The shift to an anthology series was a good idea in theory, but once "III" crashed and burned with audiences, that was the end of that.


DarkestDreams profile image

DarkestDreams 19 months ago from East Coast, USA

I think the Halloween series jumped the shark when it brought back Jamie Lee Curtis. Seriously, she was dead in a few of those movies. We did not forget that!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 19 months ago from The Garden State Author

That's true, DarkestDreams - but the whole point of bringing Jamie Lee back was so that they could "reboot" the series and erase those previous three movies from continuity, they hoped that fans would get back on board knowing that "Laurie" was returning after 20 years. Since that film ("H20") made more money at the box office than the previous three "Halloweens" put together, I'd say that it worked out well.


A Bones profile image

A Bones 19 months ago from New Jersey

It has been a long time since I watched any of the Halloween movies but I actually really liked 5. H20 and Resurrection are flat out terrible and the Rob Zombie ones don't even deserve recognition.


Chriswillman90 profile image

Chriswillman90 19 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

I hate most horror movie sequels, prequels, or reboots because they don't bring anything new to the story. The only thing they add is more blood, more gore, and more nudity (teens rejoice). I loved the original Halloween, but the sequels and reboots are mostly terrible though I did have some hope for Rob Zombie's version. I liked some of his previous horror films (loved House of 1000 Corpses) but it just didn't do it for me. Just let the classics stay classic.


sabrebIade profile image

sabrebIade 19 months ago from Pennsylvania

I did the same thing in 5. I just sat there trying to figure out what had just happened.


Boxcar123 17 months ago

As soon as they made Michael into a Jason-type monster that never dies and keeps coming back is when I'd say the series jumped the shark. That started with Halloween 4. These days i'd say Carpenter and Hill had the correct way to continue with the series with the anthology idea. Halloween 3 wasn't great but like the Author said it wasn't as bad as people write it off to be...simply because Michael Myers wasn't in it. The one connection it did have to the previous two was the feel of the film....i.e how it was filmed. It still had the look of the previous two films (because it still had many of the original people still involved) and that atmosphere and suspense was one thing that was noticeably lacking in all the Halloween films after H3. I would have rather had more quality horror films based around the theme of Halloween made with the professionalism of the first three films than all the pretty much mindless run-of-the-mill slasher movies they turned the series into with H4-8. The anthology idea would have opened a lot more possibilities and probably kept John Carpenter involved much longer.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 17 months ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Boxcar - yup, obviously the whole reason they re-activated Michael Myers after so many years was because they saw how much $$ the "Friday the 13th" series was making, and they said "Hey, they keep killing THEIR guy and bringing him back to life every time, we can do that too!"


Ron 14 months ago

He found out about Jamie in Part 4 while in the ambulance over hearing the medics discussing the surviving daugther living in Haddonfield.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 months ago from The Garden State Author

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