Hello and Hallo-welcome to Sequel Sunday, where the horror feels eerily familiar! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they head to Haddonfield, just in time for Halloween!
Today’s film offering: Halloween (2018)
Lilly: First! There WILL be spoilers! As much as I’d love to give a spoiler free review you can read then go and watch the film without any warning, to not talk about the details of this film would do a disservice to the work and thought that went into the script and performances. At least, in my opinion. And since I’m one half of the team writing this review, well! Here we are.
Andy: TL;DR it’s really good, go and see it. There.
Lilly: There! Halloween is the eleventh in the franchise, but it ignores nine of its predecessors, a sequel to the original 1978 film. We start off with the comically on point true crime podcasters, Aaron and Dana, as they are attempting to start some sort of Making a Murderer-esque expose on Michael Myers–Boogeyman or Sad Man (not their title, I just assume it would be since it is the obvious choice). They go to see Michael at his cozy institutional home the day before he is to be transferred to a much more institutional institution, you know, for hard core criminals who slashed five people forty years ago (why only now is he being transferred, is that suspicious, maybe it is, spoiler it is). We also meet Dr.Sartain, the protege of Dr.Loomis who has been studying Michael, wanting to know how his mind ticked. We get a taste of Michael’s other-wordly hold on the prisoners around him when the familiar mask makes an appearance on the scene, further solidifying my opinion that some true crime podcasters go way too far. That was evidence! It still is! What are you touching it for! Stop it!
The podcasters than, of course, harass Michael’s one surviving victim, Laurie Strode, played magnificently and with a heavy poignancy by, obvs, Jamie Lee Curtis. In a beautiful sweeping indictment to ‘both-siders’ everywhere, it’s in this interview she makes the point that she is being treated in the same vein as a murderer, thought of as a nutcase due to being twice-divorced and struggling with PTSD. Hi, Halloween (2018)? I just met you, and this is crazy, but I love you forever already, and we’re only fifteen minutes in.
You can well imagine what happens on the night of the transfer. Laurie has been preparing all her life for it, and it happens–Michael escapes. Start the body counter!
No, seriously, you’ll need it, because in 2018, the body count from the original film (5) is tripled.
The film doesn’t just follow the story of Michael and Laurie, however. It also has Laurie’s daughter, Karen, and Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson, and we get to see what being the family of Laurie Strode is like through awkward stifled emotions and anger about why Laurie just can’t ‘let it go’. Oh, and Karen has a bumbling husband, too, so there’s that. But he really is not the focus here.
Not to be cliche here, but this film is seriously a horror film for the #metoo era. On screen and off, women are standing together against looming monsters and finding strength in their ability to survive together in a world where constant vigilance is understood to be necessary but not socially acceptable to wear on your sleeve. Don’t go down dark alleys, but don’t be afraid of the dark. Don’t wear revealing clothes, but don’t wear a parka in spring. Don’t be defenseless, but don’t have an armory in your basement.
Laurie lives with PTSD. She is physically and emotionally scarred by the time she spent fighting for her life in 1978, and she is stuck there, from how she is unavailable emotionally to her daughter to how her hair is a throwback to that era of feathered fluff. Karen lives with having had a parent who suffered from mental health issues and likely an absentee father since he is literally not mentioned (we don’t even know if she is from husband one or two), on top of having been taken away from Laurie when she was twelve and never returned to her mother, which leads to her own suffering from anxiety issues, as well as fear of intimacy/trust issues that shows in lying to her loved ones. Allyson lives with the weight of the two senior women in the family and struggling to find her own place in the world when she just wants a connection to both that isn’t frayed, painful, or full of tiny lies to protect her. She wants to grow up but her two closest female role models in the female are stunted at a young age that she is about to surpass. Add on a boyfriend who, while cute(ish) is a dick, and you have a pretty messy high school life.
Over the course of the film, these three women have obstacle after obstacle thrown at them, be it something benign and ‘normal’ like a high school boyfriend being a massive dickwad to the (surprise) return of the monster who haunted their every waking moment since 1978, but it is in banding together and truly understanding each other’s strengths–Laurie’s paranoia became being prepared, Karen’s lies became tactical distractions, and Allyson wasn’t about to put up with any man or boy hurting her so would do what she had to to put it to an end–that we see them succeed. Much like in reality, women are discovering that, once we shake our internalized misogyny, we can be the greatest allies to one another. It doesn’t matter the age or the background, women can support each other against that looming, awful presence that is determined to kill them, no matter how many people it must go through.
2018’s Halloween doesn’t present you with a neat narrative that tears apart than reconstructs a Final Girl for us to see triumph at the end. Instead, it showcases what happens when those ‘final girls’, made up decades ago to personify strength through victimhood, are tossed aside in lieu of three women, hurting in different ways as a result of one force, banding together to show that women will not be picked off one by one anymore. They will stand together, and they will take down whatever Boogeyman comes their way.
Andy: So Lilly has covered a lot of what made this movie great thematically, and I’m going to talk about the cinematography, blocking, and practical effects that mean all this depth finds its way onto the screen.
The first thing to mention is that this is absolutely not a visual retread of the first movie, a mistake many of the previous sequels made. Carpenter’s original had an almost sanitized look, with a pure white mask and incredibly limited palette filled with blues and blacks at night and autumnal red during the day. This however, is infused with a dirty brown look throughout, signifying both age and decay – a contrast most marked by a kid’s bedroom being preternaturally colourful. There are almost no shots of complete darkness in this movie, showing the characters’ preparedness and understanding of Michael’s methods.
There’s also a lot more blood onscreen, and overall it’s a considerably harder watch, but avoids descending into the nasty torture porn aesthetic of a decade ago. We are spared as many shots of kills as we are shown, a brilliant denial of the voyeuristic aspect of slasher movies, and at one awful moment, we see Michael stop and listen to a baby cry. He leaves, obviously as that is several bridges too far for most movies, but it’s an important moment in making us, as the audience, reconsider our relationship with victims.
There are several callbacks to the original, in both shot composition and staging, but rather than simply referencing, these often serve to highlight the inversions at play. A classic example is a scene where Laurie falls out of a window and lands, dazed, in exactly the same position and manner as Michael did at the end of the original. There it was to add a sinister open ending to the story, a fear that a man who has taken six bullets and got away is not quite human.
Here the opposite is true. The movie’s not over, and it becomes an exercise in waiting for her return. Michael, rather than superhuman, has taken his eye off the ball. This movie will have a definite ending.
Another classic is in a fascinating pair of long Steadicam shots. These were a staple of the original, as Michael methodically stalked his prey: they were also often POV shots. Here we watch as he goes from house to house brutally slaying in quick succession as watch from the street. There’s no ‘art’ here, no thrilling hunt, just a series of almost random acts of violence inflicted upon people committing the unforgivable crime of Being In The Way. It’s part of a much wider reframing of the movie in favour of the victims, a lovely visual comment on the broader themes Lilly has already covered.
My favourite is in fact beautifully simple. We have what appears to be a POV shot outside the Strode residence, but it’s far too high up. Then the camera drops to roughly normal eye level, as Michael Myers, the Boogeyman, is literally brought down to earth.
Lilly: In case you’ve not caught on yet, readers, we loved this. It was good. It was really, really good. It took something as (sorry, sorry) simple as the original Halloween and updated it, pushed and prodded at it, and molded it into something that modern audiences could be entertained by and, maybe as importantly, frightened by. I connected with Laurie, Karen, and Allyson easily, and their fear, bravery, and determination echoed the growing voice of feminism in today’s media. While there was humour throughout the film, it was never a joke that women were getting shit done.
And don’t even get me started on how pathetically the ‘Nice Guy’ was framed, or how performative masculinity in the case of Karen’s husband was a trap he built for himself, or how the female victims weren’t the ones undressed, it was the males who were found half naked and…and–just. Go watch it.
Andy: Before Thursday, I would have said Hereditary is the obvious favourite for Hallowfest’s 2018 season. But the fact that we are reconsidering shows just how strong and thematically resonant the genre is right now. I mean, this is a slasher sequel co-written by Danny McBride. Who saw that coming?
Go, watch, enjoy!