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The surprising inspiration behind 'Halloween's villain Michael Myers

For horror aficionados, there are only a few characters that truly embody the true terror of the genre. Manifestations of pure evil, these characters are restricted to Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Halloween’s Michael Myers among only a few others. Though whilst Voorhees and Krueger exist in some sort of fantasy realm, Michael Myers is caught between man and monster. 

First appearing in John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween, a film that would help to establish the imminent slasher sub-genre of the 1980s, Michael Myers is the true embodiment of evil, an unstoppable masked figure determined on your demise. The name of the character is taken from the head of the, now dissolved, British company Miracle Films, who helped to distribute John Carpenter’s second film Assault on Precinct 13, and whose name was chosen as a tribute to the film’s success. 

Described as a character of pure evil by John Carpenter, the director stated that Michael Myers is “almost a supernatural force—a force of nature. An evil force that’s loose, a force that is ‘unkillable’. His real-life inspiration for the character came from a rather unlikely source, however, coming to the director whilst on a college trip to a mental institution in Kentucky. Whilst visiting “the most serious, mentally ill patients”, Carpenter came across a young boy around 12-13 in age, with the boy giving a “schizophrenic stare…a real evil stare” according to the director. 

Finding the boy’s stare “unsettling, creepy and completely insane”, the director’s experience would go onto inspire the characterisation that Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis outlines in the original 1978 film. In Halloween, Loomis describes the first time he came across a young Michael Myers, “I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes […] I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil”. 

Whilst John Carpenter may no longer have much of a say in the future of the Halloween series when it comes to writing or directing, he remains behind the project in the form of an executive producer role. Though it seems that the director still has his iconic biting humour, as when he was shown Michael Myers’ updated, aged mask by make-up effects designer Christopher Nelson, Carpenter replied that it ‘Looks like shit!’.

Long live the master of horror.

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