[OP-ED] After Nearly a Decade-Long Absence, Halloween Returns to Terrorize
On May 24, 2016, an announcement was made that Blumhouse Productions and Miramax were teaming up to finance the eleventh installment of Halloween, a nearly 40-year-old horror franchise, with the director of the original film taking on the role of executive producer.
The first installment of the franchise was widely credited with starting the slasher craze of the 1980s. The franchise has also been globally recognized since its inception. It made its first appearance outside the United States on Nov. 16, 1978, when it was released in Argentina. By the end of 1979, it had been screened in 21 other countries, including West Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and Seychelles.
Before this year, the most recent installment of the series had been released in 2009, with Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. A sequel to that film, Halloween 3D, was announced in 2011, but was never made. Another false start occurred in 2015, when Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were said to be writing a new film which had the franchise’s villain, Michael Myers, on death row as part of its premise.
Blumhouse’s final product, Halloween, which enters wide release in the United States on Oct. 19, brings back the original film’s star, Jamie Lee Curtis, in a direct sequel to the original 1978 film 40 years later. The fact that the sequels are ignored may confuse some casual fans who think Curtis’s character, Laurie Strode, died in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, but this is a franchise that is no stranger to alternate timelines. Resurrection and its predecessor Halloween: H20, the eighth and seventh installments, respectively, already ignored Halloween 4, 5, and 6, and this new film means the franchise now has five continuities.
On Oct. 7, Curtis and the film’s director, David Gordon Green, were present at a sold out advance screening at 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. The excitement was tangible as the title appeared on the screen in orange letters.
The film treads the boundary between familiarity and novelty very carefully, making sure to pay homage to the original and what fans admire about it, but also updating the material for the new generation so that newcomers do not feel alienated. The film starts with Myers in captivity, where he has been since 1978. Before he escapes, or even gets his signature mask back, the audience must watch as Laurie, her family, and their strained relationship are introduced. The film is a bit of a slow burn, similar to the 1978 original. This similarity appeases older fans, but it may not sit well with 18-year-olds in the audience who are living in an era of instant horror.
To appease this younger audience, once Myers escapes from captivity, he is absolutely brutal. In the original film blood is not abundant. Of the five victims in the original, only the first presents a showcase of gore. The increase in gore in the new installment shows an attempt to appeal to a modern, younger audience. The film is a well-executed compromise between older slasher fare and updated film practices.
In too many horror films, characters are not properly developed but set up just to die and are just plainly unlikable. Halloween takes time to introduce its characters before the typical slasher fare starts, elevating the overall film and making it not just a slasher film, but a good movie.
There is more at stake than just the events that happen with Myers. Laurie’s obsession with him has cost her her family and she has to earn their trust again. The film is full of nuanced feelings and relationships: Laurie’s daughter (Judy Greer) resents her for not being able to let go of her past while raising her child, and to an extent, her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) feels the same way, but at the same time she is torn and wants her grandmother in her life. These complex relationships make the film rewatchable long after the initial scares wear off.
If there is one issue with the film, it is that the Halloween holiday atmosphere could have been greater. When Myers first escapes and is terrorizing trick-or-treaters before he finds where Laurie is, there is an abundance of kids in costumes and decorated houses. However, much of the action in the last act takes place in Laurie’s house, which lacks any Halloween decorations. In a movie with the title Halloween, the audience should be able to constantly feel the ambience of that holiday, but in Laurie’s house it might as well be any other night.
By Nov. 1, 2018, the film will be released internationally in 33 countries. A worthy addition to the franchise, Halloween is sure to please both old fans who have waited close to a decade for this film to arrive, and new ones who may be discovering Michael Myers for the first time.