Halloween Comes Slashing its way Back to the top of the Horror Genre.
DIRECTED BY DAVID GORDON GREEN/2018
Despite multiple sequels and Rob Zombie’s two-film reboot, slasher-killer extraordinaire, Michael Myers, has been absent from the silver screen for nearly a decade. Each of the sequels have had largely had diminishing returns, with Zombie’s reboot providing a short-lived spark in 2007. Yet, over the years, nothing seems to have come close to the simple, yet effective story of the original Halloween (1978) film that saw a six-year old boy stab his sister to death on Halloween night, only to return 15 years later to his small town in Illinois to kill again, this time targeting Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a babysitter, and her friends who are across the street.
Halloween (2018) has a basic premise that none of the sequels ever happened. Instead, we pick up 40 years later to see how Laurie continues to act out on the trauma she experienced all of those years ago. We learn that it turned her into an obsessed survivalist, who like Linda Hamilton’s character in Terminator 2, has been preparing for the eventual return of her tormentor. This has caused strain between her and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who has responded by keeping distance between her daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and Laurie.
The script perfectly maintains the tone of the first film, even as it is fresh and updated for today’s audiences.
Myers has been institutionalized since that fateful night in 1978, and his doctor, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who was a protege of Dr. Loomis (played in 1978 by Donald Pleasence), has never heard Myers utter a word, though he holds out hope that Myers will have a breakthrough before he is transferred to a permanent maximum security prison for the rest of his life. Unlike Dr. Loomis, Dr. Sartain tells two reporters doing a story on Myers that he doesn’t share the view that Michael Myers is pure evil incarnate. Obviously, things are about to go down. Myers escapes, and Laurie, who has been preparing for this her whole life, will finally see if she is truly ready to face the boogeyman one more time.
Original writer/director John Carpenter returns to the franchise in the role of Executive Producer, as well as contributing to the film’s soundtrack with an updated version of the original Halloween (1978) score. He also serves as a consultant to writer director David Gordon Green, who co-wrote the film with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. The result is a solid modern story that doesn’t just hearken back to the original, but is a near seamless continuation of it. This includes the return of Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), the police officer who kept Dr. Loomis from finishing off Myers all of those years ago. Myers is once again played by Nick Castle, as well as by James Jude Courtney.
The script perfectly maintains the tone of the first film, even as it is fresh and updated for today’s audiences. There are moments of humor which really add to some of the terror, but for me, I loved the way certain scenes serve as little tributes to the original film, such as Allyson sitting in the same seat of the same classroom that her grandmother Laurie did 40 years ago. Speaking of Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic. She, along with Linda Hamilton who will appear in next year’s latest Terminator film, both serve to demonstrate to modern audiences that age is just a number. She more than stands her ground here, not just as she faces off against Michael Myers, but against the outdated myth of Hollywood that horror films were only the domain of the young scream queens who were often objectified victims being punished for their sins of flagrant sexual behavior. Curtis’ Laurie is a survivor, and she aims to make sure that no one will ever have to suffer what she once suffered so long ago.
Here, Curtis presents us a Laurie that is 40 years older with a fully realized character, who is not just some genre caricature. She isn’t just a woman who has suddenly converted herself into a hyper-aggressive survivor ready to take on the killing machine. Nor is she just a woman totally gripped by fear, unable to move forward in any area of her life. Fortunately, she is all these things, as well as someone who made some devestating mistakes as she was driven by the trauma of what she experienced 40 years earlier. She is a mom, a grandmother, and a person who’s had enough foresight to plan for the day she knew would come, even though it came at a great cost to herself, and those she loved. The deeper question is will all of her planning be enough to protect those she loves?
The story has some interesting takes on survivor trauma, and the effect that such trauma has both on the victim and the victimizer. How does each respond to the shared experience, albeit from very different vantage points? Does Laurie become just as much of a monster as Michael as she trains for their eventual clash, wishing his total destruction? Is this fixation towards utterly destroying the killer any different from the killer who seemingly kills at will without cause? This will be a great discussion to have by those who have seen the film, so check back in with ZekeFilm after you see Halloween (2018), as we will have some followup discussion pieces on some of the deeper issues at play in this film.
What ultimately matters, however, is how effectively this film slices and dices its way towards re-establishing the Halloween franchise as a relevant part of today’s modern horror genre. The past 20 years have largely belonged to stories centered on the supernatural, such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, or The Conjuring universe of films. For too long, the slasher film has been relegated to the past, a relic. Sometimes this has been cleverly satired, such as in Wes Craven’s Scream series, a tribute to the genre while providing an update of sorts. At other times, it has been used as a punchline, like in the Geico commercial where the teens decide to hide from a masked killer in a barn full of chainsaws.
While the satires and parodies are meant to lampoon the way people would make terrible decisions in the campier aspects of the genre, they also served to minimize the effectiveness of the genre itself. No longer was the slasher villain representative of a larger notion of morality enacting justice against those who do things that violate the cultural moral code, but merely a clever punchline. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and other silent killers who methodically hunted down and eliminated their victims were no longer seen as scary. They were a plot device or gag, stalkers simply walking slowly through the woods and always somehow still catching up to the poor victim who was running, screaming, and somehow always falling down without being able to get up when the killer finally emerged. This has caused the slasher film to fall to the wayside in the horror genre, replaced in more recent times by tales of the supernatural.
Halloween (2018) ensures that this no longer the case. Myers no longer just goes after those violating some cultural norm, as discussed in the Scream series. Now, evil befalls many more “innocent” victims as well, speaking to the notion of the collateral damage being done to so many in our society, making this a very relevant message for the times we live in, while also providing a decent amount of humor at the same time. Halloween comes slashing its way back to the top of the horror genre, reminding audiences why we should once again fear these masked and emotionless figures who are an embodiment of pure evil. The supernatural has had its time at the top and now we are witnessing the the much-needed return of the slasher film. After Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield, Illinois, those who doubted will finally realize that there really is such thing as the boogeyman.
For a particularly opinionated take on this film and the issues surrounding it at the time of its release, check out Rob Gabe’s spoiler-friendly review.