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Burying the Ghosts: The Tragedy of Dr. Loomis in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

When we are introduced to Dr. Sam Loomis in the original Halloween (1978), we’re being thrown into the middle of things. We’re meeting a man at the end of his rope, a man who might very well be minutes away from his breaking point. He’s an intense presence from the first second, cold, determined and barely able to refer to Michael Myers—his patient of fifteen years—as a human being. But as we hear the character explain himself over the course of the feature, we discover that he’s a man who has spent the last eight years trying to prevent exactly this night from ever coming to pass. He’s the Greek myth of Cassandra. He sees exactly what’s coming. He does everything in his power to try and stop it, but ultimately he can’t.

In his infamous monologue, Loomis suggests that he spent eight years trying to reach Michael before eventually seeing the truth of just how evil and potentially otherworldy the boy actually was. He spent all that time trying to work within the system, before being absolutely beaten down by his failure to get anyone to listen to him about how dangerous Myers truly was. Still, this monologue suggests that there was a time when Loomis was a great doctor, was someone who genuinely listened and tried to help his patients and that he even spent years trying to do that for Michael, we just don’t see any of it in the feature itself.

That is both the beauty and the tragedy of Loomis in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Donald Pleasence’s last performance as the good doctor, and one of the best performances he delivered during his time in the franchise in general. When we’re introduced to Loomis in The Curse of Michael Myers, it’s been years since Michael’s disappearance. Unlike the times that Loomis has gone toe-to-toe with Myers before, the masked murderer has simply vanished alongside poor Jamie Lloyd. He’s been at large, but made no move to return to Haddonfield in the six years since Halloween 5 (1989), his only living blood relative having vanished right alongside him. It’s as over as it has ever seemed to be.

This introduction is almost shocking compared to any other scene in which we first see Loomis in any other film in the franchise. Every other feature has seen Loomis coming in waxing poetic about the nature of evil or outright ranting about it, even the original. Here, we see a man in a quiet country cabin, typing away as he listens to the radio. He’s distanced from Haddonfield, but still interested enough to listen to a radio program on Michael Myers from a shock jock radio host that he probably wouldn’t be inclined to listen to had the show been on any other subject. He’s writing an apparent memoir to finally exorcise his demons and put his many years battling Michael on the page, to finally get it all out of his system, as any great writer does.

Loomis is an old man at this point. He’s even undergone plastic surgery to take away his burn scars. This was clearly a move made by the production to not have to put Pleasence through any kind of arduous makeup, but it also makes sense for an old man who wants to shed himself of the constant reminders that those burns brought with them every time he looked in a mirror. He’s moved on, he’s ready to sit out the remainder of his life in some degree of peace, because peace is something that has been robbed from him since 1963.

In short: he’s done. He’s finished. Loomis is resting and it’s a rest that he has more than earned.

And it is robbed from him immediately.

After explaining how content he is with his secluded lifestyle to his friend and colleague, Terrance Wynn, Loomis is thrust back into his old habits the moment that Jamie’s voice comes across the radio begging for his help specifically. Even as much as he appears to have moved on, Loomis would probably have been able to piece together any weird details of Michael’s escape that night and known what it meant. But this girl asked for his help because she knows, just as he does, that nobody on the planet is as prepared to deal with Michael Myers as he is. In every other Halloween, Loomis is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

In The Curse of Michael Myers, Loomis is dragged back into it after having done his absolute best to put it behind him. Even still, he acts upon this call to arms immediately because years of experience has taught him that no one will ever take this threat as seriously as he does. But there are doubts, not just about whether Michael can be stopped, but whether he can even do this as well, whether he is physically or mentally up to the task as he used to be. More than ever it becomes clear that his years of tracking, fighting and ultimately failing to stop Michael have taken a toll on him. In one of the best scenes—which, like most of Loomis’ greatest moments, is only seen in the Producer’s Cut—Loomis begs Wynn for his help in this new pursuit of Myers. He makes his weaknesses clear and notes that he doesn’t have it in him to do this alone, not anymore. It’s not only a touching moment, but an ultimately heartbreaking one as it makes it clear just what a toll those years tracking Michael have taken on him.

It also fantastically sets up the betrayal that comes toward the end of the film, when Loomis learns that Wynn himself is the Man in Black, the one who has secretly been working behind the scenes for years to try and harness and understand Michael’s evil. Wynn is the leader of the Cult of Thorn and, in this particular installment, he is behind everything. The Producer’s Cut takes great strides to make the friendship between Loomis and Wynn clear. There’s a level of respect between both men and Wynn has been at Loomis’ side throughout every single scene in the movie, clearly throwing the good doctor off the path any time he got too close to the truth. Loomis hasn’t just failed to stop more mayhem and carnage in Haddonfield, he’s been manipulated and used by one of his oldest friends.

While many still say that these plot threads serve no ultimate purpose and that the Thorn was a black mark on the franchise, it’s almost a shame that this particular character dynamic wasn’t introduced years earlier. Wynn allows Loomis to have a rival other than Michael himself. Had this not been one of Pleasence’s last performances before his passing, this could have been a rivalry that might truly have blossomed over multiple installments. Loomis and Wynn had the potential to be long lasting rivals,  almost the Professor X and Magneto of the Halloween franchise.

They’re two men who are very similar in some ways and very different in others, one is ultimately corrupted by power and even though they might almost have similar goals, they go about them in ways that are entirely different and for which there is no common ground. Loomis believes that you stop evil by eliminating it, Wynn believes that you stop it by controlling it, by dictating its flow and its patterns. He’s corrupted by the power of it, and is ultimately destroyed by his faith in believing that something as chaotic and unpredictable as evil could ever actually be harnessed.

The Producer’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut provide very different endings for Loomis as a character and both are tragic in their own ways. In the Producer’s Cut, Loomis finds Michael, who has apparently been stopped by the mystical runes meant to control him, only to find Wynn inside the mask instead. Michael has escaped, he could be anywhere, he’s slipped Loomis’s grasp once again. It’s an ending Loomis has seen many times before, even if it’s a slightly new version. But then it goes further. In an ambiguous final sting, the thorn tattoo appears on Loomis’ own wrist, much to the doctor’s horror. This would seem to imply that, with Wynn dying, the responsibility of being Michael’s caretaker has fallen to his oldest enemy. This ending is actually smartly set up in Wynn’s first scene, in which he tells Loomis that he wants him to return to Smith’s Grove, acknowledging that he needs a successor in his retirement and that Sam is the one he’s chosen.

It’s also a painfully sad end for where Loomis was as a character at the beginning of the film. This was a man who had put the past behind him and was ready to live out his final days in quiet peace, only to discover at the end that his fate has been officially tied to Michael Myers forever. That instead of running and chasing and doing his best to stop the spread of Michael’s evil, to stop the endless taking of lives, he is now relegated to stand back and watch it happen. It also might imply that that’s really the role Loomis has always fulfilled, that in all of his efforts to do good, he’s ultimately served as Michael’s herald, announcing his coming but unable to do anything to stop it.

The theatrical cut abandons all of this, but as it was edited after Pleasence’s death, it doesn’t reshoot anything either. In this (also sad) ending, Loomis sees Tommy and Karen off to safety, but neglects to go with them, despite Smith’s Grove being miles away from anything, only suggesting that he has some unfinished business to attend to inside the hospital. He knows from experience that their attempt to stop Michael was in vain, especially as this time all they really did was hit him with a lead pipe. This ending also, to a lesser degree, plays off of Loomis’ fears and concerns set up earlier in the movie. He is an older man and he can’t do this like he used to.

Throughout the series, proving his altruism, Loomis has gladly offered himself as a victim if it meant saving other lives. This was especially true in Halloween 4 (1988), when the character was perhaps at his most heroic, offering himself as a sacrifice to spare the people of Haddonfield another night of horrors in his fantastic stare down with Michael at the gas station. In an even more direct example, Loomis attempted to sacrifice himself in Halloween II (1981) in order to save Laurie’s life. In The Curse of Michael Myers, at least the theatrical cut, Loomis’ decision to stay is a bit more bittersweet. In this ending, it seems that Loomis is simply done running. He’s done fighting. There was only one way this was ever going to end and he’s held it off as long as he could. It’s time to see it through.

Some could suggest that Loomis went back inside to attempt to finish Michael off, and it’s easy to see that, but from the setup of the scene it seems that even if Loomis went back into that building and pointed his gun at Michael’s head, he knew he was going to die. Ultimately, we don’t see it happen, we only hear Loomis’ screams, but we can draw our own conclusions.

Of course, the most tragic element of seeing Loomis in The Curse of Michael Myers, no matter which version, will always be that it is the last performance of Donald Pleasence as Loomis. But in that last performance he was able to play several different aspects of the character that he had never really been given the chance to explore before. This is a more nuanced, even more thoughtful Loomis than had ever been seen before in the series, and there’s a comfort to be taken in how much Pleasence was given to work with for his final go at Loomis in his final turn as the character. With both the death of the character and the man who’d given him life, an entire era of the franchise was brought to a close. Even if the Halloween series continues forever, there will never be another Loomis like the one seen in those first six movies, nor will there ever be another Donald Pleasence.

About Nat Brehmer

In addition to Diabolique, Nat Brehmer has written for Wicked Horror, Dread Central, We Got This Covered, That's Not Current, Dark Knight News and Tom Holland's Terror Time. As an author, he has had fiction published in several lit mags and anthologies including Sanitarium Magazine and Hello Horror, as well as novels and novellas... at least three of which are still in print. He currently lives in Orlando, Florida.

One comment

  1. As abominably wretched as Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN 2(2009) was,the one good thing that it did was the new portrayal of (Malcolm McDowell’s) Dr. Loomis as he escrewed Michael Myers hunting aside for his new profession as a heavily despised obnoxious author of the Myers murder tragedy,which is Rob Zombie’s on-screen message against both reality media based faux “celebrities”/people who openly profit off of the major tragedies that have happened to them and/or their loved ones(to seek “fame and fortune” for themselves) and the Dr. Phils of the world.

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