TIFF 2018: Halloween
Michael Myers is back to haunt Laurie after 40 years, but in this sequel, Jamie Lee Curtis's character is no victim
News of another Halloween film coming after the car-crash of sequels and remakes was, as to be expected, met with some trepidation. Forty years on from John Carpenter’s original, what does Halloween offer to a horror audience in 2018? As one character in the film says early on about Michael Myers’ killing sprees, “they’re not really that big a deal” by today’s standards.
Director David Gordon Green, along with co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, have this cloud looming over them, but they’ve an elegant solution to the substandard sequels – they’ve cast them aside. This Halloween is a direct continuation of Carpenter’s 1978 original. The film opens in modern day Haddonfield as two podcasters visit Myers in prison, undoubtedly after a hit along the lines of Serial.
Meanwhile Jamie Lee Curtis reprises the role of Laurie Strode. Suffering from PTSD after the traumatic events of that Halloween night 40 years ago, Laurie has become a Sarah Connor-esque action woman, her trauma manifests through an obsession with Myers, whom she’s convinced she’ll meet again. This fixation has, unsurprisingly, impacted her personal life. Her estranged daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), wants little to do with her and wants Laurie to have just as little to do with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).
When Myers escapes during a prison transfer that goes horribly wrong on Halloween night, he has only one end goal in sight: to complete what he started 40 years ago as he begins a bloody path through town.
Halloween is no PG sequel. There are violent and gory kills, including one particularly nasty encounter in a bathroom. Green pays homage to the original – there are numerous visual allusions as well as an excellent reworked score by Carpenter and his son, Cody Carpenter – but this version of Halloween has lost the B-movie grunge. Visually, it has much more in common with the Scream franchise, and like those Wes Craven films this take on Halloween is funny, largely down to tongue-in-cheek call-backs to the original.
Halloween’s overarching theme is the idea of generational trauma: what we pass down to our children, consciously or unconsciously. Laurie’s encounter with Myers four decades ago hasn’t only impacted her, it’s also been passed down to Karen and Allyson. The film’s climax involves all three women in Laurie’s house and is the stand-out sequence of the film when the tables turn and the predator becomes the prey.
Where Halloween loses its impact is with the boogeyman himself. Halloween opens with Myers without his mask. We don’t see his face but the monstrous illusion created by Carpenter’s original is lost. He’s just another inmate. Later in the film, Myers is again de-masked and while Green is careful not to show his face, again the myth is undermined.
And then that question: what’s the point of this remake-sequel-reboot? Halloween has clearly been made with careful love, balancing fan service with a desire to move the franchise forward. But Myers isn’t the scariest thing in town anymore. Instead it’s Laurie’s paranoia and alienation that is the film’s real horror. Halloween isn’t reinventing the horror genre wheel but it’s doing exactly what it intends to do and doing that well. It’s a mature development and well-done final chapter of the franchise. Let’s hope the Myers saga ends on Halloween’s joyride high.
Halloween had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and is released in the UK on 19 Oct by Universal. For more of our TIFF coverage, head to theskinny.co.uk/festivals/international-festivals
Follow Katie Goh on Twitter at @johnnys_panic