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Horror films like 'Halloween' only come once a decade or so

by Emily Reuben

When it comes to slasher films, no slasher villain is as important to the genre as Michael Myers. When John Carpenter’s Halloween first released in 1978, slasher films were not exactly new, but none featured nearly as much artistry and attention to detail. Filmed in just four weeks with a young cast, Halloween proved that budgets and A-list stars don’t have to be a death sentence for a horror film. The success of Halloween reinvigorated the slasher genre, paving the way for other notable slashers to hit the scene.

Graphic by McKenna Kolb

While the original film is one of the most influential and popular horror films of all time, the Halloween franchise has certainly had its ups and downs, and by that I mean everything after Halloween II has ranged from utterly disappointing to mind-blowingly terrible. David Green’s 2018 Halloween remedies this in the simplest way possible: by pretending everything after the original Halloween movie doesn’t exist, and you know what? I wish that were true, because the 2018 Halloween is the perfect sequel to the original.

Michael Myers is back and better than ever

Forty years after the first film, Michael Myers (played by a combination of Nick Castle, James Juse Courtney, and Tony Moran) is incarcerated in a state prison and is the subject of psychological study by Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who is jokingly referred to as “the new “Loomis” in the film.

The film then re-introduces us to the original film’s heroine, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and believes that Michael Myers will break out and come back to kill her. In preparation for Michael’s return, Laurie has created a high-security household filed with traps and hidden passages to protect herself and catch the masked killer.

Image from IMDb

Of course, Laurie is correct, and Michael is planning on making a return visit. After he breaks loose during a failed transportion to a new facility, Laurie must protect her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) from Michael and finally confront the monster that has defined her life.

A trap many sequels fall into is straying too far from the original concept in an effort to tell a new story. The 2018 Halloween manages to not only create a completely new narrative but also introduce compelling characters, clever twists, and provide enough clever throwbacks to the original Halloween to show that the filmmakers have a genuine love and respect for the source material. There is a cheesiness factor that is endearing and makes the film viewing experience an absolute thrill to watch. The film balances suspense perfectly with dumb fun, and the film is certainly self-aware and doesn’t take itself too seriously. But don’t worry slasher fans; there is plenty of Michael Myers going around terrorizing the innocent residents of Haddenfield. Michael is utilized to the fullest extent, and the result is fabulous.

A horror film with impeccable style

Many horror films, even good ones, are criticized for gritty, unpolished filmmaking. This film is not one of those B-movie looking films. The filmmaker does an excellent job creating a visually appealing experience and making creative use of the frame. One example is the attention to Michael’s face. The frame is always careful to not reveal Michael’s face before he reclaims his mask, similar to the original film, making sure to mask Michael’s identity and further dehumanize him. We are never allowed to associate Michael Myers with a human face.

One scene in particular showcases just how expertly crafted the film is. Michael is preying on a woman while she watches trick-or-treaters from behind her window. The camera is positioned outside the window looking into her home. We can see another window positioned slightly behind her that shows her backyard. As we watch her, we can see Michael walk through her backyard and then enter her home, all without the camera moving an inch. This is a relatively simple set-up but demonstrates an understanding of how to create suspense for the audience and utilize the film-space.

Image from IMDb

It is also important to highlight the shots that mimic those in the original. For example, the scene where Laurie first saw Michael watching her from outside her window is recreated as Allyson glances outside during class, but instead of Michael, Allyson sees her grandmother. There are multiple examples throughout the film, and all of them fit perfectly within the film and don’t feel forced or thrown in solely for nostalgia. It is great to see the filmmaking choices from the first film recreated and updated for new audiences.

There is honestly so much to praise here: the lighting, framing, and even the use of locations are all very well executed, which is such a breath of fresh air in a genre often criticized for its near universally dismal aesthetic.

On another note, the amazing Halloween theme created by John Carpenter himself returns, and I couldn’t be happier. While the theme is utilized throughout the film, John Carpenter was also hired to create new music, which fits in perfectly with the rest of the film’s score. The new additions are very well done, the film couldn’t call itself a Halloween entry without the signature theme.

A slasher film with genuinely likable characters

If you came to see Michael M Myers hacking and slashing, then you are going to love this movie. Michael’s kill count is insane and fast paced; after he starts killing he hardly lets the audience breathe between kills. Nick Castle, the original Michael Myers, only plays Michael on-screen for a few scenes. Though he still provides all of the breathing noises coming from behind his mask, which is a cool detail. James Jude Courtney, who also plays Michael in the film, fills the role just as well, and the switch between the actors is unnoticeable.

Image from IMDb

Michael Myers is obviously the reason everyone is paying to see the film, but Jamie Lee Curtis steals the show. Her performance perfectly demonstrates the trauma that Michael has inflicted on her life, but more prominently Curtis conveys the determination Laurie has to destroy Michael and protect her family. This is not just an example of bringing in an actor to capitalize on their previous performance; she drives the narrative and runs the show.

Regarding the teenage characters, all of the dialogue actually sounds like teenagers speaking and not like a 50-year-old man tried to sound hip with the kiddos. Andi Matichak, who plays Allyson in the film, does a particularly excellent job in the role, perfectly capturing the uncomfortable position her family is in, her strained familial relationships, and her determination to stay alive. It’s so refreshing to have teenage protagonists that aren’t unlikable. Something I have always respected about John Carpenter is his respectfulness towards women in the original Halloween; Laurie isn’t a damsel in distress or a sex object, she is a smart, strong young woman. Allyson is given this same treatment in the 2018 Halloween continuing the trend, something I’d like to see more of in horror films.

Other supporting characters all feel well defined and at the very least fulfill their purpose. There really isn’t any character that feels out of place. Even unlikable characters serve their purpose and don’t detract from the film.

Halloween is now scarier than ever

If you’ve seen the original Halloween, you have to see this film. This film lovingly continues the original story with many great recurring characters, but with many new faces that are just as strong as those in the original. While there are certainly minor nitpicks that I could make here and there, I can’t imagine a better sequel to Halloween.

Featured Image: IMDb

Images from: IMDb

Graphic: McKenna Kolb