Just to get one thing out of the way: I love ‘Halloween’ (2018). It’s not a perfect film by any means, and I do have a few issues with it – most of which pertaining to some of the characters and the writing of said characters – but I do highly enjoy it, and the film currently sits at number three on my ranking of the franchise. That said, if I was given the choice between that film and ‘Halloween Returns’, I’d pick ‘Halloween Returns’ in a heartbeat. Yes, I loved this script that much. This is not to say that the script is perfect or that most people would agree with me on this, as I suspect that many fans would feel the opposite, but in my own personal opinion I find this to be superior.
Like Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier’s ‘Halloween 3D’, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan’s ‘Halloween Returns’ was very close to starting production. And just as the former, production on the latter was shut down last minute by the studio, although for different reasons. Unlike ‘Halloween 3D’, ‘Halloween Returns’ was not going to be a continuation of the Rob Zombie remake saga, but instead it was going to be a soft reboot of sorts, approached as a sequel to the John Carpenter original – or rather as a sequel to an unproduced remake of the original, considering that the story is set ten years after the events of the original, and yet the characters have modern technology such a cell phones and IPods.
In fact, this script makes several bold alterations, and at first they were a little off-putting; characters established in the original, such as Sam Loomis, Laurie Strode and Leigh Brackett, are rendered insignificant to the grand scheme, while this script is focused on other characters who were either introduced or mentioned in 1981’s ‘Halloween 2’, such as Gary Hunt (Played by Hunter Von Leer in 1981’s ‘Halloween 2’) and Dr. Paul Rogers (A character mentioned by Marion Chambers at the end of the second act in ‘Halloween 2’), but like ‘Halloween’ (2018) this story ignores the events of ‘Halloween 2’ and the sequels, so it’s interesting that they decided to run with these characters instead of the ones directly involved with the original story. But, then again, this isn’t a direct follow up to the original film – it’s a follow up to an unproduced interpretation of the original; Here, on the night after Michael escaped from Smith’s Grove, Michael killed a total of 12 people on Halloween night, as opposed to the four killed in the original (Phelps Garage mechanic, Annie, Bob, and Lynda). There is no mention of the sibling angle, just as there is no mention of a hospital massacre or explosion. And then there’s the jump to a modern day “Ten Years Later”, taking the original story out of the 70’s and putting it in the early 2000’s instead.
At first these changes were a little jarring, but as I progressed deeper into the script, however, the alterations ceased to bother me. I found myself sucked in by the vision of the franchise being presented. I liked the story; I liked the characters, and I liked the direction they were taking. It was also clear to me that these guys knew and loved the original film just as much as I do (if not more), and I found their approach to be refreshing. It didn’t latch on to any particular timeline, instead it did its own thing, and for me it worked. They aimed to bring back The Shape in his (its) purest form. Even with the scenes with an unmasked Myers, they specified that at no point will we ever see his face – this command is even underlined and in bold font – they clearly wanted to return the mysterious nature to the character, and in my opinion, they were on the path to succeed.
‘Halloween Returns’, sadly, was scrapped after Dimension Films lost their share of the rights to the franchise, causing parent company Miramax pictures, along with Trancas International, to begin shopping the franchise around for a new distributor. As a result, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were released from their duties – presumably so that the acquisition would be free from baggage and offer any potential studio interested in the rights to work with a clean slate and develop the property from start to finish. The franchise rights eventually landed at Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures, and with that we got 2018’s ‘Halloween’ from the creative team of Danny McBride and David Gordon Green.
So, what would ‘Halloween Returns’ have been?
The script, dated June 7th 2015, begins just moments after Loomis shoots Myers off the upper balcony at the Doyle house. This opening pre-credits sequence is set in Haddonfield, and is all from Michael’s point of view as he rises from the ground outside the Doyle house, and then follows a wounded would-be victim named Karen from the streets and to the home of Deputy Gary Hunt. Gary’s wife, Beth, opens the door to Karen and lets her in, and Michael follows, killing Beth in front of eight-year-old Noah and infant Liam just before Dr. Paul Rogers and Haddonfield police swarm the place and apprehend him. As noted above, while there is mention of three bodies being discovered at the Wallace home, and a teenage girl (Laurie) and Michael’s doctor (Loomis) found in the upstairs of the Doyle home, neither character is remotely significant to this particular story, with the weight of the story falling on Rogers and Hunt instead. In fact, Laurie is not even mentioned by name at all, while the newly introduced character Karen appears for a scene later on, and likewise, Loomis isn’t even mentioned by name until a pretty rad post-credits scene, but more on that later.
The story shifts to ten years later, and after years of court appeals, Michael is finally set to receive the death penalty by lethal injection. Gary Hunt moved his family to Russellville, where he has been named the town Sheriff. Dr. Rogers, also a resident of Russellville, has been so obsessed with Michael and trying to figure out the “why” that it has strained his relationship with his wife Emma and most importantly with his daughter Sofia. Sofia just happens to be friends with Noah Hunt, who witnessed his mother’s murder at the age of eight, and he begs her to steal her father’s key card so they can sneak into the Warren County Correctional Center and witness the execution. At first, she’s reluctant to do so, but after being once again disappointed by her father, she agrees. Sofia goes to her father’s office to confront him and to sneakily take his key card from his desk. While Rogers is distracted by preparations for the execution, Sofia wanders from his office to a corridor that leads to Michael’s cell. Michael watches as Sofia approaches, but she’s caught by her father before she could reach the cell door; her startled reaction unwittingly reveals that she’s Roger’s daughter to Michael, who continues to watch.
Later that night, a crowd gathers to watch the execution, and the two teenagers sneak into the back of the viewing room, undetected by their fathers. Also in attendance is Karen, the wounded victim from the opening. They watch as Michael is injected, and just as he begins to lose consciousness, the injections don’t take – he fights and squirms on the table and takes notice of Sofia in the viewing room – and suddenly his adrenaline spikes, causing him to fight harder against his restraints, and the onlookers become terrified. This is intensified as a brewing storm outside knocks out the power, and the backup generators struggle to operate. Michael breaks free from the restraints, kills the medical technicians, a few guards, and Karen just before releasing all the inmates in the facility and intentionally causing a chemical explosion in the boiler room. Rogers and Hunt make an attempt to recapture Michael, but their efforts are halted by the explosion.
The following day, October 31st, the media reports that the Halloween Killer has been killed in the explosion, which comes as a relief for both Sofia and Noah, but not so much for Paul Rogers and Gary Hunt. In the town of Russellville, Michael breaks into the towns local Halloween store, Silver Shamrock Novelties, where he takes a new version of the mask and kills proprietor Harry Grimbridge – and there’s a few nods to the underrated ‘Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’ in this sequence; not only with the name of the store and the owner (Harry Grimbridge was the name of the man who served as the catalyst for the third film, running for his life while gripping onto a Silver Shamrock mask), but also the store features the three masks from that film, and the jingle plays on the television. Michael takes Grimbridge’s business van and begins to stalk and follow Sofia and Noah, who along with their other friends, are planning for a party at the old Bowles farmhouse (a nod to the Charlie Bowles story as told by the cemetery caretaker to Dr. Loomis in John Carpenter’s original film).
Meanwhile, on the road, Rogers and Hunt seek to find Michael while settling their differences. Rogers feels personal responsibility and regret for what happened ten years earlier, so much so that it consumed his life, nearly costing him his family. Hunt, still grief-stricken by the loss of his wife on that night, blames Rogers. After an exchange of perspectives, the two come to a mutual understanding as they share a common goal: to kill Michael Myers once and for all. They find an abandoned Highway Patrol cruiser off road, and as they investigate, they discover that there was an inquiry in the address database: Paul Rogers home address, to be exact. The two desperately race for Rogers’ home, but they’re too late: The Shape had killed Rogers’ wife, and is in pursuit of Sofia.
Michael follows the group of teens to the farmhouse, and begins to pick them off one by one. Rogers and Hunt manage to get to the farmhouse to rescue their children. Hunt and Michael get into a fight on the first floor of the house while Rogers goes to the second floor to get Sofia and a wounded Noah. Due to the fight below, a candle is knocked over and the house goes up in flames. Despite his best efforts, Hunt is eventually killed. Witnessing the death of his father, Noah charges at Michael, sending them both through a door and down to the basement. Noah suffers a broken leg because of this. As Michael goes to strike at Noah, Sofia arrives and shoots him. Rogers also shows up, distracting Michael, giving the two teenagers enough time to escape through the basement window. As the cavalry begins to arrive outside, Michael wounds Rogers and splits his tongue. He jams a shard of glass in Rogers hand and then sends him out in the mask. Believing it to be Michael himself, the police open fire, shooting Rogers. Sofia notices that the person shot isn’t wearing the coveralls and informs the police that Michael is still in the burning farm house. When police enter, Michael is nowhere to be seen, and a message has been written with blood on the wall: “This town will never be safe again.” Outside, the wounded but still conscious Rogers reveals to his daughter that he had been wrong. Michael didn’t just want them dead; he wants to kill everyone.
In the tree line at the edge of the property, Michael disappears in the darkness.
The script is a really fast paced read and is completely enjoyable from beginning to end. I loved the opening sequence being all from Michael’s point of view; I loved the first act set up to the characters, and the chaotic escape sequence; I loved that the entire second act is comprised of Michael stalking and following the characters – something I felt was sorely missed in the 2018 film – and that there are some genuinely suspenseful moments because of this; and I loved the third act sequence at the farmhouse. It read like there was going to be some very Halloween-centric atmosphere and set-pieces, and it could have been a visually interesting movie. I also really like how Michael is written as being intelligent and deliberate, although I don’t like every choice they were planning, such as Michael practically running or throwing a severed head out of the van window at the kids who egged the van. But, it’s hard to complain when this script gets so much right while simultaneously taking the franchise is a different direction.
And speaking of a different direction, lets talk about that post-credits scene….
In this post-credits stinger, Rogers is in a hospital healing from his wounds. He talks to someone whose identity isn’t revealed at first, discussing how he at first tried to understand Michael, but then tried to kill him. The mysterious figure, revealed to be none other than Dr. Sam Loomis himself, then reminds Rogers that he’s talking about Myers as if he were a man, and that he is simply and purely evil.
I loved this final scene. As mentioned at the start of this review, my initial reaction when I started reading this script for the first time was “Where is Loomis?”, but after reading and re-reading the entire script, I loved that they saved him for a post-credits hook. I feel that this was a smart move, as it would have allowed the audience to get used to this alternative take on the events of the first film by not giving us any of the familiar characters – although you could argue that Rogers, Hunt and Karen could have easily been Loomis, Brackett and Laurie since they have similar characteristics – but this way would allow us to process a different take on Loomis, who is described in this scene as being in his 40’s and Gary Oldman like in appearance, as opposed to the Donald Pleasence version.
Overall, I want to see this script get produced. Although unlikely, I do hope that in a few years after the David Gordon Green/Danny McBride timeline concludes with ‘Halloween Ends’, and the time comes for the return of the franchise to the big screen, that Malek Akkad remembers this script. I don’t think every fan will dig this script and the choices made all across the board, especially the purists, but I’ll take this over some of the other sequels.
You can read the script here: