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The entire Halloween story finally explained

John Carpenter only had $300,000 to work with when he made Halloween in 1978. The film relied heavily on cost-saving tricks, including costume designers who hit up the local department store for cheap clothing and used an old William Shatner mask to craft the villain's persona. In other words, expectations were low, and the film's producers hoped for little more than to break even. 

In the end, Halloween would become a great success for Carpenter, and he'd be credited with popularizing the modern slasher. The film gave birth to a huge horror franchise, one that now consists of multiple sequels, reboots, and remakes. But the story itself, the one that started with an escaped killer stalking a teenage babysitter on Halloween night, has had so many twists and turns over the years that trying to sort out more than four decades of Michael Myers can be a little confusing. No worries, though — we've laid out the whole Halloween timeline in detail. From that first night of terror to Michael's bloody return, here's the entire Halloween story finally explained. (Also, we're sticking with the original franchise, so we're skipping over the Rob Zombie reboots.)

1978 - A monster is born on Halloween night

Technically, Halloween begins its story on Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois, in 1963. A teenage Judith Myers should be babysitting her six-year-old brother, Michael. What Judith is actually doing is her boyfriend. She isn't paying attention to Michael at all, and he's decided he's going to spend his evening engaging in sororicide. After slaughtering his sister, he's institutionalized at Smith's Grove Sanitarium, where his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) has become convinced that Michael is "pure evil" and should never be allowed back into the world.

Unfortunately for Loomis (and the residents of Haddonfield), Michael escapes in 1978 and heads back to his hometown, looking to pick up right where he left off in 1963, but not without first making a quick pitstop at the local cemetery to grab his sister's tombstone. When he gets home, he finds high schooler Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) hanging around, so of course he decides to make her and her friends his next targets.

For the rest of the night, Michael stalks and kills Laurie's friends, one by one. He even sets up a nice memorial scene with his sister's old tombstone at one point. But Laurie is stronger than Michael gives her credit for, and she manages to fend him off long enough to allow Loomis to arrive on the scene and shoot him six times, knocking him off a balcony and onto the ground below. Does he die? Please, we've got a whole bunch of movies left to go.

1978 - Family ties in Halloween II

Halloween II picks up right where Halloween left off (even if Laurie's hair says otherwise). Laurie has been taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, presumably to be treated for shock but also for a hand injury that somehow requires her to remain bedridden. Michael survived his fall from the balcony, and he's followed Laurie to the hospital because he's not one to let his victims get away. It's also discovered that Laurie is — surprise! — Michael's younger sister, and Michael is — even bigger surprise! — possibly being kept alive because of a Samhain curse.

Michael wanders through the hospital in search of Laurie, killing anyone and everyone that gets in his path, while Loomis starts his inevitable descent into madness, trying to convince anyone within earshot of Michael's evil immortality. He's ordered back to Smith's Grove, but he returns to Haddonfield in time to face Michael once more, a confrontation that ends with Michael stabbing him in the stomach and Loomis setting up the hospital to explode. Laurie gets out in time, but Michael and Loomis are trapped inside when the building goes up in flames.

1982 - Killer Halloween masks and an ancient Celtic ritual

Michael Myers takes a backseat for a few years after the hospital explosion that should've killed him but definitely didn't, so maybe he was just busy regenerating in 1982. Regardless, Halloween III: Season of the Witch takes place in northern California, a few days prior to the holiday. A man clutching a jack-o-lantern mask is mysteriously murdered by a group of other, well-dressed men. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) was the doctor in charge of mask man's care, so he takes it upon himself to try and solve his murder.

He traces the crime all the way back to Silver Shamrock Novelties and a man named Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy), who's somehow managed to steal a piece of Stonehenge, which he plans to use as part of a sacrifice involving children and his trio of Halloween masks. The goal here is to reclaim the Samhain holiday for witches, but Dan thwarts Cochran's plan, for the most part. There are robots, killer bugs, and the possibility of a whole lot of child death (it ends with one serious cliffhanger), but again, no Michael Myers.   

1988 - The saga of Laurie Strode's daughter

A decade has passed since the last time we saw Michael Myers. As it turns out, he's been in a coma since the hospital explosion, but he's awakened just in time to hunt his his niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris), on Halloween. Jamie, as it happens, is the seven-year-old daughter of Laurie and some other guy, who both died in a car accident. She's currently living with a family known as the Carruthers, but her true lineage isn't a secret, so she's bullied pretty heavily by her peers.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a pretty straightforward slasher flick, in that the bulk of the film is made up of Michael Myers killing a bunch of poorly developed characters in the most ridiculous ways imaginable — like digging his thumb into an ambulance driver's forehead or throwing an electrician onto a transformer that controls the power for the entire town. But eventually, Loomis returns (because he's somehow managed to survive that hospital explosion, as well), and he helps Jamie defeat her uncle with the help of a town lynch mob. 

Sadly, it seems as though psychopathy runs in the family, and even after Michael falls through a mine shaft, Jamie is left traumatized to the point that she tries to kill her foster mother with a pair of scissors. 

1989 - The telepathic family link

The weird connection between Jamie and her uncle is further explored in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, which picks up immediately after The Return of Michael Myers. Michael, wounded from the attempt on his life in the previous film, comes across a man living in a cave before he passes out for an entire year, only to wake up on Halloween Eve 1989, in the care of the cave-dwelling man. He immediately kills him and sets course for his niece, who's been living as a mute at the Haddonfield Children's Clinic since the last Michael incident.

Now, though, it's clear that Jamie and Michael are connected on a deeper level than just blood. The two are psychically paired somehow, so everything Michael does from here on out, Jamie sees. After his killing spree, Jamie tries to connect with him emotionally, but Michael Myers isn't interested in anything other than murder. Loomis tries to swoop in to the rescue, but he's taken out — by a stroke of all things. There's no hero here, just a random set of circumstances that lead to Michael's arrest. In the end, though, a strange "Man in Black" who's been following Michael for the entire film comes to the police station to retrieve him. So what's up with the dude in black? Well, horror fans would have to wait six years to find out the answer to that one. 

1995 - Cults and the 'Curse of Thorn'

As it happens, that Man in Black who showed up in The Revenge of Michael Myers is the leader of a Druid cult that has some sort of connection to Michael on account of a mark the killer has on the inside of his wrist. Turns out, it's indicative of the "curse of Thorn," which is what's responsible for both Michael's immortality and his insatiable desire to kill his living family members. 

Six years after the events of the previous film, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers finds that Jamie (now played by J.C. Brandy) has delivered a baby in the captivity of the cult. If you're doing the math, yes, Jamie is a 14-year-old mother, who, on top of having just had a baby that the cult takes great interest in, must also try and outrun her uncle and escape the cult's clutches. She doesn't, and Michael impales her on some farm equipment. 

The rest of the film shifts focus to Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd, in his big screen debut), the young boy that Laurie Strode used to babysit. He's obsessed with the curse of Thorn, and he winds up actually being one of its carriers. But he wants to be a good guy, which he does when he helps Loomis take Michael down.

1998 - The first Halloween reset

Two decades after the original Halloween, Laurie Strode made her return to the franchise with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The beauty of this film is that it gets back to basics, effectively wiping out everything that's happened post-Halloween II. Michael Myers is still family, but Laurie is alive, having faked her death, and she's working as the headmistress of her son — not daughter — John's (Josh Hartnett) private boarding school in Summer Glen, California. 

Michael reappears 20 years after that hospital explosion and manages to track Laurie down via an old file that one of Loomis' colleagues had on hand. In spite of her overprotective nature, Laurie can't protect John and his friends from Michael's wrath, and on Halloween night, the masked killer stalks and murders pretty much everyone at the school before Laurie can subdue him with a barrage of bullets.

She doesn't stop there, though. She also hijacks the coroner's van with Michael's body, sends the slasher through the windshield, pins him to a fence, and then takes an ax to his head. All these years later, Laurie has finally gotten her revenge ... except for one tiny detail.

2001 - Michael Myers stars in an internet reality show

As it turns out, the man Laurie decapitated in Halloween H20 wasn't actually Michael. Instead, it was a paramedic with a crushed larynx that Michael had tricked her into thinking was him. Three years later, in Halloween: Resurrection, Laurie is nearly comatose (or so the hospital staff assumes), biding her time at Grace Andersen Sanitarium and waiting for a final final showdown with her older brother. She gets it, but things don't go as planned. Having accidentally killed an innocent man has really gotten to her, so instead of taking her shot, Laurie winds up with a knife in her back before she plummets off the roof.

This is where things sort of go off the rails. From Grace Andersen, we head to the old Myers house, where a group of college kids have agreed to star in a sort of investigative web series headed up by Nora (Tyra Banks) and Freddie (Busta Rhymes). Michael follows the group into the house and proceeds to kill each hopeful internet star, all in front of a live audience who assumes for a good part of the night that everything happening has been set up by Nora and Freddie. When the Myers house is accidentally set ablaze, Michael is trapped inside and "dies." But we all know how that actually plays out.

2018 - The big Halloween reset

You may have thought Laurie Strode was out for good, but thankfully, 2018's Halloween made the decision to retcon everything after the 1978 original, which means that this time, there's no sibling drama and no teenage son. And, most importantly, Laurie is very much alive, although her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), is pretty convinced she's clinically insane. Being raised by the slasher movie equivalent of a Doomsday prepper will do that to you, though.

Michael has been locked up at the Smith's Grove Sanitarium for 40 years, but after a pair of investigative reporters come to try and interview him, he decides four decades is long enough behind bars and sets out for a final face-off with the babysitter that got away. Meanwhile, Laurie has spent her life preparing for the day she'd meet Michael again, which means she's been hoarding a lot of ammo. Laurie's granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), wants a relationship with her, but Karen is reluctant to let it happen.

Everything changes when Michael returns, and Laurie, Karen, and Allyson team up to take him down. The entire thing is somewhere between a sequel and an homage to the original. There's even Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who feels a lot like Loomis in a lot of ways ... except for the part where he's actually the one responsible for Michael's escape, because he's been obsessed with him his entire career. Eventually, the three women defeat Michael with the power of fire and firearms, but as we all know, there's no stopping this psycho slasher.