If the massive success of the new Halloween movie released this month is proof of anything, it’s that Michael Myers still has the power to scare the ever-living daylights out of audiences even 40 years on from his big screen debut.
Of course, there are other reasons David Gordon Green’s Halloween is making a killing at the box office (pardon the pun). The movie marks a smart return to the Halloween franchise’s roots (that is, back when it was still good), and widely disregards its many subpar instalments.
It boasts the welcome return of the franchise’s best protagonist Laurie Strode too, with a brilliant performance from Jamie Lee Curtis. Above all, though, is the malevolent Michael Myers - still fuelling our nightmares all these years later.
But what exactly is it that makes Michael so very fearsome? How has he become such an icon of the horror genre, and what’s the secret behind his staying power?
Let’s take a look at what makes the murderous masked madman stand out amongst his contemporaries and how – even in one of the longest-running horror franchises – he’s still able to amp up the fear factor.
8. He Committed His First Murder Aged Six
Many slasher villains take a while to fully realise their homicidal ways, but that's not the case for Michael Myers, who began his murderous reign at the tender age of six with the savage stabbing of his teenage sister Judith. He was basically born a psychopath, seemingly killing out of nowhere at a precociously young age.
Kids who kill are mercifully rare, but when it does happen, it’s so much more shocking and horrifying than if it were an adult. It’s hard to comprehend how someone so young, and so seemingly innocent, could commit such a violent act.
But that’s exactly what we’re confronted with after our very first meeting with Michael – a baby-faced killer in a kid’s clown costume who’d be the picture of innocence if it weren’t for the knife he’s holding dripping with his own sister’s blood.
The idea of a child psychopath is unsettling but the notion that Michael was simply born bad is reinforced by Dr Loomis. Although he’s kind of prone to dramatics, as a doctor Loomis is presumably a man of science and reason, but even he refers to the six-year-old Michael in bogeyman-like terms with his “blank, pale, emotionless face and the blackest eyes … the devil’s eyes."
Michael’s killer child origins are even creepier when you learn he was inspired by a real-life pre-teen patient original Halloween director John Carpenter met during his college years while on a psychology field trip at a mental institution, who he described as having “a real evil stare”. It was, in fact, this encounter that inspired Dr Loomis’ quote about Michael’s devil eyes.