The BoogeyMan is Back

The Original Scream Queen Returns in Greene’s latest installment of Halloween. David Gordon Green’s Halloween reminds a new generation why Michael Myers is the accept- no-substitute Boogeyman. Premiering just in time for pumpkin season, this new Halloween film is a well-made tribute to the 1978 slasher classic, filled with call-backs that will delight the horror fanatic and enough gruesome thrills to captivate the uninitiated.

After the critical success of Get Out, including an Oscar nomination, Bloomhouse Pictures proves once again that it takes horror seriously. Throwing away the convoluted mythology of wicked cults and family curses that developed around Michael Myers through one-too-many sequels, this Halloween is a direct follow-up of the original film. And, thankfully, it goes back to the basics: a mysterious knife-wielding killer wreaking havoc in a small town on Halloween night. The simplicity of this story, the idea that Michael could be lurking on every street corner is what gave the first Halloween its power, and returning to this premise was a stroke of genius.

Taking place exactly forty years after the ‘Night He Came Home,’ Laurie Strode (reprised by the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis) is a woman in pain. She never recovered from the night of the attack. Having weathered two failed marriages and losing her daughter to the state, Laurie lives as a hermit in her hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. She obsessively waits for the day when Michael escapes and shows up at her door – and escape he does. The why and how isn’t important. In fact, for anyone who has seen the sequels, the idea that Michael’s prison transfer will go horribly wrong is pretty obvious.

The real meat of the film focuses on Laurie’s trauma and how that trauma radiates through generations, affecting her relationship with her daughter and her granddaughter, Allyson (Matchik). Centering the film’s emotional throughline on Laurie’s trauma was risky. A lesser actress would have made this film mediocre. Happily, with Curtis, the audience is in good hands. By focusing on Laurie and the relationship between the three strode women, the film bravely asks: how do we deal with the trauma in our lives, the isolation that trauma forces us to endure, and will we ever become free of our demons? Halloween makes the audience confront these questions and suggests that the lasting effects of trauma can transform us into something unrecognizable and, possibly, even dangerous.

laurie_strode_halloween_2018The film cleverly draws this conclusion with visual parallels of Laurie and Michael. One scene brilliantly charts Laurie’s transformation from scream-queen ingenue to the locked and loaded survivalist featured in this film. The scene shows Allyson staring out of her classroom window, just as her grandmother did in the 78 version, but instead of seeing a masked man lying in wait, Allyson finds Laurie standing in the exact same position as Michael once did. Michael and Laurie actually spend the entire film oscillating between hunter and hunted, predator and prey – allowing the audience to flirt with the intriguing prospect that perhaps Michael isn’t the only monster stalking the streets of Haddonfield. Perhaps, Laurie’s emotional scars have turned her into one as well — albeit one you root for.

Despite offering deeper characterization, this is still a horror film. By imitating the structure of the original film, Green rehashes the predictable formula: killer escapes custody, teenagers die gruesomely, and the inevitable showdown between hero and villain ensues. But just because it worked in 1978, doesn’t mean that the conventions of a slasher aren’t tired by today’s standards. Worse, the film lacks the heightened suspense that made the first one great; it recreates the infamous music but doesn’t use the haunting theme to build to a slow and steady tension. Instead, the music largely prompts moments of unnecessary gore -including a graphic scene where Michael crushes a guy’s skull with this foot. But this genre limitation is a minor quibble.

Though this film does not beat the original, it certainly honors it while giving a younger audience a reason to fear the boogeyman.

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