There are many things that make Halloween’s Michael Myers stand out among the stable of horror movie icons from the 70s and 80s. While Jason Vorhees is content to let his clothes rot until his skeletal balls flop out, Michael keeps his elegantly simple blue coveralls in functional shape. Freddy Krueger is extremely concerned with managing his many brands (including a TV series, a rap single with The Fat Boys, and various children’s toys and board games). Michael only has one brand to keep track of, and that’s Masked Stabbies. Also, Freddy is somewhat hamstrung by being limited to murdering teenagers in their sleep, whereas Michael and Jason are essentially freelance slashers who set their own schedules. But Michael possesses one valuable gift that makes him a first round draft pick in the MBA (Murder Bois Association™), and that’s his dubious ability to drive a car.
I’m not going to resurrect the tired debate about whether Michael would know how to drive despite having lived in solitary confinement in a mental institution since the age of six. You don’t need 3000 hours of instruction and a helicopter license to keep a Mercury Sable from flipping off the road into the treeline, and Michael’s a pretty focused dude. Plus, he’s not exactly a good driver (more on that later), he just understands the concept of objects in motion. No, I’m here to talk about the fact that Michael can drive, and that he frequently does throughout the entire Halloween franchise, makes him wholly unique among slashers. It’s also deeply hilarious.
Humor me for a moment by creating a mental image of Michael Myers. Really fixate on him – a hulking violence engine clad in mechanic’s coveralls, wearing a shock white William Shatner mask fitted with a Bronson Pinchot wig. Now picture this monstrosity behind the wheel of a car, bombing around town in broad daylight. Because that’s what he does for the first 46 minutes of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. Indeed, his very first act after breaking out of the mental institution is to steal a municipal station wagon and drive it 150 miles in the middle of the night. Let’s trace his journey.
Michael’s beleaguered therapist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) discovers that Michael ambushed a tow truck driver sometime in the night to take his coveralls. Loomis finds the driver’s body and abandoned truck next to a pay phone on a dirt highway 73 miles outside of Haddonfield, smack dab in the middle of farmland and Jesus billboards and absolutely nothing else. There are two possibilities in this scenario. One, Michael just happened to see a tow truck pulled off to the side of the highway and stabbed the shit out of him to swap outfits, clicking his heels at his good fortune. However, it’s unlikely a tow truck driver would just be parked along the side of a country highway in the middle of the night unless he was completing a transaction with a sex worker or smoking a jack o’ lantern full of crystal meth. And seeing as how he is a tow truck driver on an overnight shift in rural America, he would’ve hardly needed to leave his office to do either of those things.
The second possibility is that Michael used the pay phone to summon the tow truck, then crouched in the bushes and waited for the tow truck driver to show up. It is entirely possible he passed the time in the bushes by quietly giggling to himself, but we cannot know for certain. Whatever exactly transpired, it’s obvious Michael wanted to keep the station wagon. Either he preferred the wagon’s handling, or the tow truck was a manual and the extra pedal and stick shift tricked him into thinking it was a fucking spaceship or something because he has the mind of a psychotic six-year-old. Also, Michael apparently tried to smoke the nurse’s cigarettes, because they’re on the ground next to the tow truck driver. Which means Michael was either hanging around smoking waiting for the tow truck driver to show up, or he offered the tow truck driver a cigarette to lure him in for the kill, or the cigarettes and the matches fell out during some kind of struggle, or Michael is very health conscious and threw the cigarettes out onto the ground in disgust.
The 150-mile distance between the mental institution and Haddonfield suggests that Michael was on the road for 3 to 4 hours. Did he ever stop for snacks? Did he listen to the radio? What would Michael listen to? It’s rural Illinois in 1978, so there’s a solid chance the first station he landed on would either be Bob Seger or an evangelical preacher, and either option conjures an image I’m simply not able to process at this time. This question presents another possibility, in that perhaps Michael decided to leave the tow truck and stick with the station wagon because he had already programmed all his presets into the radio and didn’t want to fuck around with that all over again.
We know Michael arrived in Haddonfield at some time in the early morning because he’s already inside the old Myers house when Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) shows up to drop off the key before school. Also, he probably stole his sister’s tombstone when it was still relatively dark, because ripping a headstone out of the earth is the kind of thing passers-by tend to notice. (That tombstone, by process of elimination, sits in the back of Michael’s station wagon for the next 14 hours.)
Michael follows Laurie and her friends on foot for a while as they walk to school, but when Laurie spots him later on in the day, he’s parked across the street and wearing the Shatner mask. This brings up the second most important part of Michael’s Driving Timeline. When Laurie spots him while sitting in class, we don’t know for sure what time of day it is, but at the very latest it’s early afternoon. After school, when Annie and Laurie pull up on Sheriff Brackett outside of the hardware store on their way to their respective babysitting gigs for the evening, Brackett tells them that someone (Michael) broke in and stole a Halloween mask and a bunch of rope. This means Michael broke into the hardware store in the middle of the day, then put on his bushy Shatner mask and parked outside of Laurie’s school, and finally drove over to little Tommy’s school to prowl slowly behind him for a few blocks behind the wheel of a vehicle optimized for child abduction. To emphasize, Michael has been driving a stolen government station wagon all over Haddonfield, stalking both a little boy and a group of teenage girls, clad in a bulging inhuman mask that looks like a Starfleet captain drowned in cream of mushroom soup. The fact that Michael even got the chance to murder anyone before getting shot to death in a traffic stop is arguably his greatest super power. And once again I must ask did that radio come on at any point?
Incidentally, when Annie and Laurie pull up to the hardware store, the store’s burglar alarm is still blaring. In order for Michael to be wearing the mask when he stalks Laurie and Tommy at their respective schools, he had to have broken into the store much earlier, which means that goddamn alarm has been going off for several hours and the Sheriff is just now showing up to check it out. This is my favorite detail of the entire film.
My second favorite detail is that Loomis never thinks to tell the Haddonfield police to look for the stolen station wagon, and instead elects to stand in the bushes outside of the Myers house all night like some kind of asshole. Meanwhile Michael cruises all over town running errands all day like a stay-at-home dad. Loomis ends up saving the day in the end by turning his head 45 degrees and noticing the station wagon is parked directly across the street.
Michael technically improves his driving skills in the Halloween sequels insofar as he discovers he can use cars to murder people. He overcomes his fear of tow trucks in Halloween 4, tries to hit Loomis with it, and blows up a gas station instead. Afterwards, he drives over 100 miles back to Haddonfield with his face wrapped up like a mummy. The Halloween series sets an extremely high bar for “frightening villains driving objectively silly vehicles while wearing absurd facial accessories.”
In Halloween 5, Michael reaches the pinnacle of his demolition derby driving skills by learning how to use cars to neg women. He steals a convertible, stops to put the hood back up to be sneakier, and then picks up unsuspecting teenager Tina by pulling up to her house and leaning on the horn like a dickhead boyfriend (he is in fact masquerading as Tina’s dickhead boyfriend). When she climbs inside, he peels off down the street, then slams on the brakes and kicks her out of the car when she asks him to stop for cigarettes. This moment provides important evolutions in Michael’s feelings towards women and cigarettes, in that he is learning to express his hatred for both in more passive aggressive ways than he typically employs.
Later, Michael stealthily trails a police car to a teenage rave party at a farm where he proceeds to chase both Tina and a pair of actual children around like he’s spotlighting deer. After terrorizing them with his convertible for several minutes, he crashes straight into a tree like a dumbass and the car fucking explodes, with the horn blaring loudly into the night because he knocked himself out on the steering column like Billy Joel. Michael has always understood the concept of driving, but now he drives like he just robbed a Jr Mart. After this absolutely wild display, we can only assume that the original Halloween would’ve been over in about 15 minutes had Michael been more comfortable behind the wheel.
Tom Reimann is an Associate Editor at Collider who cannot stop thinking about that scene in Friday the 13th Part II where Jason Vorhees steals a bicycle. Follow him on Twitter @startthemachine.