Everyone’s a horror fan this time of year, so let’s just be honest: after the first couple of Halloween movies, even the most devoted Michael Myers fans stopped going to theaters for the plots and started going for the increasingly elaborate murder sequences. And like Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers has done his damnedest to make sure no one goes home unsatisfied. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the grossest, most memorable kills in the Halloween canon.
10. Death by Exploding Head, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Forget the utterly preposterous “curse of Thorn” story line that sets the scene. Suffice it to say that bad dad John Strode (Bradford English), who defies all common sense in moving his family into the old Myers place, goes downstairs to check on a suspicious noise in the basement. Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) is waiting for him and shoves him up against an electrical box. John’s head begins to smoke and blister, but Myers holds him fast until it explodes in a welter of gore. Good times. As an added bonus, Strode is so hateful you’re not the least bit sorry to see him die horribly.
9. Death in the Barn, Halloween 5
As the most misremembered murders in Halloween history, the deaths of horny lovebirds Samantha (Tamara Glynn) and Spitz (Matthew Walker) are the stuff of legends. The pair sneak off to a barn for a literal roll in the hay, where the puritanical Michael (Don Shanks) kills them both. But contrary to what many fans recall, Michael does not impale them both on the same pitchfork. Only Spitz dies that way; Samantha gets sliced with a scythe. Oh, and all this happens while two useless cops are outside, supposedly keeping an eye on things. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
8. Hot-Tub Horror, Halloween II (1981)
Nurse Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop) belongs to the long tradition of horror hospital workers who never miss an opportunity to shrug off their life-and-death responsibilities in favor of getting busy in some inappropriate places. Like, say, the therapy room’s hot tub. Nurse Karen arranges to meet her boyfriend there, but Michael (Dick Warlock) beats him to it. Michael has already turned up the water-temperature control when Nancy arrives, and as it begins to boil he repeatedly dunks her face into the water. That’s about as nasty as it gets, even though you couldn’t care less about the victim.
7. Pinned to the Wall, Halloween (1978)
Sent to the kitchen by his girlfriend, Lynda (P.J. Soles), for some postcoital beers, goofy boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham) runs smack into Michael Myers (Nick Castle). Oops. Actually, Michael runs smack into him, slamming Bob against the wall, lifting him by the throat with one hand, then slamming a butcher knife into his chest with such force that Bob is pinned to the wall like a wriggling bug. But what makes the scene truly chilling is Michael standing there, head tilted to one side like a dog. His response to Bob’s death throes is thoroughly inhuman, driving home the notion that, as Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) says, what lurks behind his eyes is purely and simply evil.
6. Death by Facial Peel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Having awakened from a ten-year coma, Michael (George P. Wilbur) resumes his pursuit of
Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). The kind motorist who gives Jamie and her foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), a lift dies when Michael clambers onto the roof of his truck, smashes the driver-side window, and then reaches in to peel the man’s face away from his skull, a memorably disgusting effect and a nice little shout-out to the first movie. In the original, Michael tries the same trick on a driver, but she lives to tell the tale. The driver in Halloween 4, needless to say, is not so lucky.
5. Death by Scalpel, Halloween II (1981)
In the first sequel, Michael follows Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital and starts picking off the staff one by one. Restless and frightened, she leaves her room, only to be called back by a nurse who, unlike saucy Nancy, is doing exactly what she should be doing but fairs even worse. Laurie turns around in time to see Michael stab the woman with a scalpel, then impressively use it like a handle to lift her off her feet. Scalpels are sharp as hell, which makes them great for slashing people, but they’re not very big, making them unsuitable for lifting, say, a full-grown woman into the air. But physics aside, you can’t discount just how cool it looks, thus the No. 5 ranking.
4. Death by Gardening Tool, Halloween 5
It isn’t the way Mikey (Johnathan Chapin), the faux greaser with the convertible, dies that makes this murder so memorable; it’s that he’s such a jerk that you want him to die. Michael couldn’t get him out of the picture fast enough. So when Myers buries a three-clawed gardening tool in Mikey’s head, you want to stand up and cheer, a feat so rare the death gets a No. 4 ranking. A higher spot in the top ten was considered, but that comes dangerously close to the “identifying with the killer” thing pundits are always fretting about.
3. Hanging on the Telephone, Halloween (1978)
Laurie’s pal Lynda is partying with her boyfriend when Michael sneaks into the house, kills Bob, and begins the real fun. The killer tosses a sheet over his own head, dons Bob’s distinctive glasses, and toys with Lynda, only strangling her after she’s called Laurie and is nattering away inanely. Watching Lynda tease the sheeted Michael while assuming he’s her totally whipped boyfriend is both grimly funny and excruciatingly suspenseful. When will she realize he’s not Bob? When will he make his move? And the kicker is chilling: once Lynda is dead, Michael picks up the phone and listens silently to Laurie’s voice.
2. Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind; Halloween II (2009)
Annie (Danielle Harris), the friend of Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), escapes the wrath of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) in Halloween (2007). But in Halloween II Michael beats, batters, and stabs her in her own home, leaving her bloody and barely alive on the bathroom floor. Brutal though the scene of Michael’s assault on Annie is, what makes her death so memorable is Laurie’s grief upon finding her. Most slasher movies skimp on character development and rush past the horrified reaction of survivors, the better to move on to the next kill. Director Rob Zombie does neither. You get to know and care about Annie and to understand how much Laurie owes her. Annie’s death really truly matters, and that makes it hurt.
1. Murder Through the Mask, Halloween (1978)
It’s not the bloodiest or the most elaborate, but the murder by a 6-year-old Myers (Will Sandin) of his older sister is hands down the best in the series and not just because it’s all seen through the eyeholes of little Michael’s clown mask. Make no mistake: the extended POV sequence — fishing the knife out of the drawer, climbing the stairs, surprising Judith (Sandy Johnson) in her bedroom, watching the arm plunge down and pull up again and again and again — is a technical tour de force. But what makes Judith’s death so horrifying is the aftermath, when Michael’s parents pull away the mask to reveal the pale, expressionless face of a little boy in a satin Halloween costume. A child who’s just done something unspeakable and doesn’t feel a thing about it: that’s scary as hell.