phantom limb /ˈfan(t)əm’lim/ n. an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.
Welcome to Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which will take a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we will be chatting with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.
For this entry, we’ll be looking at Halloween: The Missing Years, an unproduced entry in the Halloween franchise that was meant to follow up 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection before Rob Zombie ultimately rebooted the series with his 2007 remake. Returning to Phantom Limbs is Jake Wade Wall, the screenwriter who previously discussed his unproduced sequel When a Stranger Returns, who was kind enough to chat about his involvement with The Missing Years for us. During this talk, Mr. Wall outlines the origins of this project, details its story, and discusses why this outing for The Shape ultimately never happened.
So where exactly did this particular project begin? “I had been hired to do a draft of Resurrection. I was working with an exec over there, Nick Phillips. We were both incredibly enthusiastic about the franchise, and really excited by it. We were just nerds about it, and would talk about Halloween constantly. We knew every character, every death. It’s one of my favorite franchises. After turning in Resurrection, I was told that there was kind of an internal, ‘Let’s press pause on where the franchise goes next’ [approach]. So I had come up with the idea for The Missing Years, and basically said, ‘Hey, it’s a completely different direction, but maybe this is the shot in the arm it needs to keep the franchise going, but in a different direction.’ They responded to my take, they hired me, and I wrote it. I was really excited about the prospect of that one. A year or two after finishing that script, it was decided internally, ‘No, let’s hire Rob and just do a remake.’ The Missing Years would have been the last of that franchise before it was remade.”
Mr. Wall continues, noting that this is the most he’s ever discussed this project and its story. “Halloween III was my inspiration. We have Halloween and Halloween II, and it’s Mike Myers, and it’s Laurie. Halloween III comes out in the theatres, and it has nothing to do with any of them. So then the franchise picks back up [with Halloween 4]. For years, I thought ‘Where was [Michael] that year? When we saw Season of the Witch, where did he go?’ So the whole concept of Halloween: The Missing Years, was to fill in where he was during Season of the Witch. That was the concept of, ‘How can we, for the diehard fans, tie Season of the Witch into the franchise?’
“The concept was this: If Halloween is ‘The Night He Came Home’, I started to think – ‘Wait a minute. Yeah, okay, that’s the night he came home. But his real home was the asylum. That’s where he really grew up.’ So the concept of The Missing Years was to begin the film by exploring a bit of his childhood in the asylum, and kind of fill in some of the pieces we didn’t know about him. Like, ‘Why specifically that mask?’, and just kind of fill in some of the fun lore that came specifically from that institution. So then the concept would be – cut to the present (back then, of course) when Season of the Witch is unfolding. I never did address it specifically, that film, but I filled in that there was a missing year that he didn’t come home, so where did he go? He went to Smith’s Grove. He went to his real home. He was returning back to what was essentially the place he grew up during his formative years. It was basically going to be him wreaking havoc on this asylum. It was a lot of fun. I thought it was an interesting, fun way for the Halloween nerds like me, the crazy fans to tie it all in and still establish a new home for Mike, a new place for him to wreak havoc.”
Had The Missing Years been made and proved to be a success, would there have a plan for more direct follow-ups? More “Missing Years” to explore? “That was precisely what we continuously racked our brains over. One school of thought was, ‘Oh, okay, we can now get four movies out of Mike Myers wreaking havoc in Smith’s Grove.’ There was also talk of specifically ending Missing Years where it completely lays the way for Halloween 4. There was talk to do it both ways. Since the script never got made, there’s no way of knowing what would’ve been agreed upon.” Would there have been an explanation as to what happened to him after the fiery conclusion of Halloween II? Would he have gotten another Shatner mask, or would he have been walking around maskless and burnt to a crisp? While Mr. Wall doesn’t go into great detail as to the story specifics, he does note that Michael would have been The Shape that we all know and love. “He did get the same mask back. It was too iconic not to. [But Halloween II’s ending and its fallout] was addressed.
“I took pieces – little sub-characters, little beats, moments that never got addressed for those of us that are avid fans – and thought, ‘Here are the breadcrumbs.’ So for me, the breadcrumbs that we were going to explore in the asylum years were the loose ends in all of the Halloweens that had been made up until that point. I wanted it to be a thread. It wasn’t arbitrary – ‘Oh, now we’re going to do some some asylum kills.’ I wanted to have a compelling reason for Smith’s Grove to also be a home for him. At the end of II, when he’s burnt and in need of real care, that’s what switches the psyche off. He knows where he can actually get care, and that’s his real home.”
Would the Thorn mythology from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and the idea from that film that the doctors of Smith’s Grove were part of a cult that protected Michael, have played any role in The Missing Years? “I left that alone. Look, I’ve enjoyed every single one of the Halloween films, but I know that some of them can be polarizing for fans. So I wanted to stick with the mythology and the backstory that I found that the general audience wouldn’t find polarizing. The concept of ‘He’s pure evil’, for me, was enough. That’s what I always thought was so frightening about those films in the beginning. That, ‘Could someone literally just be born bad?’ I think that’s why people love those movies. He’s literally the Boogeyman. So I didn’t want to address [the Halloween 6 mythology]. But I will say this – in the script, we did play around with still going back to Haddonfield, where everyone is like ‘Oh god, it’s going to happen again.’ And I also wanted to trick the audience into thinking ‘Oh yes, it is.’ But oh no, they actually get a Halloween off. Everyone is pleasantly surprised while hell is happening in Smith’s Grove.”
So without benefit of a Thorn cult awaiting him at the asylum, why was it that an injured Michael felt compelled to return to Smith’s Grove? “There was a nurse there, an RN, that he was very, very fond of. In the script, she was the one person that, for whatever reason, didn’t treat him like a monster. She treated him like a human. I thought that would be interesting to play with, that there is something within him that can remember kindness. Like I said before, ‘Can someone be purely evil?’ That’s the whole debate of a good horror film, and of Myers. And I just thought, if we were going to take the opportunity to fill in the missing year, and fill in the other half of his psyche, I thought it would be very interesting to play with ‘Could there be a bit of compassion in [him]?’ Now, as a fan? No. But in the movie, I wanted to play with that for a moment, at least.”
Given the timeline, would Sam Loomis have figured into the story? Or perhaps any other familiar characters from the earlier films? Were there any planned Easter eggs for fans of the franchise? “Oh, absolutely. Like I was saying before about the breadcrumbs. Loomis was in there. The EMT [Jimmy] from Halloween II. I took any one of the films up until this point where there had been a survivor, where they played some part in these missing years. That maybe or maybe not led to how they survived or why they survived. Or it could have been arbitrary. But I wanted to play with that concept.”
Would the film have been more of an exercise in suspense like the Carpenter original, or more of a bloodier slasher film like some of the later sequels? “I love that first film, and the suspense of it. My thought was, if we’re taking Michael Myers into a realm that we haven’t seen before – we’re gonna see him in the asylum, we’re gonna fill in these missing years, we’re gonna fill in what else was important to him, what else shaped him – I thought that would give us the opportunity to make it more suspenseful. Sometimes in slasher films, they can get redundant and it just becomes about the new clever death. Although I love those, and I wanted a couple of those in here, I thought it would give us an opportunity to lean into that approach and make it more suspenseful.”
Ultimately, why did Dimension go forward with remaking the original Carpenter movie, as opposed to doing the prequel? “I do remember, with the execs that I was working with, there was some talk that they were going to go out to Rob Zombie to direct. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. But from there it became, from the higher ups, ‘Let’s do a remake.’”
In finishing up our chat, Mr. Wall gave his final thoughts on this sadly unproduced film. “I just had a blast with it. I loved being able to have the freedom to say ‘I’m going to honor everyone else’, but I want to tell a different version of this man’s psyche. It was such an interesting exploration. No one experience makes or breaks us. It’s a multitude of experiences. So I thought very firmly that there was more that made Michael Myers who he was, and I really wanted to get into that.”
Very special thanks to Jake Wade Wall for his time and insights.
Additional thanks to BD reader DaikaijuX for the heads up on this story.