Halloween 101: The Michael Myers Primer, From John Carpenter to Rob Zombie

John Carpenter's Halloween introduced the world to Michael Myers, and for better or worse invented the slasher genre. It was one of the most profitable independent movies ever made, earning $47 million on a $320,000 budget. And, not coincidentally, it sparked a franchise that, like Myers, just won't die. The latest, Rob Zombie's misleadingly titled Halloween II, hits theaters August 28. Here's the backstory. You know, so you won't get lost.

Halloween (1978)

After butchering his sister with a kitchen knife, 6-year-old Michael Myers is locked up in a sanitarium. Fifteen years later he breaks out and ends up stalking a babysitter named Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first movie). Myers murders Laurie's friends one by one before catching up to her, when she stabs him with a knitting needle, a clothes hanger, and a knife, without slowing him down. Then Dr. Loomis, his psychiatrist, shoots him six times, which knocks him off a balcony. But! The body disappears.

Razor in the Apple: Myers's trademark face was made from a two-dollar William Shatner mask.

Halloween 2Halloween II (1981)

As Laurie slips in and out of consciousness in a hospital bed, she has strange dreams about visiting a little boy in an institution; meanwhile, Myers is slaughtering the hospital staff. Laurie escapes again, and it's revealed that -- ta-daah! -- she's Michael's baby sister. Then, Loomis and Myers are blown up in a massive explosion. Movie over.

Razor in the Apple: A double murderer used the movie as a defense, claiming that his killings were sparked by watching Halloween II while he was loaded up on booze, pot, and PCP. (He was found guilty and sentenced to death.)

Halloween 3Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

The first -- and last -- in a line of unrelated, extremely lame stand-alone movies. An evil Irish novelty company owner plots to kill America's children by embedding computer chips containing pieces of Stonehenge into Halloween masks. When the company's ad airs Halloween night, the chips will make the kids' heads explode and spit out snakes and bugs. Which, somehow, connects to the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Oh, and there are androids.

Razor in the Apple: It's the only Halloween where the bad guy dies. And man, he deserved it. Stonehenge?

Halloween 4Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

After 10 years in a convenient coma, Myers wakes up when he hears that Laurie Strode is dead, but her daughter Jamie is still alive. He escapes again and Loomis (who also magically survived HII's explosion) tracks him down. Myers massacres the town's police force and most of Jamie's friends, but she gets away and he falls down a mineshaft, which collapses on him. Then Jamie puts on a clown mask and stabs her foster mother.

Razor in the Apple: The script was written in just 11 days, to beat a writer's strike. (It shows.)

Halloween 5Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Michael digs out of the mine and goes into another, shorter, coma, and wakes up the day before Halloween and goes after his niece again. When even more of her friends are killed, Jamie agrees to be bait. But after he's caught, a mysterious "man in black" blows up the jail where he's being held, and sets him free.

Razor in the Apple: When the movie was shot, even the writers didn't know who the man in black was.

Halloween 6Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

The man in black kidnaps Jamie and has her impregnated. Johnny Cash and Michael Myers try to take the baby, and Myers eventually catches Jamie and throws her into a corn thresher, but she's already hidden the baby. Meanwhile, the kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first Halloween (played now by Paul Rudd -- yes, Paul Rudd!) has been obsessed with the case ever since, and (long story) ends up with the baby. Many people die. Turns out (longer story) Myers has an ancient curse that means he has to kill his entire family so it'll pass onto someone else. More killing, weird unexplained experiments, Loomis dies.

Razor in the Apple: Donald Pleasence, who played Dr. Loomis in five Halloweens, died during production.

Halloween h2OHalloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Ignoring the events of Halloweens 4, 5, and 6, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, living under an assumed name (and, apparently, having hired a terrible agent). Myers tracks her to the school where she's headmistress and, after lots more killing, Laurie pushes him off a balcony. He's carted away, but this time Laurie steals the ambulance and (eventually) chops off his head with an axe, killing him once and for all. (Riiight.)

Razor in the Apple: A nurse who dies in the opening scene kicks off a seriously circular game of Six Degrees of Halloween: H20 stars Jamie Lee Curtis, who was also in Halloween, which has a character named Sam Loomis, who is named for a character in Hitchcock's Psycho, which starred Janet Leigh, who is also in H20 -- and is Curtis' mother.

Halloween h2OHalloween: Resurrection (2002)

Surprise! The guy Laurie beheaded was actually a paramedic wearing Michael's mask. Myers kills her, then heads back to their childhood home to murder the college kids who're staying there on a Halloween night dare for a webcast reality show. Michael ends up dying in an electrical fire, but then his eyes snap open in the morgue. Here we go again.

Razor in the Apple: In an alternate ending, Michael is actually, finally, killed. Which sounds significant but in the end really doesn't matter, because. . . .

Halloween h2OHalloween (2007)

Ignoring all of the previous movies, Rob Zombie's remake just pretends the first story's new, with better effects and Malcolm McDowell in for Donald Pleasence. This time the mask has "significance" and when his babysitter rampage gets going he tries to tell Laurie he's her brother, but she stabs him. A kinder, gentler serial killer with issues. Aw, poor guy.

Razor in the Apple: Sybil Danning, of the classic women-in-prison films Chained Heat and Reform School Girls, gets murdered as one of Myers's early victims.