You may wonder why, after praising the simplicity of Carpenter's film, I would want to delve into the enigma that is the shape? Indeed in many ways it would be better to not delve too deeply into the motivations of the Boogeyman, but over the years the sequels have attempted to flesh out Michael Myers and explain his murderous motivation. Much criticism has been made of what some have seen as a desperate attempt to draw out the series with references to Samhain and Thorn. As I said in the main review for HALLOWEEN the less you know about Myers the better- certainly he is a much more frightening force when his intentions were seemingly motiveless than he was when we learn that he is in-fact trying to hunt down his surviving sister. However, here I'm not interested specifically in what happened in the sequels (with, perhaps, the exception of part 2), more with Michael Myers' background story as there is evidence that originally the screenplay for the first film was in-fact far heavier in exposition than what eventually made it to the finished print…
In 1979, in the wake of the film's tremendous and unexpected success, an original movie tie-in book- written by Curtis Richards was released. It was described as being, "Based on the Screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill"- but how much was from the original screenplay and how much is independent exposition by Richards is something I'll discuss later. The book does, however, expand considerably on the background of the events of those Halloween nights in 1963 and 1978…
The first chapter describes an evil generated by a murder, at the "dawn of the Celtic race", on the eve of Samhain- "the druid festival of the dead"; and how the horror "...once started.. trod the earth forevermore, wreaking its savagery suddenly, swiftly, and with incredible ferocity." And how, once its blood-lust was satiated, it "slept only and did not die, for it could not be killed". Continuing that "...on the eve before Samhain it would stir, and if the lust were powerful enough, it would rise to fulfil the curse invoked so many Samhains before. Then the people would bolt their doors."
The second chapter has Michael, as a child, asking his Grandmother about the Boogeyman and her wickedly telling him that "...if you were lucky, you got away with nothing worse than finding some of your chickens beheaded"; all this much to the horror of Michael's mother. When Michael goes to try on his Halloween clown costume the two women discuss Michael's "problems"; of how he has been getting into fights and hears voices telling him "...to hate people". Also how he has been having violent dreams; and how this is linked to his Great-Grand Father (who it is hinted descended into some kind of insanity (an earlier black chapter in the family)- which started with violent dreams.... it is later revealed that their dreams were identical- of "vengeance on a druid girl who had not returned his love"; and that they were both driven to equally violent deeds).
After the murder of his sister- (a scene which is considerably longer in the book and includes mention of the 'voices' which compel him to commit the act ), there is another whole chapter (11 pages) detailing Michael's trial and the time he spends in the juvenile ward at Smith's Grove and exactly why Dr. Loomis came to regard him as "...the most dangerous person I have ever handled". Despite being by far the youngest person there Michael isn't bullied, in-fact "They're afraid of him". It catalogues the strange and unpleasant things that happen to people who cross him; but none of the events can be directly linked to Michael (perhaps influenced by similar scenes in DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978)) . He isn't silent here either and at one point asks Dr. Loomis for a Halloween party to be organised- "you of all people!" Loomis balks, but eventually agrees. During a game of musical chairs Michael (who is dressed as a clown) is beaten out of the last chair by a sixteen year old girl- who, when the lights inexplicably go out, is found half drowned by a vat of water used for bobbing for apples. Michael is bone dry. … Loomis is gradually convinced that he should never be set free.... Cut to 1978- the rest of the book is fairly faithful to Carpenter's film.
The question remains of whether any of this was ever intended to be in the finished film or it is indeed completely the work of Richards fleshing out the bare bones of the story. The screenplay for HALLOWEEN was famously banged out in a matter of weeks and the film itself was made relatively quickly and on a pretty tight budget. Although it turned out for the best that the finished film was so simply structured, I can't help but wonder if (at least) some of the exposition included in the novelisation was excluded due to budgetary or time factors.
Common sense dictates that it was mostly the work of Richards flexing his imagination. However it is worth baring in mind that Debra Hill did say that, "We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived." It is also worth bearing in mind that Carpenter wrote the screenplay for the sequel, in which 'Samhain' is directly mentioned- drawn in blood on the school blackboard by the Myers. This in itself shows that Carpenter was either responsible for the much of the back-story that didn't make it into the finished film, or, at very least, adopted the idea from Richard's book. This continuous appearance of the Samhain theme also gives some validation to the direction that HALLOWEEN 6 took the series- even though it was done fairly ham-fistedly (at least in the version that was officially released). And the notion that as Myers was merely the vessel for some ancient evil, then there would be no reason that the 'evil' could not be transferred onto another- indeed it is one of the avenues that the upcoming latest sequel may explore.
HALLOWEEN needed numerous edits for American TV, John Carpenter was drafted in to shoot an additional 11 minutes during the making of HALLOWEEN II- making use of that film's cast and crew (which explains Nancy Loomis' couple of seconds long cameo as a corpse in the sequel!). One of the new scenes shows Donald Pleasence's pleas for the boy killer to be put into a higher security establishment, that his catatonia is "an act"; and "he is waiting [for something]", fall on deaf ears. Later he confronts the cherubic little boy, who is sitting staring blankly out of a window, telling him that "You've fooled them haven't you Michael- but not me". Another extra scene, inserted after Michael breaks out of Smith's Grove, shows the word 'sister' scratched into the back of a door- setting up the spurious link with the family story-line explored in the sequel (but not hinted at in the original screenplay). (The only other extra scene is an obvious time-filler which reunites Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis (by phone) and P. J. Soles, where they discuss borrowing clothes).
One thing is for sure about Michael Myers and that is that he's English. Yep, you read that right. Although I guess I should point out that the real Michael Myers was in-fact the UK distributor of Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13; and Carpenter named the fictional Boogey Man after him as a "tribute". At the end of the day though, much like the film influences I've suggested, we will never know the truth for sure about the true origins (or indeed the extent of those origins) of the fictional Michael Myers unless someone asks John Carpenter and Debra Hill slightly less reverential questions. … I'm game if they are!