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Michael Has Finally Come Home Again: A Deep-Dive on ‘Halloween’ (2018)

Halloween

Before the release of the already hugely successful Halloween sequel/reboot by David Gordon Greene, I wrote a two-part article on the Halloween franchise as a whole. In these articles I conveyed to my fellow readers that I considered the overall quality of the Halloween sequels uneven. Seeing how brilliantly it started, it was frustrating seeing the changes made to the Michael Myers lore. We saw the Bogeyman become an agent of some All Hallow’s Eve cult and turn into a regular — if gigantically bearded — hobo serial-killer and saw his ass get whooped by Busta Rhymes. Simply put, he wasn’t scary anymore.

Spoiler Alert

In most of the films, they couldn’t even get the iconic mask right. There was a magical simplicity to the original that just couldn’t be recreated. And perhaps it shouldn’t. It was best to leave it alone as the story was already told.

But after ten movies in the course of four decades (eleven if you count the producer’s cut as a separate movie like I do), we got another one, co-written by two very unlikely screenwriters for this kind of material: Danny McBride and David Gordon Greene. In a bold move, this movie would ignore all subsequent sequels.

There would be no Cult of Thorn. The twenty-year reunion between Laurie and Michael never happened. Laurie never met her end at the sharp end of Michael’s knife. Even the final confrontation between Myers and Loomis would be entirely retconned. Michael and Laurie would not be siblings anymore. She was just a teenager he randomly targeted on the fateful Halloween day.

John Carpenter would return as story-advisor and composer. He was a hopeful sign that this film could perhaps be something special, an honorable return to what Carpenter started four decades ago. As you can probably guess from the title of this article, my high hopes were met. Michael has finally come home again.

In this article I will look into how the recent Halloween film recreated some of the magic of the original, something the previous sequels failed to do. I will also dive into how it stayed faithful to the ideas of the original while also adding psychological and philosophical depth to the initial simple slasher film.

Dr. Sartain and Trying to Explain the Bogeyman

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Haluk Bilginer as Dr. Sartain. Image via CBR

The film cleverly pays homage to the previous sequels while also critiquing the missteps it made to the Michael Myers character. Loyal fans can find the nods to the previous films throughout the film. It’s obvious that the filmmakers were fan of what came before — even though they were obviously bigger fans to the original film that started it all.

Interestingly, they returned back to the basics, to the original conceit that made Michael Myers so scary to begin with. When John Carpenter and Debra Hill were writing the first sequel to Halloween, they were struggling with how to continue this stand-alone story. There was nothing else to tell. The central terrifying concept of Halloween was this unexplained evil, the randomness of terror that fell upon the lives of Laurie and her friends.

Myers as a horror movie villain is different from most of his slasher peers. He doesn’t have any goals besides committing random acts of murder and mayhem. The lack of depth to the character is what makes him terrifying.

But it does make him a difficult character to write a continuing story around. You would either recycle everything that happened before — which would eventually be tiresome as many slasher sequels have proven time and again — or twist the story into a different direction. Carpenter and Hill decided to write a twist to the character: Laurie was not some random target, she was Michael’s sister. This conceit of the Bogeyman hunting down every family relative would continue in subsequent sequels.

Carpenter would late reflect how the sequels would miss the point of Michael. In the recent sequel/reboot everything has been turned around again. Michael has simply become a dark force of nature. He’s finally become the Shape again.

In the 2018 film, supporting characters even discuss the change, conversing about the fact that Michael wasn’t supposed to be her brother. “No that’s just something people made up,” is the reply. But it’s the presence of a supporting character named Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) that represents the philosophical drive of the Bogeyman.

While Dr. Sartain is referred to in the movie as “the new Dr. Loomis,” he’s actually the anthesis of the good doctor. Dr. Loomis understood the soullessness of his former patient. He knew he was a force of ”pure evil.” Dr. Sartain on the other hand humanizes Michael too much. He even cares about him.

Similar to the mistakes made by the previous filmmakers, Dr. Sartain wants to add meaning to Myers’ existence. He states that he wants to understand what lies behind those devil’s eyes but in actuality, he’s transferring his own need for meaning into Michael’s murderous nature.

Dr. Sartain represents our innate human flaw of desiring meaning and order in the universe, into the evil that exists in this world. Sometimes there’s no point. Sometimes we are simply dealing with evil and we must protect ourselves from it in every way we can.

Dr. Sartain’s need for a psychoanalytical meaning to Michael’s actions becomes a murderous obsession, as he stabs good-hearted Sheriff Hawkins with a hidden pen-blade to defend Michael. His sympathies for the Bogeyman is cruelly (but deservedly) repaid as Michael dispatches him in the film’s goriest highlight. Before Dr. Sartain’s demise, he pleads with Michael to please speak to him. Michael stares him down with his infamous head tilt and then squashes his skull.

Since Dr. Sartain was Dr. Loomis’ former pupil, he should have listened to the master. Loomis understood who Michael really was.

While some critics considered his character to be there just to drive Michael to Laurie’s domicile and to instigate the exciting climax —  which is admittedly partly true — the character is mostly there to drive home the point that there is no point to Michael’s actions. He’s not chasing his sister or on some personal vendetta. He’s there to commit his signature acts of carnage.

He’s simply the Bogeyman.

The Triumphant Return of the Great Master

As loyal readers of MovieBabble know, I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. This is evident in several of my articles. But there’s no denying that the effectiveness of this sequel, especially concerning the film’s mood and suspense, comes from Carpenter and his son’s masterful score.

The score has many of the same beats as the original classic but boasts many new ominous tracks. There are few suspenseful guitar riffs and some darkly droning beats that keep you on the edge of your seat during Michael’s soulless carnage.

It’s hard to choose a highlight of the score. Fans will certainly get excited hearing the updated theme, which is called “The Shape Returns.” One of my personal favorite tracks plays when Allyson (Andi Matichak) sees the corpse of her murdered friend Oscar (Drew Scheid) and is then chased by Michael — called appropriately “The Shape Hunts Allyson.”

Besides the suspenseful beats, the score also has many quieter moments, making you feel for the painful pathos of Laurie Strode. Just like the original film, the score is integral to the film’s success. Carpenter’s musical presence isn’t just a gimmick for marketing purposes, such as James Cameron’s approval for Terminator: Genisys, it’s one of the film’s greatest assets.

A Weird but Interesting Comparison

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Harrison Ford as Deckard in Blade Runner 2049. Image via RTE

There’s one film that came to my mind after watching this film and that was Blade Runner 2049. Now this might seem like a weird comparison as these are two completely different films — one a cerebral science-fiction film, the other a horror/thriller. But the link between these two films lies in the faithful recreation of the original’s themes and style.

Blade Runner 2049 continued what made the original Blade Runner so great. It did this not just by the similar score but by returning to the central question of “what makes us human?” It could have easily become a big-budgeted sequel/reboot that pays homage to the original just to appease the fans while entirely missing the point of what made it so great in the first place. A perfect example of this can be seen with the state of the current Jurassic Park franchise.

Instead it was a big-budgeted labor of love, slow-burning, more focused on ideas than action just like the original. The new Halloween movie is similar that way. It continues the themes of the original and is more focused on suspense and mood than gore.

While both films have fan-service, they’re not obsessed with it. It has a story to tell. Unlike the Jurassic Park films or several of the latest Star Wars film, it doesn’t try to hide its narrative inadequacies with tired references. It can be its own film. It doesn’t mindlessly leach on the greatness of the original.

While the film does have its fair share of gore, similar to how Blade Runner 2049 has its fair share of exciting action sequences, it never goes too far. Just like the original, it’s more about the anticipation of violence and the question of whether the victim will come alive rather than what happens to the victim — this is different from Rob Zombie’s take on the Halloween films which were basically modern exploitation films.

The cinematography by Michael Simmonds in Halloween is similar to Dean Cundey’s work in the 1978 classic. The cinematography Roger Deakins created in Blade Runner 2049, while somewhat different, still feels aesthetically similar to the original. And so we see that they both loyally recreate the look of the original.

The themes, as discussed before, are explored once again. Just like Blade Runner 2049 shows us the return of Deckard, decades after the events of the original, this film shows us the decades long-aftermath of Laurie’s encounter with Michael.  In Blade Runner 2049, we see Deckard mourning the loss of his great love Racheal. In Halloween (2018) we see Laurie what happened to her psyche after her near fatal encounter with Michael: she’s now suffering from PTSD, which has ruined nearly all her personal relationships throughout her adulthood.

It’s always interesting seeing characters decades after the original story and we have seen a great trend of this of late, such as with Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting 2 or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival. In all these cases we see how returning to an established franchise, even decades after, doesn’t have to exemplify creative bankruptcy. With the right people, who actually understand and love the source material, we can have something magical again.

A Character Study as Well as a Slasher Film

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Image via Dead Entertainment

What makes Halloween a great sequel is the character pathos among the carnage. It’s not just about the return of Michael Myers and the forty-year reunion of the final-girl and her nemesis, it’s about how senseless evil can affect different generations.

Taking all the slasher tropes aside, the film is essentially character study about Laurie Strode suffering from PTSD and trying to connect with her daughter and granddaughter again. It is as interesting in the psychological struggle of the infamous final-girl (now woman) as it is in crafting a suspenseful horror film.

While we naturally see her become victorious in the end, she never becomes an over the-top bad-ass. She’s still human, even as she’s hunting down Michael Myers in her own house. There’s still fear in her eyes as she knows full well what powerful evil she’s dealing with.

Probably one of the film’s best scenes is seeing Laurie interrupt a joyous family dinner, eventually cracking and crying her eyes out. We see resentment from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who was taken away by social-services due to Laurie’s obsessive-survivalist parenting. We see the eagerness of her granddaughter Allyson to try to connect with her granddaughter.

The finale with the house burning and Michael inside (the question of whether he’s really dead or whether we will see another Laurie/Michael reunion aside) represents Laurie finally letting go of the past. The last shot is of the three generation of women embracing each other, on their way to an exciting (and hopefully less violent) future.

Probably Not the End

It’s most likely that Blumhouse will make another unnecessary Halloween sequel. Even though this film wraps up everything perfectly, they will probably conjure up another excuse to have Michael Myers on the loose again. Horror films are cheaper to produce than cerebral science-fiction films. It’s unlikely I’ll see another Blade Runner film but another Halloween film is an almost sure thing.

Hopefully they won’t ruin it like they did with Halloween: Resurrection, which destroyed all the enjoyment of H20‘s final scene — the decapitation of Michael by Laurie — by killing Laurie in the first fifteen minutes. To me, this is the end. While I will certainly watch whatever comes next, I will likely ignore it as canon. This is the perfect ending. We don’t need anymore.

This is all I’d hoped it would be. I wish they’d let it die now. The story has been told. But who knows, maybe the right people will helm the property next. Maybe they will have an interesting new spin on the Bogeyman.

Who knows? I’m just happy I got to hear a new John Carpenter music in a film. This is the probably the closest I’ll never get to seeing a new John Carpenter film.

I’m just happy that I’ve gotten to see a true Halloween movie again.

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Happy Halloween Michael. Image via Slash film.


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