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The Martyrdom of “HALLOWEEN RETURNS”: Why Dimension’s Loss is Michael Myers’ Gain

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Reflecting upon the near 40-year legacy of HALLOWEEN, it’s so strange to see all the places the franchise could have gone. Where would Michael Myers go had John Carpenter not retconned Laurie Strode’s lineage in PART II? Would we have even seen Michael again had HALLOWEEN III been a financial success? What would HALLOWEEN VII had been if Dimension pursued their SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-esque concept instead? And what if Rob Zombie turned down the opportunity to reboot the franchise a little over a decade ago?

Now, the HALLOWEEN franchise’s future once again remains uncertain, with producer Malek Akkad and Miramax shopping the rights to Michael Myers’ future to other Hollywood studios. This development scrapped the planned HALLOWEEN RETURNS from FEAST duo Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan in yet another disappointing blow to fans of iconic horror properties. Combined with the unfortunate removal of David Bruckner from the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise and the development hell in which NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HELLRAISER currently reside, one wonders why it’s so hard to find a contemporary spin on these classic chillers.

However, in the case of HALLOWEEN, the difficulty in development is definitely grounded in the series’ complicated continuity, with Dimension having rebooted the chronology not once, but twice. At the time of its development, there was much discussion about where HALLOWEEN RETURNS would go, and that the film would be a direct sequel to HALLOWEEN II, yet even with that timeline, Dimension would have to address whether or not the film falls on H20 and RESURRECTION’s chronology, and how the studio would explain the severance of Rob Zombie’s reboot universe. In other words, in selling HALLOWEEN RETURNS to a wide audience, there was a very difficult choice to be made: go back to the original timeline and eschew Rob Zombie’s efforts altogether or reboot the franchise yet again and face the rage of the horror fanboy.

Sadly, neither of those efforts had anything to do with whether or not HALLOWEEN RETURNS would be a legitimately great film, and ultimately, Dimension’s decision to curtail to fan expectations brought the project to the grave. The truth of the matter is that a new HALLOWEEN film will never be a matter of quality, but rather a matter of marketing; sadly, as much as references to HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II would have pleased hardcore horror fans, they would have done nothing to the everyday moviegoer whose tweets, posts and shares are tabulated by research groups. And as creative speedbumps began to rack up, HALLOWEEN RETURNS ended up alongside the many other hypothetical films of HALLOWEEN’s past. However, if HALLOWEEN RETURNS had to go down, the project at least went down as a martyr necessary for the betterment of the franchise’s future.

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Does that mean Dimension handled the HALLOWEEN franchise wrongfully? Not necessarily, but as many horror properties (including DEMONIC and AMITYVILLE) could tell you, Dimension doesn’t carry the easiest or most collaborative track record. But with the powers-that-be drastically overthinking almost every major fright franchise, it’s no surprise that Akkad and Co. are up and leaving Dimension in search of greener pastures. After all, the formula for a successful HALLOWEEN film can be seen in the genre in which it exists, as with a decent story and a little innovation in the kill department, a simple slasher film can easily turn a large profit without stars or a $50 million marketing campaign.

However, the hump that the future studio of HALLOWEEN will have to jump is that of the reboot phase, as there’s virtually no path they can take that would avoid having to start from scratch. Sure, there’s the possibility that has been brought up that, if picked up by New Line or Paramount, a connected “Slasher Universe” could be in the cards, but considering how divisive FREDDY VS. JASON remains over a decade later, an R-rated connected universe balancing the supernatural and psychotic could be the riskiest move of all. But going back to any timeline, whether it be post-Laurie RESURRECTION, post-Loomis HALLOWEEN VI or post-Myers HALLOWEEN II, would prove more problematic and complicated than simply wiping the slate clean and re-using the elements all over again. And as for the content itself, HALLOWEEN is much better off allowing one of the dozens of filmmakers who’d kill for a shot at the franchise to do what they want with no lines to to, and without Dimension at the forefront, a reboot could be a liberating experience for the franchise.

But the most interesting and potentially valuable element of a HALLOWEEN reboot would be the opportunity to do something that would satisfy fanboys and take the franchise in a bold direction: kill Michael Myers and pursue the anthology path. As iconic and synonymous to the franchise that Michael Myers is, communication between fans is a whole new beast thanks to the internet, which prevents a HALLOWEEN III-level misunderstanding from happening again. And to be completely frank, how much further can Michael Myers go as a character? How many more times must we watch Dr. Loomis yell and scream while a seemingly immortal man in a William Shatner mask stabs teenagers? If HALLOWEEN were to offer a swan song for Michael Myers and rebrand every year, sharing only a title and a universe in which these horror stories exist, perhaps a new HALLOWEEN film could be a cause for celebration rather than cautious optimism.

Despite not currently having a home, the HALLOWEEN franchise certainly is not going to die; Malek Akkad is a clever and rather bold businessman, and his interest in the franchise will likely bring us an installment sooner than we all might think. However, HALLOWEEN has a special distinction that Freddy, Jason and Pinhead do not: discarding the ridiculous Curse of Thorn, Michael Myers has never had supernatural baggage to weigh him down. So should Akkad and the studio continue to carry on Myers story, this writer has little doubt that they can make this big screen boogeyman scary once more. But free from the reach and influence of Dimension, HALLOWEEN has been granted the gift of a fresh start and a chance to do something new with the franchise; who knows? With a new studio and a new mythology to be forged, HALLOWEEN could be much, much more than the night he came home over the next 40 years.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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