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Laurie vs the Shape
Credit: Compass International Pictures Aquarius Releasing

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Sliced and Diced: The Timelines of the Halloween Series Explained

The Halloween series is not one to stick to its own continuity. Tilt Magazine wades through the multiple times.

How to Watch the Halloween Movies in Order

This October sees the release of Halloween Ends. Directed by David Gordon Green, the title certainly carries itself with an air of finality. After so many years of death and gratuitous bloodshed, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is set to face off one more time against Michael Myers, the ultimate boogeyman. As the teaser trailer released this past summer boldly claimed: “This Halloween their saga ends.”

As a bit of marketing to drum up excitement, it’s a terrific tagline. But some people may question the logic behind such a promise. Astute fans of the franchise may roll their eyes because they know how studios like to milk a cash cow. But there are casual fans who, although they don’t know the series inside and out, may vaguely recollect previous “final” confrontations between these two icons of horror cinema. Halloween Endshas a nice ring, but haven’t there been previous concluding chapters already? Simply put, yes.

In that spirit, Tilt Magazine offers a guide through the various Halloween timelines. How many Halloween II’s can there be, anyways? How many third entries, for that matter? Hold on now, are there multiple fourth entries too?

Read on. We’ll do our best to present things as clearly as possible.

Original Timeline: 1

Laurie Strode
Credit: Compass International Pictures Aquarius Releasing

Halloween (1978)

At the risk of sounding painfully obvious, it all begins with John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. The relatively low-budget slasher (before the slasher genre was considered a thing) pits young Strode against the ominous Shape (Nick Castle) in Haddonfield, Illinois. He seemingly picks her as the evening’s stalking victim out of random spite for having approached the doorstep of his childhood home. At the same time, Michael’s former psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance) tries to assist local police in containing the mayhem. He fails since, well, mayhem ensues. 

Not much more can be written about Carpenter’s beloved film that hasn’t already been said. No more new songs can be composed to sing its praises. In any event, this isn’t that sort of article. The point here is merely to establish, for the purposes of the exercise, what ground zero is for the franchise, the entry where all timelines commence. Actually, that isn’t entirely accurate, but more on that later. The 1978 film, the night he came home, is the basis of the loopy fun that will follow.

bloody eyes
Credit: Universal Pictures

Halloween II (1981)

It took a few years for the monster hit to receive a sequel, in part because Carpenter was unwilling to direct. The horror maestro, along with Debra Hill, pens the script for this Rick Rosenthal-helmed entry, which, as the tagline suggests, offers more of the night he came home. The film opens in the immediate aftermath of Michael receiving shot wounds from Loomis, with the fiend fleeing for cover from authorities. Meanwhile, Laurie is taken to a local hospital to heal her wounds. A spooky, dimly lit, surprisingly empty hospital. Nurses are slaughtered, a young stud slips in a pool of blood like in a looney toons cartoon, Laurie and Michael are revealed to be siblings, and the franchise drops the first hint that something greater might be at play regarding the antagonist’s alarming ability to survive just about anything.

Though not nearly as frightening as the original, Halloween II is still a solid follow-up with a terrific hook. Rather than come up with a ridiculous reason why more devastation would befall Haddonfield after an extended reprieve, Rosenthal and company simply continue the story of the same night. Why not? The ’78 movie ends on what could generously be described as a cliffhanger. Besides, further installments down the road will make ridiculous attempts at explaining why Michael keeps coming back on Halloween night to the same darn location. 

And now things get interesting. 

New Timeline Opens: Timeline 2

masked kids
Credit: Universal Pictures

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1983)

Behind-the-scenes conversations early in the franchise’s existence suggested that, as a series, Halloween could function like an anthology. With Michael Myers burned to a crisp at the end of II, there was nowhere else to go with the character (how naïve). Carpenter and his producing partner Debra Hill offer some backing to a brand new kind of movie, but unlike with the immediate predecessor, they don’t write it. That duty, as well as directing, goes to Tommy Lee Wallace. Enter Season of the Witch.

Even the spooky marketing campaign couldn’t fully prepare audiences for the oddity that is this third entry. Operating in a completely different universe, the only reference to Michael is when a television ad announces that the “original classic” will air later that night. The film’s plot involves one Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins), who stumbles into a conspiracy by which a famous toy manufacturer (Dan O’Herlihy) uses his company, Silver Shamrocks, to make Halloween masks with malevolent powers. Once the masks are activated, anyone wearing them is grotesquely killed. Challis is assisted in his private investigation by the delightful Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), until she’s revealed to be an android. Yes, androids populate this world. 

Few people think Halloween III is scary. Some downright hate the film. But for the open-minded, there is something to be said about a producer team going for broke not by milking a famous character, but rather slapping the name of their lauded series onto a completely original and bonkers concept. Is it good? That depends on whom one asks. It’s delightfully weird and opens the door to an anthology franchise that never came to pass, as well as opening a portal to our second timeline that begins and ends with this single film.

SCORE

Timeline 1Halloween (’78), Halloween II

Timeline 2Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Back to Timeline 1

Michael's back
Credit: Galaxy International Releasing

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

This is where the family name Akkad becomes important. Producer Moustapha Akkad had been with the franchise since the start and enjoyed its success. Still, the original film, and to an extent its immediate sequel, have John Carpenter’s fingerprints all over them. By the time it came to make yet another entry, Carpenter and Debra Hill we no longer involved, leaving Akkad with greater control in determining what direction the franchise would take. That meant bringing back Michael Myers.

10 years following the infamous Halloween night massacre in Haddonfield, Michael devilishly escapes his medical caretakers during a transfer between sanitariums. Upon learning that he has a niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris), the masked killer does what he does best: track down family members to kill them, slaughtering anyone who stands in his way. Jamie’s foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) does her best to protect the young girl, and Loomis is back to stop his failed patient yet again. 

The series jumps back to Timeline 1 for this Dwight H. Little-directed sequel. Return of Michael Myers explains that Laurie Strode died in the interim years, albeit not by her brother’s hand. So the first of Laurie’s “last stands”…wasn’t really the last stand per se? She just died off-screen while Season of the Witch was being made??? Eesh. 

It goes to show how much a producer’s will and their money can make a project happen when essentially the franchise’s co-lead doesn’t want to participate any longer. Even though everyone’s final girl is not around, the fact is Halloween 4 is part of Timeline 1.

SCORE

Timeline 1Halloween (1978), Halloween IIReturn

Timeline 2Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Credit: Galaxy International Releasing

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

This fifth film was developed in an extraordinarily short time, impressive considering the directorial change. Gone is Dwight H. Little in favour of the Swiss Dominique Otherin-Girard. While the speed at which the picture was created can be applauded, the problem ended up being pretty much everything else. The original script idea, which fed off 4’s strange ending of Jamie becoming a crazed killer herself, was vetoed by Akkad. 

Jamie becomes mute and emotionally handicapped by post-traumatic stress disorder caused by her ordeal with her uncle Michael. The film hints at a whole bunch of things that are never fully paid off, such as a peculiar psychic connection between the girl and the serial murderer, not to mention a mysterious man dressed entirely in black who roams Haddonfield. Michael, despite getting shot-gunned to high heaven in 4, is miraculously revived by a hermit. Exactly one year later, on Halloween, he rises to continue his stalker proclivities, butchering horny teenagers in the process. 

Considered by many to be among the weaker entries in the series, Revenge of Michael Myers suffers from the tried, tested, and true symptom of a rushed production. Its script is simply lame and unfocused. Timeline 1 is looking a little worse for wear at this stage. 

Cursed
Credit: Dimension Films

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Six years elapsed between Revenge and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Akkad, who was overly enthusiastic about getting the fifth chapter into production, was non-plussed by its performance. Consequently, he and his team took as much time as possible to try and right the ship. Some of the script ideas for the sixth movie and the people who pitched them are the stuff of Halloween franchise legend.  For crying out loud, Quentin Tarantino almost wrote it.

Be that as it may, director Joe Chappelle’s Curse of Michael Myers does what it can to explain who the man in black from the previous film was, why there is a gothic cult worshiping Myers, what happened to Jamie, all the while offering the chills and thrills fans were accustomed to. Paul Rudd co-stars as a grown-up Tommy Doyle (the boy Laurie babysat in the first film) alongside Marianne Hagan as Kara Strode, yet another relative for the masked killer to stalk and destroy. 

Timeline 1 concludes here. Not exactly in a satisfying manner given how muddled the answers to fans’ questions are. So much so that there are two cuts of the film, neither of which truly get the job done. Final battle is won by…Paul Rudd?

SCORE

Timeline 1Halloween (1978), Halloween IIReturnRevengeCurse.

Timeline 2Halloween III: Season of the Witch

New Timeline: 3

Peak-a-boo!
Credit: Dimension Films

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Now the discussion of Halloween timelines gets even more convoluted. No, 1998 didn’t see the release of another anthology-style entry. Michael Myers very much remains the focus, as does Laurie Strode. Laurie? Hold on just a second. Part 4 explained that she had died in an accident. Ah, this is where money talks. Jamie Lee Curtis agreed to return and there was even a possibility that John Carpenter would direct, but it’s said that his asking fee was more than what the studio was willing to pay.

Enter Steve Miner, who was no stranger to slasher films, having directed the second and third Friday the 13thinstalments. Laurie is now headmistress at a private school in California and goes under the name Keri Tate. Her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett) attends the institution, as does his love interest Molly (Michelle Williams). Alas, as October 31st approaches and a good bad guy can’t be kept down forever. After skulking for clues as to his sister’s whereabouts, the Shape travels the country to find and ultimately kill her. 

H20 opens with a confirmation of sorts about what Return suggested, that the public believes the series’ protagonist lost her life. This 7th chapter is a continuation of the original timeline, is it not? It almost is, until the next film reveals that it isn’t. Regardless, H20 showcases a terrific showdown between old foes Laurie and Michael, with the heroine finally getting the upper hand on her boogeyman. The closing shot features her brutally beheading her mortal enemy. The final battle is won by Laurie Strode! 

Done and dusted, right? Well…

Farewell kiss
Credit: Dimension Films

Halloween Resurrection (2002)

As if decapitating a villain was enough to prevent the producers from using him again. You might even say from resurrecting him! The road to 2002’s Halloween Resurrection is an odd one. The studio needed a way – an excuse some would argue – to continue the story.  Unbeknownst to the public at the time, the breadcrumbs for an escape plan from the previous film’s finality were laid as that film was being made. According to H20’s editor, footage of the villain in disguised in paramedic attire, thus escaping authorities, was captured immediately after production wrapped. 

Directed by Rick Rosenthal of II fame, Resurrection finds Laurie in a psychiatric hospital following the events of H20. Since Michael so cleverly evaded his pursuers, why not once again strive to complete his self-ordained mission of killing his sister? In a shocking twist, he truly does! Laurie dies in the opening act. The remainder of the picture deals with a group of young adults who agree to participate in a live-stream reality show by spending Halloween night in the Myers home. Michael doesn’t appreciate their intrusion and goes off on a brand-new killing spree. Busta Rhymes plays the show’s producer with a performance that is equal parts a series high and low.

So what is happening here that makes H20 and Resurrection diverge into their own timeline? The kicker arrives early in the film as Michael infiltrates the hospital where Laurie rests. Wardens are overheard discussing Michael’s history. His killing sprees are well documented, only there is no mention of anything from films 4 through 6. As such, the 7th and 8th chapters appear to transpire in a new timeline where 4, 5, andCurse never happened. Final battle is won by Michael Myers!

SCORE

Timeline 1: Halloween (1978), Halloween II, ReturnRevengeCurse

Timeline 2Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Timelines 3Halloween (1978), Halloween II, H20, Resurrection

New Timeline: 4

Rebooted Michael and Laurie
Credit: Dimension Films

Halloween (2007)

The franchise went on another hiatus, but by the late 00s, it was time to bring Michael Myers back to cinemas. Rather than continue any pre-existing storylines (sorry, Season of the Witch fans), the studio and its writer-director of choice Rob Zombie opted to reboot the entire affair. At the time, Zombie was probably the biggest name to direct a Halloween film, save of course Carpenter, but the latter was an unknown in 1978. 

Halloween (2007) is something of a retelling of the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode story by way of Illinois redneck tragedy (one didn’t know Illinois rednecks existed). The movie’s first third is essentially about how a young Michael (Daeg Faerch) is bullied at school, terrorized at home by his father, and probably has a mental imbalance to push him over the edge. Flash forward several years and an adult, hulking Michael (Tyler Mane) escapes a mental institution and returns to Haddonfield to cause havoc. In the process, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) becomes the center of his attention whilst Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) attempts to halt the madness that erupts. 

This one is self-explanatory. By the project’s very nature, the 2007 Halloween opens a new timeline. Everything is reset, and none of the funny business involving cults and magic masks has happened. The only funny business of note is why Rob Zombie thought delving into Michael’s past was a good idea, but we digress. 

Hoodie Michael
Credit: Dimension Films

Halloween II (2009)

Not much time needs to be spent on this timeline. II is, predictably, the sequel to the 2007 reboot. Rob Zombie returned to write and direct. Say what one will about the quality of his films, the first one performed more than well enough at the box office for the studio to give him leeway to create another chapter, one more outlandish than the first. Whereas the first one seemed awkwardly caught between retelling the original film beat-for-beat and exploring Michael’s character, Halloween II circa 2009 goes off into the deep end, for good or ill. 

Laurie is a broken person after the nightmare of the first film. Loomis has earned fame and fortune with his book and public appearances talking about his former patient. Michael went missing after October 31st, but as one can imagine, the bad guy of the Halloween series always has that date marked down on the calendar for an inglorious return. 

Perhaps Zombie went too ballistic with his sequel because it didn’t earn nearly the accolades or money his first movie did. II is very much Zombie putting his distinct stamp onto a Halloween film. Shout out to the opening sequence, which is literally revealed to be a nightmare re-imagining of 1981’s Halloween II. Final battle won by Laurie Strode!

SCORE

Timeline 1: Halloween (1978), Halloween II, ReturnRevengeCurse

Timeline 2: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Timelines 3Halloween (1978), Halloween II, H20, Resurrection

Timeline 4Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

New Timeline: 5

The mask
Credit: Universal Pictures

Halloween (2018) 

This brings us to the timeline currently in the zeitgeist. Developed by art-house darling David Gordon Green and writer-actor-comedian Danny McBride, the modern iteration of the series started in 2018 with the confusingly titled Halloween. That’s right, the franchise has 3 films with the same title. The running gag is that Halloween is a sequel to Halloween (not a typo).

More specifically, the 2018 film occurs 40 years after the events of the original (H20 x 2. H40!) and only the original. In other words, the 1981 sequel never happened. Why? Because that movie drops the bomb about Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael being siblings, something this new timeline forsakes. Interestingly, the story introduces not one but two new generations of Strode. Laurie’s had a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), whom herself had a daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Michael versus 3 Strodes? The odds are almost fair. 

The 2018 film was a huge box office smash and rather well-received critically. Green and McBride had originally stated that they set out to make one good movie, but that ideas for a trilogy were mulled over should the studio want to proceed. This leads us to…

Credit: Universal Pictures

Halloween Kills (2021)

Even a release date delayed an entire year due to the pandemic could not save this film was fans’ ire. Or that of film critics. Adhering to the template established by the very first sequel in 1981, Kills, also directed by David Gordon Green, continues the story on the same night as the 2018 entry. 

It is revealed that Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) never got over the trauma of his experience in 1978. At a local bar celebrating the holiday, Tommy reiterates the stain on Haddonfield that won’t go away. His call to arms is boosted by news reports about Michael’s return. Soon, the whole town is hunting down the Shape while Laurie rests at the hospital, and Karen and Allyson once again flee their persistent assailant. 

Judging from podcasts, written reviews, and conversations with fellow film fans and franchise adepts, it feels like almost nobody liked Kills. It didn’t make nearly as much money as Halloween (2018). While an argument can be made that the studio’s decision to plop the picture onto its streaming service on the same day didn’t help (reasonable), the fact that many fans think this movie just sucks is also a pretty compelling argument. 

And as of this writing, it is the week of release for Halloween Ends (2022). Will this new film’s title become obsolete in a few years’ time? Hey, they brought Michael back after we all saw him get decapitated one time. As the saying in French goes: Poser la question, c’est y répondre (loosely, you answered your own question when asking it).

FINAL SCORE

Timeline 1Halloween (1978), Halloween IIReturn, Revenge, and Curse

Timeline 2Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Timelines 3Halloween (1978), Halloween II, H20, Resurrection

Timeline 4Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

Timeline 5Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018), Kills, Ends.

Final Cut

Credit: Universal Pictures

The Halloween series is a wild one with respect to story threads and continuity. Consider:

-2 first films (the original and the 2007 remake) 

-3 films with the same title (1978, 2007, 2018)

-3 second entries (1981, the reboot’s sequel, 2018)

-3 third entries (Season of the WitchH20Kills)

-3 fourth entries (ReturnResurrectionEnds)

-2 Laurie Strodes (Jamie Lee Curtis, Scout Taylor-Compton)

-7 different Strode protagonists: Laurie, Jamie (Return, Revenge, Curse), Jamie’s daughter (Curse), Kara (Curse), John (H20), Karen (2018, Kills), Allyson (2018, Kills, Ends). 8 Strodes with Laurie 2.0 (2007, 2009)

-11 different Michael Myers masks (granted, the more recent ones are heavily based on the original), 12 with Ends

-6 final battles (II, Curse, H20, Resurrection, 2009, Ends)

A convoluted mess for some, irresistible material for fans to dive into and obsess over. 

Cheers to Laurie, all the Strodes, and Michael. Forever rivals it would seem. Most likely we’ll be seeing them again, regardless of what Ends has in store. 

-Edgar Chaput

Written By

A native of Montréal, Québec, Edgar Chaput has written and podcasted about pop culture since 2011. At first a blogger, then a contributor to Tilt's previous iteration (Sound on Sight), he now helps cover tv and film on a weekly basis. In addition to enjoying the Hollywood of yesteryear and martial arts movies, he is a devoted James Bond fan. English, French, and decent at faking Spanish, don't hesitate to poke him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/double_oh_Pop), Facebook or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/edchap14/).

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