Understanding Sequels Through the Lens of Halloween

There are so many things a sequel can be these days. Reboot and requel are common descriptions accompanying many latest installments in film franchises, with delineations like hard reboot and soft reboot cluttering up plot descriptions and film reviews.

It might feel like sequels have never been messier, more complicated, more involved in what’s expected of the viewer. “Am I watching a remake or a sequel?” one might ask, as the film starts—and in some cases, you’re still asking that as the credits roll at the end.

I don’t know of any better example of how messy sequels can be than the Halloween franchise. Which is why I decided it’s the perfect franchise through which to understand every possible thing a sequel can be in the current era.

Where it started.

Linear Sequels and Direct Sequels

The linear sequel—or direct sequel—is the most straightforward of all sequels. It’s what you think of when you consider the relationship between the films in the original Star Wars trilogy or the Die Hard movies or The Godfather and its followup. 

The first Halloween sequel is a linear sequel. A direct sequel. Halloween 4 is a direct sequel to Halloween II, although it’s also other kinds of sequel (discussed below.) 

Examples of direct, linear sequels in the Halloween series are:

  • Halloween II. A sequel to the original, 1978 Halloween
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. A direct sequel to Halloween II (1981)
  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. A direct sequel to Halloween 4
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The sixth film; a direct sequel to Halloween 5
  • Halloween: H20: a direct, linear sequel to the first Halloween II, mostly but not entirely ignoring and scrapping everything that happened in Halloweens 4-6. 
  • Halloween: Resurrection . The eighth film; a direct sequel to Halloween: H20
  • Halloween II (2009). The second Halloween II, the sequel to the remake/reboot (discussed below)
  • Halloween (2018). The rare direct sequel that shares its name with its direct predecessor. A sequel to the very first Halloween and only the very first Halloween. Not only a direct sequel, but also a requel, a corrective sequel, and a soft reboot.
  • Halloween Kills. A direct sequel to the second movie called Halloween, not to be confused with the either of the two Halloween 2s.

Anthology Sequel

The Halloween series did one of the most unusual forms of sequels with its third installment. The anthology sequel, in which the theme is adhered to but the rest is abandoned, including characters, canon, and storylines.

The disaparate installments in the Cloverfield franchise are some the best examples of this. Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy—including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and World’s End—is another good example, although it wasn’t advertised this way and it’s not as if the titles had serialized numbers in the titles.

Anthology sequels are far more common in television, where there are either anthology series (the Haunting shows on Netflix; American Horror Story) or where every episode is an separate narrative (Black Mirror, Twilight Zone, etc.)

Fast and the Furious nearly went down this path with the third installment, Tokyo Drift, but Vin Diesel’s cameo presence in the final scene—and Sung-Ho Kang’s role in the other Fast & Furious sequels—make that a spin-off sequel rather than a true anthology installment. 

Examples of anthology sequels in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween III: The Season of the Witch 

Hard Reboot

The concept of a hard reboot has its origins in turning technology off and back on. Amusingly, google “hard reboot” and the first page of results contains nothing about film franchises.

Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween is a hard reboot. It abandons the continuity that has come before it, containing original characters, plot points, homages, and nods to the original, but all new actors and a fresh continuity.  

But beyond being a reboot, Zombie’s Halloween is also a remake. More on this below.

Examples of hard reboots in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween (2007)

Remake

It’s important to understand that, unlike most reboots, the Rob Zombie Halloween is also a remake, not just a reboot. Remakes are the oldest trick in the non-direct-sequel book. Consider the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes, the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead, the King Kongs of 1976 and 2004, the George Clooney Ocean’s 11 (the original was Frank Sinatra, if you forgot). Or consider the relationship between Kurosawa’s films and American Westerns or Hitchcock’s multiple versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

A clear distinction between reboots and remakes comes not so much from what comes after the remade film, but what came after the original. It’s not a reboot if the original didn’t spawn a franchise—and it’s not a remake if it doesn’t generally reconstruct core elements from the original.

The Rob Zombie Halloween sticks largely to the original story, which is a large aspect of what makes it a remake and not simply a reboot. For more consideration of this, think of how The Dark Knight films are not remakes of any previous Batman films, but unique stories within a rebooted continuity. 

Examples of remakes in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween (2007)
  • Halloween II (2009) – arguably a remake of the first Halloween II (1981)

Soft Reboot

In a 2016 article, Screenrant defines a soft reboot as: “a movie that introduces a particular brand to a new generation of moviegoers, while still keeping the canon of previous films intact.”

You’re about to read more on requels below, but there isn’t much distinction between a soft reboot and a requel other than what comes after. A soft reboot gets the franchise going again, while a film can also be a standalone requel.

The biggest distinction between hard and soft reboots is this: a soft reboot allows previous continuity to exist (to some extent) while a hard reboot scraps all of it. Thus, you have examples like The Dark Knight trilogy—a hard reboot of the Batman story—versus the latest Star Trek films, serving as a soft reboot through their inclusion of multiple timelines and Leonard Nimoy as Original Spock. 

Sidenote: because of the inclusion of Dame Judi Dench in both the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films, there is no consensus on whether the Craig Bond films are a soft or hard reboot. 

Examples of soft reboots in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween: H20. One could argue this was a soft reboot—especially as it spawned Halloween: Resurrection as part of a mini new continuity—but it arrived before the rush of contemporary soft reboots.
  • Halloween (2018)

Requel

The Hollywood Reporter defines a requel as “a movie that’s both a reboot and a sequel”. Note that, in order to be a requel, something has to be a soft reboot, not a hard reboot. Requels have become increasingly common, with examples including Terminator: Dark Fate, Men in Black: International, Ocean’s Eight, and, maybe, Mad Max: Fury Road. (That deserves a separate blog post, because no one really knows what that is.) 

Halloween (2018) is the first true requel in the Halloween installments. It contains at least one character from an original film in the series while kicking off a new continuity. One could try to make an argument that Halloween: H20 served as a requel, although it came before requels had become a concept. 

Halloween (2018) is both requel and soft reboot, by not only continuing the original Halloween (1978) story but also kicking off a new trilogy.

Examples of requels in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween: H20. Arguably. See above.
  • Halloween (2018)

Corrective Sequel

A corrective sequel can come in many forms. It is the only concept in this list that I coined myself, in a blog post about, of course, Halloween and True Detective

When I returned to it to write this current blog post, I realized I never gave a concise definition. A corrective sequel is a sequel that returns to the roots of a film franchise, usually after an expansion in a new direction fails.

Corrective sequels have been around for a while. They come in many forms, but always require a “back to the basics” notion. Consider Matt Damon correcting the Bourne films by returning in the fifth installment after Jeremy Renner starred in the fourth. Or Vin Diesel and Paul Walker coming back for the fourth Fast, Furious after the franchise went to Tokyo.

Examples of corrective sequels in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween 4. Got back to the basics after the Season of the Witch detour.
  • Halloween H20. Brought back Jamie Lee Curtis after four films without her.
  • Halloween (2018). Brought back Jamie Lee Curtis again, and pretended 2 out of the previous 3 Jamie Lee Curtis movies never happened.
Yes, there was a Halloween with Josh Hartnett and LL Cool J and you forgot they were in it.

Retquel

Then there’s this one. This is a new one. It’s both requel and corrective sequel, but a retquel is specifically a sequel that retcons. 

Retcon—short for retroactive continuity—is, according to Wikipedia,

a literary device in which established diegetic facts in the plot of a fictional work (those established through the narrative itself) are adjusted, ignored, or contradicted by a subsequently published work which breaks continuity with the former

Halloween (2018) is the perfect example of a retquel. It disposes of every previous Halloween aside from the original. Retquels seem like they could become increasingly common, with Terminator: Dark Fate scrapping everything but the first two Terminators. The new Star Wars films have also served as retquels in their own way, as they (and the Disney acquisition) resulted in all the Star Wars novels being de-canonized.

Halloween isn’t the first to do the retquel move. You’ve probably forgotten and never cared, but Jaws 4: The Revenge scrapped the events of Jaws: 3-D and pretended they never happened. Also, most of the Leprechaun movies and many other horror films have taken this approach, to varying degrees of success.

Examples of retquels in the Halloween franchise:

  • Halloween: H20 – arguably
  • Halloween (2018)

The two options we don’t see in Halloween:

Prequel

Weirdly, we have never gotten a Halloween prequel, although the Rob Zombie Halloween felt like it was toying with the idea when it gave us a longer look at Michael’s origin, before bringing it up to present day. 

I’m guessing a Halloween prequel is what comes after this next round of films wrap up. Why not? 

Spin-Off Sequel

This is the only example of a sequel I can find that Halloween has never done. Maybe we finally get the Dr. Loomis solving other crimes spin-off that no one has ever asked for?

Read More by D. F. Lovett

Enjoy this blog post? Then give me some money and buy The Moonborn; or, Moby-Dick on the Moon.

And no, I haven’t seen Halloween Kills yet.

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