Does the new Halloween film stand out from the rest, Getintothis’ Kieran Donnachie went along to find out.
John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s Halloween was released, and set, at the cusp of the ’80s.
It became a foundational text for a genre that would flood screens both small and large. The slasher flick. Horror movies chiefly concerned with “mad” killers leaving behind a slew of dead horny teenagers, whose underlying conservatism felt at home in Reagan’s America.
Halloween was intended as an anthology series, but quickly turned into a franchise that ran itself into the ground. The low budget original’s $70 million gross at the box office proved far too tempting for studios. The string of sequels, and more recent reboots, each failed to capture the brilliance of the original.
So why now make a sequel? It’s clearly a passion project from David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride, and one that won over John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis both. One of the films strengths is the script, with a story concept which earns its sequel status.
Every film in between the first and this is cut, and stripped of this baggage so the film can actually breathe. Rather than reveling in the murderous praxis of the villain Michael Myers, the film succeeds by spotlighting the survivor, Laurie Strode (Curtis).
The portrayal of her trauma is eerily relevant. Her fear and paranoia seep into her family, twice divorced, her daughter taken away. When we first meet she’s behind security gates, bolts and locks. Isolated, agoraphobic, every thought dominated by Myers.
It’s a trauma shared only with audience, who’ve seen him, the Shape, in action. We too know his relentless evil, her frustration when he’s dismissed as simply a man.
Intentional or otherwise, it’s impossible not to draw parallels between the discourse around the #MeToo movement and Laurie. Horror has long used women in the role of victim, the Scream Queen even originated with Curtis’ mother Janet Leigh in Psycho.
The answer to that was the Final Girl, again influenced by Laurie, the one survivor of the killer. Still, this held the problem of going from hapless victim to the equally one dimensional “strong” woman.
The final girl trope never bothers to consider what happens after they survive the night. Here Halloween is the sequel that finally bothers to think about life in the aftermath. Jamie Lee Curtis brilliantly plays a true victim, a woman still struggling to heal but also coping and ready for the return she’s so sure is due. An, admittedly blunt, example of why you should listen to women, and victims in general.
But what of the scary bits you ask, since a toxic and dangerous culture primarily affecting women is obviously not scary enough. Well Myers, in his go to boiler suit and blank mask, is as frightening as ever. Green doesn’t lean too heavily on the jump scares, save for the odd loud smash cut, instead it’s often a hidden object game with the blurred shadow of the killer.
In action Myers is slow but not methodical. His most striking scene is one long single take, following him from house to house. There’s terror in the arbitrariness of his killing, his silence as hand finds a hammer, his hammer finds a head. His is a frightening patience and resourcefulness. He’s not going to be stopped, his next victim is a surety.
One supposed inspiration for Michael was from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. He grew up in the civil rights era, with racial tensions at their highest. He recounted how it was normal for people, including friends, to go on drives into black neighbourhoods at night to fire shots off at anyone they could find.
Myers’ evil manifests in the same way. It can’t be described as unrepentant if he doesn’t know it be wrong.
The film opens with two journalists researching a podcast about the 1978 Babysitter Murders (Halloween’s original working title). They look for answers within Michael. His Doctor, played by Haluk Bilginer, looks too. Was it his first victim, his sister?
Does he gain pleasure from it? People will forever look for reasons, and that is the most terrifying part. There are none, he kills and that is all.
Spoiler warning ahead.
The most powerful part of the film is when Halloween’s two focal points collide. The sequence is inevitable from the start, the film is littered with the foreshadowing of Laurie and Michael’s long overdue reunion. Suddenly it is clear that Laurie’s self imposed prison of a home was always meant for Michael.
They track each other through it, hunter and hunted switching back and forth. Homage after homage, flipped. Laurie searches the closet for Myers. Myers throws an injured Laurie from a first story window, only for her to survive. The tension is a creeping one, growing unknown throughout your body.
When finally the 3 generations of Strode women stand above the man who has haunted them, trapped in a basement aflame, it breaks. The flood of relief, and realisation that you’ve been like that since the Shape first broke free.
It’s a better end than we could’ve hope for, but the already greenlit sequel fills us with dread. Not the dread you want from a horror film, but dread for repeating past mistakes. This film was the redemptive sendoff we needed for Laurie Strode and Michael Myers both. Let’s hope the second Halloween 2 is brave enough to let that spray painted Captain Kirk mask finally be.