7 Horrifying Facts About the Ultimate Slasher Killer, Michael Myers
Whether you're a horror-movie buff or not, you've heard the name Michael Myers. John Carpenter's 1978 film Halloween is thought by many to be the birthplace of the slasher genre. While Black Christmas (1974) might have technically beaten Halloween to the punch, the latter created so many iconic slasher-movie tropes (like the final girl) that we still see in films to this day.
Who is at the center of the Halloween franchise? Laurie Strode might be one of the most infamous final girls of all time, but the bread and butter of any slasher franchise is its killer, and Halloween has one of the best to offer in film history. None other than the granddaddy of all knife-wielding maniacs. Here's everything you need to know about Michael Myers.
Who Is Michael Myers?
Halloween's opening scene — in which the violent murder of Michael's older sister, Judith, plays out visually from Michael's perspective — made cinematic history. When the movie came out in 1978, it was unheard of to film a profoundly unsettling, graphic murder from a first-person perspective. Its effects were unparalleled, though, as putting the audience in the shoes of a heartless murderer forced them to empathize with him. Yet, as bone-chilling as the scene was, it was the reveal of who committed the murder that left moviegoers gasping.
After the violent murder, the film pulls us out of Michael's perspective, and we see his parents discover him, just 6 years old, wielding a butcher knife. No more than a child, it's hard to stomach the reality of what we're seeing. How could a child commit such an atrocious act, and for what reason?
Michael is swiftly taken into custody and hospitalized in Warren County's Smith's Grove Sanitarium, where he remains for the next 15 years. At this point, he escapes from the sanitarium and returns to his childhood home — the fictional town of Haddonfield, IL — and stalks Laurie Strode and her friends, picking them off one by one until his final confrontation with Laurie.
Due to Michael's first kill being at such a young age, followed by hospitalization for most of his life, we don't get any insight into his mental state or personality. He also doesn't speak. He seems to have one motivation in life, and that's to kill for unfathomable reasons. Due to the elusive nature of his character, many people refer to Michael as "The Shape" in canon — more a being of pure evil than an actual person. Most would describe Michael as a boogeyman, with no real identity beyond that.
Why Did Michael Myers Start Killing?
In truth, this depends on what canon you reference. In the Rob Zombie remakes, Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009), Michael's home life is extremely abusive and toxic. He endures an absent father, a mother who's in a relationship with an abusive man, and an older sister who bullies him. He commits his first murder at age 10 (rather than 6 like in the original), and he doesn't stop at just his sister. He also kills his sister's boyfriend and his mother's abusive partner before he's apprehended and taken to the sanitarium. Through this sequence of events, Zombie's remake attempts to humanize Michael and give him a sympathetic motivation that the original film never offered. It frames Michael's motivation for his initial murders as an attempt to put an end to the years of torment he'd endured, creating a killer in the process.
That's the problem with the Halloween remakes, though. The truth is, the original Michael had no motivation to kill. We do not at any point see an underlying reason for why he kills. Michael doesn't exhibit emotion, and the more we watch him, the less human he seems. That's the point of The Shape. He is extraordinary in every way that an ordinary person would find horrific. Some argue that killing is the only thing that makes Michael feel anything. In Halloween Kills, Laurie even says, "The more he kills, the more he transcends."
How Old Is Michael Myers?
Considering the franchise has been ongoing since 1978, Michael has appeared at various ages. In the original Halloween, Michael is 6 years old when he kills his first victim. He spends 15 years locked up in a sanitarium, making him 21 when he breaks out and goes on the killing spree that destroys Laurie Strode's life.
In the newest films, Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021), Michael is right around 61 years old. We'll stick with this age since Halloween (2018) is a direct sequel to the first film and is now considered Michael and Laurie's canon story arc.
Who Will Michael Kill (and Are Kids Off Limits)?
There is an unwritten rule in the Halloween films that Michael Myers does not kill children. There is no real explanation for this, as we've seen Michael dispatch teenagers, adults, and even animals without prejudice. It seems particularly odd Michael would draw the line at children when his whole purpose in life is killing. We do, however, see numerous instances when he chooses not to kill children. For example, Michael spares both Tommy and Lindsey when he could have easily killed them in the original film. In Halloween (2018), Michael encounters a baby crying in their crib, and he leaves them alive even though killing them before their crying could draw unwanted attention would have been in his best interest.
The reason Michael seemingly won't commit violence against children has been debated for years. Some fans believe it's because Michael doesn't see children as a threat. Others think he still sees himself as a child, so he identifies with other children. At the end of the day, though, we don't know why Michael doesn't kill children. It has never been explicitly elaborated on in canon.
It's also worth noting many fans aren't convinced about this unspoken rule, arguing Michael has killed at least one child. Many cite the killing of a father and son who encounter the prison bus Michael's being transported on in Halloween (2018) as an act of violence against a child. The son grabs a gun in hopes of defending himself, and Michael kills him quickly. The problem is we don't know how old the kid is. Many believe he looks young enough to be a child, while others argue he's in his teen years. Either way, he took up a weapon against Michael, making him a threat. Perhaps, in Michael's eyes, he was no longer a child because he could hold his own and fight back?
Why Does Michael Wear a Mask?
Much like most of the mythos surrounding Michael Myers, the reason behind his mask is not entirely clear. Michael is designed to be a mystery, and even Halloween (1978) director John Carpenter has left much of the whys behind Michael's character unanswered. So, the reasoning behind Michael's mask can be looked at in two ways.
The first is the natural discomfort people feel when they encounter someone in a mask. People often associate masks with fear, and it's because they play on an inherent fear of the unknown. A mask is usually designed to mimic human visages and expressions, but they are emotionless and hide the truth of what is beneath them. Even if the mask is pleasant or beautiful, it can still be unsettling. For that reason, masked killers in horror films became a staple. Concealing the identity of a person makes them even more terrifying, right?
The second reason Michael may wear a mask is a bit more personal. Michael was designed to be The Shape. He is, for narrative purposes, not human. As far as we know, Michael does not even see himself as human. Described as the "embodiment of evil" by Laurie and many other residents of Haddonfield, Michael wearing a mask to cover up the person he used to be makes a lot of sense. He loses any sense of the identity he was given at birth and, instead, his mask becomes his identity. This may be why he has such a violent reaction to losing the mask. For example, in Halloween (2018), two true-crime podcasters visit him at the sanitarium before he escapes. They manage to take his mask and taunt him with it in hopes it will get him to talk. He later tracks them down, brutally murders them, and reclaims his mask before doing anything else.
What Does Michael Look Like Without His Mask?
The short answer: an ordinary person. Carpenter always wanted Michael to be an average-looking young man. He wanted to emphasize the juxtaposition between the truly heinous atrocities Michael commits with a completely normal human appearance, forcing the audience to digest that Michael is just a man. Michael could be anyone.
The long answer: while Michael has sustained many injuries through the Halloween series and likely has many scars, hiding scars was never the reason for his mask. Unlike Jason of Friday the 13th or Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Michael was never meant to look like anything other than an average person. While it's true we don't often get a glance under the mask (and the glances we do get are minimal at best), it's easy to see Michael is a tall, white male. He spends most of the first act of Halloween (2018) without a mask, and we get small glimpses here and there. He has short, gray hair and matching stubble. We also see the scars on and around his left eye that were left from when Laurie stabbed him in 1978's Halloween.
Is Laurie Strode Michael's Sister?
This is another question that can be answered with "It depends on who you ask." Laurie Strode being Michael's younger sister was a storyline first introduced in Halloween II (1981), and while many of the following sequels stuck to this storyline, 2018's Halloween completely retcons that choice.
Since 2018's film acts as a direct sequel to the original 1978 film, the filmmakers took the liberty of ignoring or reversing canon from its predecessors. That included the relationship between Laurie and Michael. Halloween (2018) even references the idea that people believe they are siblings when Laurie's granddaughter, Allyson, converses about it with one of her friends. While explaining the events that led to her grandmother's trauma, one of her friends asks about Laurie being Michael's sister. Allyson replies, "No. That's just a bit that some people made up to make them feel better, I think."
According to the most recent canon, Michael and Laurie have no sibling connection, but their familial connection will probably live on in some capacity through Halloween's earlier remakes.