The Fascinating, Frightening Phenomenon of ‘Halloween’ Fan Films
Michael Myers is immortal. Not just in terms of his mythos or on-screen legacy, but as a character, as an icon of horror. Michael Myers is truly the perennial boogeyman. Mainstream audiences have seen as much. The oft-killed Shape returned from the shadows decade after decade as new filmmakers iterated on John Carpenter’s classic formula.
The first movie was originally conceived as a standalone, with Carpenter himself quoted in Murray Leeder’s “Halloween” (2014) that Halloween II is a “sequel to [a] movie where I didn’t think there was really much of a story left.” His recollection of the scripting process allegedly involved, again culled from Leeder, “a lot of beer, sitting in front of a typewriter saying, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I don’t know.”
The Legacy of Michael Myers
Truthfully, there was little post-Halloween to expand on. Roger Ebert, in assessing Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, remarked that the sequel is principally reliant on the Idiot Plot. While its origins are up for debate, the Idiot Plot principally refers to any narrative kept moving solely by the innate idiocy of every character involved. Horror fans especially are no strangers to the narrative phenomenon. Characters are often heading into dark basements, leaving clearly-not-dead killers alone instead of finishing the deed. They split up when they’d be better off together. They don’t staff hospitals well.
In defense of horror idiots, it’s worth remembering within the realm of narrative rationality that horror movie characters don’t diegetically know they’re in a horror movie. Yet, that’s not quite the point here. Halloween didn’t have innate franchise potential, but it accomplished it anyway.
Michael Myers died and was reborn. He lived with a sewer hermit for a year. He joined a cult and killed his niece. Michael even pulled a good ol’ switcharoo when he body-swapped with a paramedic in Halloween H20. He killed his sister, and then that timeline was scrapped. Now, he no longer had a sister (other than the dead one, Judith, of course). There were even remakes. Gothic, Freudian reinterpretations (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is his masterpiece).
David Gordon Green’s most recent trilogy, heretofore referred to as the trauma timeline, tried, and both failed and succeeded, at doing something different with Myers’ dusty, yellowed-from-chain-smoking mask. There’s been a lot of Halloween, with each movie working to do its own distinct thing while remaining accessible and familiar. It’s why franchise fan rankings never look quite the same. Some love the bombast of Halloween Ends. Others find solace in the supernaturally-tinged Halloween 5.
The Fan Film
And still, with thirteen feature films and no doubt more on the way, Michael isn’t dead. He never will be. Michael lives within the exegesis for this piece—the new Myers house is fan fiction. Fan fiction, an offshoot of fan labor, is any creative (and unauthorized) activity fans engage in. Fans develop new works of fiction based on existing works of fiction. Often, these works borrow characters, plot beats, and other filmic elements (camera techniques, soundtracks) from copyrighted material. I watched 22 Halloween fan films. I interviewed 3 filmmakers. And here, I will explore my experience within the Halloween fan film space. I will endeavor to understand what about Myers himself makes him so innately iterative. Why, as a springboard for young creatives, the Halloween fan film market thrives.
Visit any relative’s Facebook page and you’ll likely see something along the lines of “Halloween Awakening (or insert any dramatic subtitle here) Releasing Soon.” Your aunt, uncle, cousin, old high school bully—whomever—is likely thrilled. There’s going to be more Michael Myers. For anyone but franchise diehards, the misunderstanding is easy to accept. The posters are often well-designed (often, but not always, with Myers sometimes looking like his bloated corpse has been dredged from the sea and slapped on a cheap Canva template). The taglines impart convincing urgency— “This Halloween, Michael Myers comes home.” No matter that Myers has returned plenty of times before, this time, it’s deadly serious. The very idea of a fan film is alien to most casual moviegoers. If it bears the Halloween moniker, it must be real.
Even the likes of Letterboxd and IMDB are awash in knife-happy fan films. In fact, at the time of this writing, Clint Shelton’s and Bradley Woods’ Halloween: Season of the Boogeyman, a fan film poised to release in October 2024, is the eleventh-ranked entry by popularity. For context, this places its popularity ranking—however IMDB chooses to weigh that metric—above Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. One peg below, ranked at sixteen, is Jordan Hoover’s Halloween, a fan film listed as presently in production. Hoover’s feature is itself still ranked above Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.
That’s… a lot of Michael Myers. Yet, far from being the kind of fan-woven narratives that exist in the peripheral recesses of Adult-Only Tumblr fan accounts, these fan films not only command attention, but an audience. Among the many titles I watched, several cracked more than 1 million views. Sure, that’s not Halloween (2018) numbers, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment nonetheless. Especially for a feature that, strictly speaking, doesn’t have the right to use the central IP. For as much as the franchise naysayers and critics clamor for Halloween Ends to truly be the end, it’s as strong an indication as any that the Myers mythos and appeal haven’t died. They’re not anywhere close to ending.
The demand remains fervent. Audiences are eager to see fans take the well-trod material and try something new. And, if not something new, at least try something old but different. Charlie Wolff’s Aftermath: A Halloween Short Film, clocks in at just two minutes long. Described as “a film made by the fans for the fans,” Aftermath borrows graphics and audio directly from Carpenter’s original. While the filmmaking is far from exceptional—the audio isn’t mixed well, the camera pans are unsteady— it’s a simple exercise in, well, the aftermath of a Myers massacre. The camera pans in a single take over the tragedy of a bloodbath. It doesn’t add to the canon, sure, but it doesn’t take away from it, either.
It’s worth noting that Carpenter’s original Halloween was itself, in a sense, a fan film. Sure, Myers was the inimitable brainchild of Carpenter and co-scribe Debra Hill. But the titular Shape still iterated on decades of previous slasher killers. Myers’ POV shots were part Michael Powell, part Bob Clark. His big kitchen knife was equal parts Alfred Hitchcock and Mario Bava. Myers was his own thing, sure, but he was also the aggregate result of a storied horror history. And in reducing so many disparate elements into one singular being, perhaps it makes sense that Michael Myers has endured as something more iconographic than most.
He Came Home
That iconography contributes to why Anthony Knasas’ He Came Home: A Halloween Short Film, clocking in at just over eight minutes, is so damned effective. Posted in October 2018, just weeks before the premiere of David Gordon Green’s trauma timeline, He Came Home has managed an enviable 687k views. The arrival was serendipitous. Among the scores of fan films I watched, most were contemporary exercises, riffing on the structure of Green’s Michael Myers. Knasas went old school. He went so far as to dedicate the short to both John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Hill’s influence especially is all over the enterprise as Alex Arthur’s young woman (in Pasadena, no less) believes that Michael Myers has followed her home. Concluding with a sensational jump scare and a fun Jason Voorhees Easter Egg, He Came Home is more than fan service—it’s a bonafide treat.
Remarking on the final scare, Knasas noted how he “watch[ed] how they did jump scares in the original film—the editing, timing, volume of the sound effect” to “[bring] those techniques to this moment.” Knasas was living in Pasadena at the time with his girlfriend and newborn daughter. Inspired by both the proximity to the original and a desire to not delay his creative aspirations, Knasas would walk the original neighborhood.
He desired to make a short that was both inexpensive and effective. He realized “that none of the sequels (except for the ’81 Halloween II) ever really went back to those Pasadena neighborhoods.” And in truth, He Came Home feels like a closer facsimile of Carpenter than most. Knasas borrowed a camera from a buddy. He crafted a short that would be principally dialogue-free and took advantage of a missed opportunity—the franchise’s reluctance to return to Haddonfield in the daytime.
Knasas, too, was motivated by Halloween’s status as the “perfect filmmaking example of doing a lot with very little.” In his own words, “it’s about a boogeyman coming to get you.” While film theory and scholars have worked wonders dissecting the cultural efficacy of Carpenter’s original, what it means within the larger canon of horror, how it took rural terror and supplanted it somewhere conspicuously familiar, ostensibly safe, means it is principally the tale of the Boogeyman. In He Came Home, that Boogeyman is just outside the window. Or, perhaps more frighteningly, already inside. Myers is the “scary ‘other’ who is coming to get you,” as Knasas notes, no doubt accounting for the legions of fan films available. Every filmmaker, with their unique personal histories and intrinsic fears, conceptualizes the other differently. That personal vulnerability is easily projected onto the “dirty, textured, ghostly white” mask. Everyone has a different Boogeyman
As a precursor to the influx of fan films, He Came Home is one of the best. Yet with the release of Halloween (2018), the entire landscape changed. There was a new Michael Myers, a new canon to insert fan interpretations into. In fact, among the many contemporary works I watched, almost all of them eschewed Knasas’ back-to-basics approach. They instead expanded on the periphery of David Gordon Green’s trauma timeline. Mason Martucci’s Halloween Burns (October 31, 2022, 68K views) has an inspired final chase, even if its most tantalizing deaths are done off-screen. Here, several teens visit the Myers house one evening (Resurrection, anyone?) and Michael does as he is wont to do. Martucci’s effort is directly linked to Green’s reboot. It goes so far as to mirror the ending of Halloween with the burning basement.
Others, such as Cameron Stewardson’s Evil Returns: A Halloween Fan Film (October 31, 2022, 25Kviews) is a 50-minute foray into the time between Myers’ gas station murders and the house-to-house tracking massacre. Considerably cheaper than most—Stewardson opens with a Star Wars-style caveat scroll outlining some continuity problems—there’s still an element of reverence for the source material. Amid the poor audio mixing and inconsistent blocking, there’s a nugget of a good idea in fleshing out the Myers universe. The film fills in the blanks of what Michael does between scenes. That mostly amounts to, well, more killing. Yet, when the moon is low and Michael is on the prowl, it matters for naught. That imagery is never going to be anything but effective.
Happy Halloween: A Halloween Kills Fan Film
Perhaps the best riff on the circumference of David Gordon Green is Courtlan Gordon and Jimmy Champane’s Happy Halloween: A Halloween Kills Fan Film (October 16, 2020, 534K views) and its sequel, Happy Halloween Part II: A Halloween Ends Fan Film (October 30, 2022, 17K views). Both are abounding not just with reverence, but craftsmanship. One of the biggest obstacles the fan films face is Myers himself. Among a ragtag group of friends and aspiring filmmakers, it’s hard to get the look just right. Myers is often too skinny and tall, and the mask rarely if ever fits correctly. Alongside some gruesome carnage, both shorts feature a Michael Myers that feels like Myers (Vincente Disanti in the first, Champane in the sequel). It helps that they commissioned a replica of the mask used in the film.
Speaking of gruesome carnage, Happy Halloween: A Halloween Kills Fan Film opens with a young kid being cut in half. Talking with Champane, he noted “we nailed raw venison to an adult dummy (RIP Tobias) with its arms pinned up after sealing the stuffing with expanding foam. We couldn’t find a wig to match Landon’s hair, but in the back corner of a Spirit Halloween there was a dusty Donald Trump wig, so we made that work.” Green’s trauma timeline featured a more violent, feral Myers, and resultantly, Gordon and Champane had the licensed greenlight to push boundaries. “Without Halloween (2018) it wouldn’t feel ‘right’ (I don’t know how to word that without sounding crazy) to have Michael kill a kid. But since Michael kills a kid at the bus crash in 2018, it felt like we had the green light to go ahead and do it.”
In our conversation, Champane also touched upon a key component of Myers’ permanence in the history of not just horror, but filmmaking in general. He conceptualizes him as “pure evil on two legs.” Given Michael’s storied history, Champane “realized that each and every version Michael, except for the one from Resurrection, was somebody’s intro to the franchise and I think that’s a really cool aspect.” Fan films might well be a gateway unto themselves. When conceived with this much care and craftsmanship, they keep the myth of pure evil alive. They tether the Boogeyman to the shadows, waiting generation after generation to inaugurate new prey, new franchise devotees. Echoing Anthony Knasas’ sentiments, Champane remarked “Halloween is my favorite horror franchise because it’s simple.”
And it is simple. Beautifully, Gothically, gorgeously simple. Sometimes, however, filmmakers eschew simplicity, trying something altogether new. Universal Studios itself commissioned a fan contest to coincide with the release of Halloween Kills. In Halloween Kills: Face the Shape, Myers kills franchise fan Mark Motha on-screen. Released on October 15, 2021 (134K views), it’s the rare professional fan film, yet also a curious one. Given how innately tethered it is to the actual franchise, it’s curious that it bears no connective DNA beyond Myers. It’s just Michael, some slaughter, and a franchise fan.
Other filmmakers have shifted further away, such as Jaden Esparza’s Halloween: Christmas in Haddonfield (December 25, 2021, 29K views). The 14-minute short is exactly what it sounds like. Myers is loose in Haddonfield… on Christmas. Working with a considerably lower budget, Christmas in Haddonfield still cultivates goodwill with its cheery slaughter. Michael uses plenty of holiday décor for his kills, and the film makes some bold choices. Michael runs here, which is a choice, but a compelling one nonetheless. With a Jason X homage and an effort made to better explore the roots of trauma, Christmas in Haddonfield isn’t remarkable, but it’s different. It’s indicative of the huge swath of untapped potential the franchise has. Give me summer Myers. Christmas Myers. Heck, even Easter Myers, why not?
There are, too, and perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum, those features that forgo the short film route. They endeavor to be bonafide feature films in their own right. Halloween Night: A Halloween Fan Film (March 15, 2020, 1.4 million views) is presented by Thunder Knock Studios and directed by JP DeStefano. Clocking in at an hour long, it’s not quite feature length, but close enough. The film boasts genuine production value. There is an innate deference to the source material and several gnarly kills. In truth, it’s more enthralling than a fan film should be.
Additionally, it ignores the canon of David Gordon Green’s trauma timeline. Instead, it picks up in the present day with only the first Halloween having happened. Michael, of course, returns to town. He does so with giddy glee for Easter eggs (a Lindsay Wallace Strode Realty sign) and homage (the finale mirrors Carpenter’s original). While it loses steam as it progresses, it’s a remarkable accomplishment for a project, in their own words, meant merely to “show appreciation for the Halloween franchise.” Better still, a portion of the production funds went to The Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Perhaps the best genuine feature, however, is the Coleman brothers’ Halloween Inferno “The Boogeyman Cut.” It’s gotta be the Boogeyman cut. With an impressive 852K views, Halloween Inferno was released on YouTube on December 2, 2020. James Coleman (the other being Vince) of the titular brothers directed what is arguably the most assured fan film I saw. The runtime is over 40 minutes, so it’s still not quite feature length.
It’s longer than most, however, rivaling its peers in sheer commitment to feature form. The original music and some compelling lighting choices (including the use of color most fan films ignore) augment the creative kills (charger cables, for instance). Halloween Inferno is a blast. The film plays with the Myers legacy creatively. This includes having periphery characters dress as Michael in costume, something the actual films never considered, though likely should have. In Haddonfield especially, some dolt is going to dress as Michael for Halloween. And no, Ben Tramer in Halloween II doesn’t count.
The brothers began their filmmaking career with a Halloween fan film they made as kids. They enlisted friends and their grandfather’s “old Hi-8 cassette tape camera” for an adolescent bloodbath. The fandom runs deep. They note how “the fire reignited” after the release of Halloween (2018). They returned to the realm of fan films after having long moved on to original projects.
The brothers said they “tried coming up with our own original slasher as I am sure most horror fans do but no matter what we tried nothing could ever top the boogeyman.” With “The Shape,” Carpenter perfectly conceptualized the slasher villain, and truthfully, he is incredibly difficult to top. Echoing several other filmmakers I spoke to, the brothers note how “Michael Myers represents an element to humanity that we all subconsciously fear,” further contending that “no slasher comes close.”
Touching on the length, the Coleman brothers noted how the first part was made with no intention of continuing. The deliberation went on for several months before they eventually decided to continue. James noted, “we eventually decided to do more. We loved the reactions we were getting from fans and we love this character. Ultimately we decided to take all of the knowledge and gear that we had accumulated over the years of making films and running a video production company and put it all into something we loved.” Principally, the brothers wanted to “make the Halloween movie that we have always wanted to see.”
And that skill has parlayed itself into The Burned Over District, their new feature poised to premiere at Horror Hound this March. Described as “A grieving man discovers that the seemingly quiet town is hiding a very terrifying secret. Now he must find a way to overcome his grief, and fight back against the darkness that has consumed the town and its people,” the brothers note how their experience with Halloween Inferno allowed them to grow as filmmakers.
In our talks, they mentioned how “working on Inferno really helped us develop a team of dedicated individuals that could be utilized on the project,” adding “The Burned Over District is a beautiful representation of what believing in yourself can look like. It is the product of two brothers who let nothing stop them from achieving a dream that some might see as impossible.” They credit the Halloween fanbase and the reception to Halloween Inferno as the key impetus to develop future features.
All this barely scratches the surface of horror fandom, particularly fan films. While Halloween is arguably the most popular, a brief dive into YouTube or IMDB will reveal fan projects for sundry other horror IPs. Vincente Disanti’s Never Hike Alone (3.9 million views), a Friday the 13th fan film, is one of the most successful ever made in the modern era. Even Scream is getting in on the action. Zach Salazar’s Scream: Legacy garnered 1.6 million views, despite releasing less than a year ago. The horror fandom will continue to thrive.
To match the sentiments of the Coleman brothers, horror devotees will continue to make the franchise films they want to see. As labors of love, the metatextual fandom is fascinating. The ceaseless love and desire to iterate solidify the legacy of already triumphant horror heroes. Even when the studios are quiet, counting their checks, desperate for maximum profit and minimum effort, fans will be there on the sidelines. Sometimes writing scripts. Sometimes chatting in forums. And sometimes, making their own damn movies. Everyone, no matter their background, is entitled to one good scare. And maybe, they might just make it themselves.