Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, John Carpenter (characters), Debra Hill (characters).
Composers: Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies
Starring: Jamie Lee Curits, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Genre: Horror, Thriller
It can be hard to follow long-time horror franchises, what with their multiple sequels, reboots, and timeline offshoots. As though to purposefully confuse search engines, there are now three films that share the Halloween title (1978, 2007, and 2018). Yet despite the series’ nonsensical naming structure and creating yet another timeline within the franchise, early box office reports showaudience interest is at an all-time high.
So what is garnering so much interest in the eleventh instalment? It’s hard to fathom there’s more to explore about the mute psychopathic killer Michael Myers. Jamie Lee Curtis’ return as Laurie Strode has certainly excited fans, though her character has appeared in sequels in the past. Her presence can’t solely explain the film’s incredible popularity. At the Ritz cinema, appearing at one of two Sydney premieres, Jamie Lee Curits presented her own theories as to why people are attracted to this type of narrative.
Violence/Scary Images: This is a horror film; therefore the movie aims to scare its audience. The story centers on a psychopathic killer that stalks and kills people for no reason that’s directly explained in the film. Be aware the following information may spoil the suspense for some viewers:
Multiple people are stabbed, bludgeoned, and/or strangled. Victims range in age from adults to a child. A decent amount of blood is shown. Corpses are seen either mangled, impaled, beheaded, and sometimes with their jaw distorted or ripped off. Loose, bloodied teeth are used for a scare. A character’s head is stomped on, with the camera showing it squish and explode. A disembodied head is used as a jack-o-lantern. Lots of gun violence and shootings. A character is trapped in a burning room. Someone’s fingers get shot off.
Language/Crude Humor: Frequent dropping of the f-bomb, along with s*it, *ss, b*tch, and h*ll.
Drug/Alcohol References: Teenagers are seen drinking alcoholic beverages and getting high on drugs. The main character drinks to overcome past trauma.
Sexual Content: Footage from the first film, Halloween (1978), is used, where a topless teenage girl is seen. Her breasts are seen briefly. A teenage couple make out and grope each other on a couch whilst fully clothed.
Spiritual Content: The main character says she’s prayed every day that Michael will escape so she has the opportunity to kill him. Another character reprimands her for praying for something so vile. Michael Myers is portrayed as being pure evil, which brings about some discussion as to what exactly that looks like and whether there’s any humanity left in him.
Other Negative Content: Trespassing and damaging of property. A character cheats in a relationship, while another misreads the signs and makes a woman feel awkward with his unwanted advance. Psychological child abuse is a major topic of discussion. One character constantly lies to another.
Positive Content: The film tackles two main topics. Firstly, it provides an extreme analogy of the trauma one carries after experiencing a violent event, aiming to empower the disempowered and rise up to bravely face their attackers as a way to move forward. Secondly, it questions the definition of evil, and whether a victim can become the very monster they despise.
The crowd roared with excitement when Jamie Lee Curtis finally appeared on stage. Since the Ritz cinema was located in Randwick – an inner city suburb of Sydney notorious for its lack of parking – patrons of the sold out premiere session had been lining up for hours prior, keen to secure a good spot both on the street and inside the theatre. The last ninety minutes alone had been spent staring at a blank screen while the new soundtrack for 2018’s Halloween played on repeat. The popularity of this forty-year-old franchise cannot be understated. It seems the original truly has managed to withstand the test of time, given the lengths the fans are willing to endure in order to see the eleventh instalment.
Jamie Lee Curtis paused in the middle of the stage, stared out into the applauding crowd and locked eyes onto that of an older man sitting in the front row wearing Michael Myers’ iconic mask. “There’s always one,” she mused. The crowd laughed. “So interesting. I’ve gotten used to it,” she added.
“Normally we would do a Q&A after you see the movie, but there is one reason and one reason only we are doing this before… ‘Cause I’m old! And I’m [expletive] tired,” Jamie lamented in a teasing fashion. Indeed, she had flown into Australia only the day before; the final stop on her promotional tour. She didn’t hold back her excitement about the fact this was her last scheduled public appearance concerning 2018’s Hallloween.
“This is. The. End,” she happily enunciated. “This will be the last time I will be talking about this movie for a very long time,” she said, driving the point home. “…so I apologize in advance the reason we’re doing this ahead of [watching the new film]. I will be asleep before Michael kills his first victim.” The crowd laughed, though Jamie quickly realized an opportunity to be cheeky. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I just spoil something? Michael doesn’t kill anyone.” The audience played along with her joke and booed. We all knew the type of movie we were about to see.
It brought about a thought that had obviously puzzled Jamie for a long time. “Here’s the deal. I don’t really understand why you guys like being scared,” she admitted. “I don’t. So sue me. I really don’t. I take no enjoyment, whatsoever, about being frightened…and I certainly don’t like to do it with a group of strangers in a dark theatre,” she teased, causing the audience to giggle about their own predicament. “I’m just not into it. But I get it. And I’m appreciative of your fear, because you’ve given me a career. I’m grateful to you all being frightened.”
Yet it begged the question as to why Jamie Lee Curtis decided to return to the franchise. What made this particular film different from the rest? “So I’m here for one reason only, and that is a man named David Gordon Green.” It all started with a phone call from her godson, Jake Gyllenhaal, who told her a director he had worked with in the past had a new Halloween script that was worth a look.
“The only way David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (I know, right? Weird) could come up with a story they thought was worth telling was to connect to only the movie that was in 1978, and the movie that’s happening right now in 2018. In order to tell the story of Laurie’s trauma, and her ultimate taking back of that power, they had to tell that story through the generations; Laurie, her daughter, and granddaughter. And remove from this telling all the other movies,” Jamie explained. “They still exist. You can stream them. It’s a modern thing you millennials do, apparently,” she said in reassurance, knowing there would be fans out there that would be upset to learn their favorite sequel is no longer canon in this new timeline. “I appreciate that you may still have a favorite. It will still be in perpetuity.”
The thematic strength of 2018’s Halloween definitely seems to be its biggest drawcard. It’s a slasher film that dares to look at the lifelong effects of such a traumatic event. Unlike 2007’s reboot that focused on Michael’s backstory, 2018’s Halloween fleshes out Laurie’s constant paranoia and its impact on her family. While her willingness to face her oppressor is certainly admirable, the film also questions whether Michael has, in turn, created a monster born out of the psychological trauma he generated.
When it came to preparing for the role, Jamie Lee Curtis freely admits she is an actress – while she’s experienced some trauma in her life, like everyone else in some capacity, she doesn’t assume to know what others have gone through. “I’m portraying a woman who had trauma…it is my job to convey what that would feel like,” she said. “…But it is a movie. And therefore it is fake. Therefore it is my job to make an interpretation of what that looked like, felt like, sounded like, and that was my job. I think I did a pretty good job at it. And I think you will see that what we tried to represent looks true, and sounds true, and feels true. And, I will tell you, the movie came out in America last week, and it seems people have responded that way. That people are feeling very strongly about the interpretation we made about what trauma looks like, and what it feels like when you take it back.”
2018’s Halloween made a huge impact on the US box office for its opening weekend, becoming the highest grossing film in the franchise thus far, and the highest grossing film ever to star a female over the age of 55. Jamie Lee Curtis believes it’s because the story resonates with people. “There’s that saying, ‘Life imitates art. Art imitates life’,” she said. Jamie recalled a time during a Comic Con where the floor was opened up to questions. In the front row, the very first person stood up. Despite being a complete stranger to her, he bravely recounted his story of a traumatic event for all to hear. “…[He] said he was in a home invasion robbery and there was a man with a knife in his house. And what he thought about, and what saved him, was the movie Halloween and what Laurie Strode did to save herself.”
Yet it goes deeper. Jamie mentioned how the script was written in January 2017. She got the call sometime in June. In October, the first article was released regarding the abuses of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and others. Whether it was a coincidence or a case of life imitating art or vice versa, Jamie Lee Curtis said “it was a confluence. Two things coming together. Art and life combining to tell a story and that was profound…all these brave women who came forward; there was a confluence between their stories and the stories we were telling.”
After expounding some more thoughts regarding the oppression of women throughout history and the recent Kavanaugh case, she stopped to look at the audience. “I know it’s a horror movie, everybody. I know!” she said, grounding the conversation. Noticing the glazed over expressions some held in the audience, she whispered to the interviewer what she saw going through some people’s minds. “They’re all just sitting there going, ‘This is so heavy! This is getting political! It’s like an Oprah show! Can’t we just watch some guy with a [expletive] knife kill some people? Please! Is that so much to ask for!’” she cheekily mocked. “It’s coming, everybody. I promise this won’t last much longer!”
While Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t directly say it, her change in conversation showed an understanding there are definitely at least two different types of horror fans, though they are not mutually exclusive to each other. There are those that love the original’s artistry and impact on cinema, whereas others like the horror and tracking Michael’s kills, making sure to compare his score to other killers in the genre. 2018’s Halloween tries to appease the various facets of its own fanbase, and for the most part, it succeeds.
Since the film tries to convey that trauma can affect various generations, it naturally means Laurie Strode needs to share the limelight with her daughter and, more notably, her granddaughter, played by newcomer Andi Matichak. Older fans my resent how much screen time Andi receives given the film’s marketing. It’s as though the screenwriters wished for a full-blown old lady revenge flick, only for the producers to step in and remind them it’s a slasher, and therefore some teens need to be killed!
So the film has two distinct halves; the standard slasher formula, then the final showdown with Laurie. There are thrilling set ups along the way, the most memorable being a scene involving motion sensor lights. It was a brilliant experience to watch this film in a completely packed cinema. The characters – which are more likeable compared to others in the genre – garner some empathy from the audience. Whenever Michael’s expressionless mask could be seen hovering amongst the shadows, the audience elicited groans of dread, knowing what this meant for the characters’ fate.
Sadly, Michael’s unstoppable killing force was no match for a script that couldn’t figure out how to stitch the two halves of the story together. Switching from the typical slasher fare to Laurie’s revenge narrative proved to be a doozy of ride, unfortunately requiring one of the most contrived plot twists that has been witnessed in cinema this year. It’s easily the worst part of the movie. Thankfully, it doesn’t take up too much of the runtime, though that in itself is frustrating given how quickly such a dramatic change is scrapped.
Despite the blip, 2018’s Halloween is a strong film, though it borrows most of its positive traits from the original. It is highly recommended to watch the 1978 film again directly before watching this one. These two films certainly work well as a pair. The 2018 film utilizes certain camera angles and shots that harken back to the 1978 movie, not just for empty nostalgic reasons, but rather to cement the story’s deeper themes. The 1978 film establishes the traumatic event, while the 2018 movie portrays the aftermath. Jamie Lee Curtis mentioned it was her idea for Andi to push for an “introducing” credit, furthering this concept that Halloween has come full circle. This is a movie that is intentional with its symbolism.
However, it may not be favorable to watch the additional sequels that are no longer part of this new timeline. This is because there’s not much we haven’t seen from Michael. There are only so many ways and locations where he can stab people! So some fans may find the kills in this new film to be a rehash of ones in the past, though it’s not due to laziness, rather, it’s more a result of being overexposed to a simplistic villain’s modus operandi.
Like seemingly all horror films, 2018’s Halloween is not immune to featuring some truly poor decisions from its victimized cast. Considering how long Laurie Strode has prepared for another chance to encounter Michael Myers, it is irritating to discover her ill thought out plans. For instance, why set up the home’s surveillance system outside of the panic room? And why on earth would you leave the switch to open the door to the panic room just lying around in the open? There are some cool features she has added to her fortress, though it may be best to interpret the house’s final secret metaphorically, otherwise it feels unnecessarily wasteful.
While the new film certainly pays homage to the original, it is not consistent when it comes to capturing the same spirit. The cinematography in the 1978 film is loaded with tension, constantly stalking the protagonists with an air of creepy voyeurism. With a background in comedy, David Gordon Green’s camera work isn’t as bold, with the first act shot like a standard drama. The film takes a while to build any sort of tension. The movie’s altered score also fails to live up to the original, feeling underutilized in some parts of the film.
It is truly a testament to the 1978 film to say the best parts are when it is being referenced, either directly or in style. Like most modern slashers, the 2018 film tries to spice its dialogue up with tension-breaking comedic moments, though unlike Scream and the even more meta Scary Movie, this film doesn’t pull it off. The humorous conversations feel out of place and pointless, as though they were channeling Joss Whedon, but failed midway.
In the end, the original is still the best, though this new film is a strong contender nonetheless. The 1978 film may be considered tame nowadays, particularly in terms of its violent content, though that doesn’t mean this installment is also a pushover. Spotting an eight-year-old at a previous premiere she had attended, Jamie Lee Curtis had some strong words to say about the mother’s parenting skills. “If there are any eight-year-olds in this auditorium, then your parents should be in prison. In America we call that child abuse. Sorry, I’m a little judgy.” They may have already seen a few horror films, but the Halloween franchise is about a psychopath (not a supernatural creature – people like this can actually exist), and in this film we watch as Michael travels from one house to the next murdering people without flinching. While adults have the capacity to muse over whether there’s any humanity in this kind of evil, children will only learn that real boogeymen exist.
It’s a bloody and violent film, though it offers an honest look at how one copes with trauma, sending hope that the next generation will be more equipped to fight against their personal boogeymen. It’s a flawed but entertaining film that will offer deeper themes for those who are not distracted by tallying Michael’s extensive kill count.
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