Video Store Memories: My Gradual Introduction To The HALLOWEEN Franchise

When I was a kid just getting into horror, Jason and Freddy were the names I knew. They were legendary icons. I had a friend who was far more versed in the genre than I was. And by the time I was eight, I practically lived in the horror aisle of the video store. After friends had built up these characters in my mind so much, I had begun to make my way through both of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. When I finally set up my stomping ground in the video store, it became time to begin my education on my own. For whatever reason, the franchises always caught my eye. I loved to see something that continued, something that looked like an undertaking, whether it be Night of the Demons or Child’s Play. I didn’t know most of what I was looking at outside the box art, but I was hooked.

Halloween, however, took a little longer for me. I remember looking at the cover of the Media VHS of the original film and honestly feeling alienated. The pumpkin was genuinely creepy, but it told me nothing about what the film was about. The thing that really kept me at arms length when I first saw it in the video store, however, was the tagline. “The Night HE Came Home.” It’s an attention grabber, but I had no idea who he was. And it implied that he’d been somewhere, but I didn’t know where and I felt like I was supposed to. I knew nothing of it and it almost felt as if I wasn’t in on whatever kind of joke that Halloween was telling.

For a brief time, I think I actually thought that Halloween was a sequel to something else. Just because of the tagline, I was sure that there was something I had missed. I think that, if anything, is why I avoided it a little longer than Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. But I was still curious, because I loved the box art of every single one of them. Still, the confusion kind of persisted. The back of the VHS for Halloween 4 saw a never ending reflection of Michael Myers, so that I looked at it as a kid and immediately assumed that there were dozens of Michaels in the movie, or that whoever the killer was in Halloween was, in fact, several people.

This thought was confirmed when I looked at the back of the box for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and read that the movie had something to do with a cult. I didn’t know that word. I didn’t know what a cult was, so I asked my dad and he told me what it meant, so I asked if the groups of crazy people that made up a cult sometimes wore masks, and he told me that he guessed they did. That was all it really took for me to decide that, yes, Halloween probably did revolve around a weird group of killers in identical plain white masks. It only made sense to me from what I’d pieced together from everything I’d seen.

Eventually, though, just after my dad moved into a new place post-divorce, he started letting me rent pretty much whatever I wanted. Halloween was actually his suggestion, I think because we were in the season, and I obviously didn’t refuse because I loved it any time he actually made a horror movie suggestion. He kind of rolled his eyes at it, though. I think he expected it to be a fun, stupid thing, but I definitely don’t think he expected it to be good.

From about the opening scene, I got that this movie was not at all what I had expected it to be, but I couldn’t give less of a shit. I was in. Doctor Loomis made Michael Myers sound terrifying in every single scene, and having already seen Friday the 13th, I knew what to expect from this kind of movie. I was completely on board for anything that Michael Myers was going to be doing over the course of the film. My excitement started building with every scene. And I don’t know exactly what it was, maybe those early shots of Michael in the background, maybe the reveal of the white mask, maybe those things mixed with the work of hype man Doctor Loomis. But something about Halloween clicked maybe more than any horror movie I had rented up to that point.

The shocking thing is that my dad, who never really reacted to these movies as strongly as I did, wound up loving it. We almost always returned the five-day rentals the next day, mostly because my dad happened to love the video store that was almost a half hour away, despite the fact that there were two in my hometown. But on this one occasion, we kept the five-day rental because my dad wanted to watch the movie again. Unlike the original Friday the 13th, which left me bitter as a seven-year-old that it was largely devoid of Jason, I fell in love with Halloween right away. This was the first time that I actually had a movie series to introduce to my friends instead of them introducing it to me, and even during a time when I was diving deep into all of the major horror franchises, Michael Myers became my guy.

And it was incredibly convenient too, because Halloween H20 was just about to come out. It was the first new Michael Myers movie that I was aware of, and I was excited, even though I was still discovering the franchise at the time. For me, all of Halloween was still new. I can’t quite remember the order in which I saw everything because I wasn’t as unreasonably mad as I had been about not seeing Jason and/or a hockey mask in a Friday the 13th movie. I do know that the original Halloween was the first horror movie on video that I was allowed to purchase on my own. Not terribly long after that, I taped Halloween II off of a seasonal marathon on USA, and I was blown away by the way it approached a sequel. The concept of something picking up immediately where the last one had ended was completely and entirely new to me.  I was stunned.

Halloween 4 and 5 were two movies that I rented as often as I could. I loved the box art and I didn’t notice the different masks at all as a kid, I was just in love with the idea of more Michael Myers and I loved to full, seasonal Halloween vibe of both of the movies. They were two movies that I immediately began to associate the season before AMC even started their routine of showing both multiple times a day during October. Because I saw The Curse of Michael Myers so close to Halloween H20, I swore that they came out just a few months apart. I also remembered a scene of Michael Myers on fire that was definitely in neither the theatrical nor the producer’s cut. It just doesn’t exist.

Halloween was far and away the first franchise I started collecting even a couple of movies of. I rented Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and Puppet Master whenever I had the chance, but I could watch Halloween whenever I wanted and that concept blew my mind. I even somehow talked my mom into letting me buy Halloween H20 only a year or two after it came out, and it was the first Halloween movie I had the chance to anticipate. I was obsessed with that movie before I had the chance to own it and when I had friends over, it was almost guaranteed that we would be watching it at every single sleepover.

One of the things that kind of baffles me, comparing my reactions between the two franchises, is that for as much shit as I gave Friday the 13th and A New Beginning as a child, I actually didn’t really have a problem with Halloween III. I can’t say that I was into it as a kid. But I distinctly remember watching it for the first time and thinking “Oh, I guess Michael Myers isn’t in this one.” And I literally didn’t think anything else of it. There was no shock or disappointment, the way there had been for expecting Jason to be the killer in Friday the 13th.

I think that’s the difference, though, looking back at it. Everything about Jason had been built up for weeks and months in my mind and I had all these imagined things of what the franchise was.

With Halloween, on the other hand, I went in with really no expectations whatsoever. So it didn’t have the same impact, as much as I loved Michael Myers, to not find him in Season of the Witch. There was no bitterness on my eight-year-old part, just a casual shrug of “OK, I’m not as much into this one.” And I never really went back to it until people started rediscovering it and writing about it, at least from what I could see as I was broadening my horizons as a fan, in the mid-to-late 2000s.

While Friday the 13th was a journey for me as a kid, Halloween was something I fell into and became immediately obsessed with. I wanted a Michael Myers mask, I wanted to own all the movies, and it led me to my love of novelizations when I discovered the Halloween young adult books and did a book report on them in fourth grade, which I got in trouble for. But that was sort of the conscious moment when, getting scolded by my teacher over my love of Halloween, I actually realized just how deep into it I was. I felt so vindicated by that and even though I’d gotten in trouble, I wore it as a badge of pride. I’m still grateful for that to this day.

Over time, there have been entries in the franchise I’ve come to love less and come to love more than I did as a kid, but most of that wonder I felt toward them is still intact. I’m not over the Halloween series. I’m in it for life. I’ll never forget those moments thinking Michael Myers might be looking over my shoulder after seeing the original for the first time. I’ll never forget excitedly analyzing Halloween H20 during every middle school sleepover, or speculating as to how he’d manage to reattach his head for the inevitable sequel. I’ll never forget renting Halloween 4 and being blown away by just the opening few minutes. And I cannot wait to have a new Halloween movie in less than a month, to start making these kinds of memories all over again.