Can you believe it’s been nearly seven years since Rob Zombie’s Halloween sequel hit theaters? It’s no wonder the franchise was plucked away from The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films, where it now resides at Blumhouse with Adam Wingard circling to direct.
But before this impasse, Dimension and Trancas International had been developing the living hell out of the franchise. Back in 2009 they had tapped Drive Angry and My Bloody Valentine duo Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier to write and direct, respectively, Halloween 3D, with Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton taking the reigns in 2014-15 to develop Halloween Returns for the two companies.
I’m not one to “review” screenplays, mainly because they change so drastically by the time they’re realized on film, not to mention that the director often takes the writer’s vision and contorts it into his own. But seeing as Halloween Returns is no longer in the cards, I thought it would be fun to share what could have ended up in theaters this coming Halloween.
From what I’m told, this screenplay dated 4-13-15 is a casting draft, which is slightly different (including the names of characters) from what was further developed internally at Dimension.
Halloween Returns was being pegged a “recalibration,” and what was meant is that the timeline is unique. There’s no mention of the actual year in the script, only passage of time, although it does live in the same universe as John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween. To confuse things a bit, Halloween Returns takes place in modern day, and is not period (this feels like a studio note), but in fact does fill the gap between Carpenter’s Halloween and Halloween 4. You know, pre-Thorne Cult. So, in essence, it’s continuing the story of Michael Myers, who vanishes after Loomis shoots him off the balcony, only on a new timeline (seemingly ignoring Halloween 2). Whatever the case, it’s a cool parallel conceit that takes Halloween fans on a ride that answers the question, “What happened to Michael during Halloween 3: Season of the Witch,” which is given a loving nod multiple times in the screenplay.
Click “PLAY” to set the mood.
The film would have opened in HADDONFIELD on the same night as MICHAEL MYERS terrorized LAURIE STRODE at the DOYLE HOUSE. In fact, it opens with a shot of Michael standing up at the exterior of the Doyle home, where he’s stalking a young girl, KAREN. While she lives through the ordeal, Michael leaves dozens of victims in his wake – many of which comes back in the later part of the screenplay.
What’s unique about Halloween Returns is that it’s told from Michael’s perspective, and follows his POV on many occasions. It’s a refreshing approach because, as the viewer will typically see Michael standing in the shadows and then mysteriously vanish, here the viewer will actually follow Michael as he moves out of frame (picture the scene where Laurie catches a glimpse of Michael out the window by the clotheslines – instead of it being from her perspective, the audience would experience it from Michael’s). There’s a heavy dose of this in the opening sequence, which eventually leads to his capture by DEPUTY GARY HUNT and his clinical psychiatrist, PAUL ROGERS. There’s an important line here that comes full circle by the last page: “Everyone is dead. You’ve killed everyone,” Rogers bellows. As he’s surrounded, Michael falls to his knees and allows himself to be captured.
News reports and clippings segue us to the title card and set the scene for Michael’s execution 10 years later. Rogers is at the center of the story, as is his daughter, SOPHIA, and her friends. NOAH is the son of a woman who is murdered in the opening scene, and the deputy who captured Michael.
A lot of the screenplay focuses on building the characters and setting the stage for Michael’s execution/escape. I’m not a huge fan of prison scenes in genre films as for whatever reason they don’t ring “true” to me. It’s sort of the same here, although there’s some great dialogue and additional mythology layered throughout (it’s noted that, even though Michael is unmasked, we never ever see his face).
The MEDICAL EXAMINER explaining the process of putting Michael to “sleep”:
“It’s a three-tiered system: One, he feels nothing. Two, we spike his nervous system into the red. And three, we push him into the black.”
This reads like a wonderful reference to Dr. Loomis’ dialogue in the 1978 film, “I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.”
Noah begs Sophia to sneak him into the execution, as it would help him heal after losing his mother a decade prior. As Michael is about to shut down, he catches a glimpse of Sophia, which turns him back “on”. This is when shit hits the fan, and eventually Michael adrenaline sets him loose. This sequence touches Rob Zombie’s Michael a bit too much for me, ending in a bloodbath and with Michael back on the loose. The police deem Michael dead, thinking he burned in the facility that ends up exploding, this leaves everyone in the community acting a bit too normal – Sophia, Noah and their friends are already on the mend and partying the next night.
Michael returns, obviously, and comes after Noah and Sophia at FARMER JOHN’S HAUNTED PUMPKIN PATCH and CORN MAZE.
Hunt and Rogers are trying to find Michael, as they’re the only ones who think he’s still alive, and have a conversation about Michael escaping 10 years prior. This leads to this fantastic gem of dialogue:
Well… all those years we thought we were watching him. But no. He was watching us.
Every move. Patiently waiting. One night, we blinked, and he was gone. Right through my office window.”
This is an insanely important exchange that explains how Michael escapes in the script’s final moments. It also beautifully mixes in with the story’s overall narrative, theme, and direction. Rogers also reveals his motivation for not wanting to execute Michael:
“You know the critical difference ‘tween you and me, doc?
You need to understand these people. I don’t.”
“Shoot first, think later? That’s your plan? Well, watch the news, Sheriff, that credo is broken. I know exactly what you lost, and I feel it every day. Every second. There isn’t a moment that goes by I don’t feel what happened.
And you know what? It’ll happen again. In a different down. By a different maniac. And it’ll keep on happening until someone like me can understand the ones doing it. Until someone like me can spot them before they snap.
That’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s why I’ve spend sixteen hours out of every day for the past ten years with that monster in that cage.”
Ultimately, Rogers and Hunt end up saving Sophia. Michael then stages a diversion, much like in H20, where he cuts up Rogers’ tongue, puts the “Shape” mask on him, and sends him running out to be shot by the police. Michael slips away into the darkness, as foreshadowed by the “blinking” conversation from earlier. But before he does, he writes something on the wall in blood: “THIS TOWN WILL NEVER BE SAFE AGAIN.” Rogers whispers:
“He doesn’t want to kill me and you…he wants to kill everyone.”
This harks back to the opening of the film when Rogers tells Michael that everyone is dead, which is why he disarms. But the goldmine is the film’s epilogue, which takes us into the interior of a hospital where Rogers is recovering. There, he speaks with another doctor… DR. LOOMIS.
“I tried to understand him…I wanted to help him, but when I saw what was inside of him, God help me, I tried to kill him.
I tried to kill him, Dr. Loomis. I tried.”
You speak of Michael Myers as if he were just a man.
He is not a man, Dr. Rogers. He never was.
He’s simply… and purely… Evil.“
Outside of some issues, which may or may not have been changed in later drafts, I absolutely loved the script’s direction – and knowing Dunstan was going to direct only made it better. Halloween Returns read like a classical horror film, using an immense amount of tracking and dolly shots, possibly from a low angle. There’s an old-school creep factor that permeates from Michael, even if the prison sequence diminished it a bit. There’s a lot more to love here, especially that Melton and Dunstan show restraint – Michael doesn’t necessarily kill everyone for the sake of on-screen violence. The death sequences are approached like a dance; they’re smooth and unnerving, unlike Zombie’s Halloween in which Michael just uses brute force. It’s a bummer we’ll never see this on screen as I believe this would have been a welcomed and beloved addition to the Halloween franchise; it would have scared new genre fans, while giving the purists a reason to cheer.