Sam’s Take: Old and new horrors mix in Halloween (2018)

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Samuel Goodrich
Staff Writer

When John Carpenter produced “Halloween” in 1978, he made a horror film that defined a new genre of slasher flicks. A low-budget, nasty, punkish film, it quickly became a smash hit that spawned a franchise and iconic killer Michael Myers.

Forty years later, no other “Halloween” has managed to live up to the original because the subsequent films were increasingly ridiculous and lazy. Now, director David Gordon Green is trying his hand at the series with a perfect storm of events. Jamie Lee Curtis is back, Carpenter returns as producer and composer, and the film itself is a direct sequel to the 1978 original.

While not as dread-inducing as the original, “Halloween” (2018) is a highly entertaining movie that manages to provide modern horror thrills and expand on the themes and ideas set forth by the classic.

Since the events of Oct. 31, 1978, Laurie Strode has been preparing for the return of Michael Myers. Becoming a reclusive doomsday prepper of sorts, Strode has a strained relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, who believe her fears to be overactive and unhealthy. Strode is proven right on Halloween night when Myers escapes captivity, reigning terror over Haddonfield once more.

Immediate praise must be given to Green and his crew for their dedication and clear reverence for the original film and its depiction of Myers. Myers was the embodiment of pure evil, literally referred to as “The Shape” in the ending credits of the first film. In this sequel, we rarely get a good look at Myer’s face before he puts on the mask — even then, he’s always hiding in the shadows or lingering out of focus.

This isn’t to say that Myer’s kills are never shown. There are plenty of nasty, gory scenes for those craving blood in their horror. Green and his production company balance these shocking moments with off-screen kills or nail-biting suspense that let one’s imagination do all the terrifying work.

The original “Halloween” works not because it is full of gory kills and jump scares, but because it conveys a message, coming off more like a low-budget art film. “Halloween” (1978) is all about the lie of the suburban lifestyle, where families and society try to ignore evil even when it is born in their own backyard.

Green understands this, making “Halloween” (2018) a narrative not only about the lingering effects of evil within a traumatized family, but about how the younger generation chooses ignorance over experience. This film feels like a perfect thematic sequel. It even touches on some metatextual themes of obsession with killers and the attempt to understand them.

I would be remiss for not mentioning Curtis playing the part of Strode who literally, and figuratively, kills it. She can be menacing, recreating iconic shots of Myers from the original; but she is also vulnerable as a survivor who has lost everything because of her anxiety.

The film is not devoid of issues, though. Strode’s granddaughter and her friends have their own half-baked subplots that take away from the interesting dynamic between Myers and Strode. But they’re still interesting parts of the film —  I feel like these characters are meant to mirror the original, showing how suburban life has barely changed.

There are also hit-or-miss comedic moments. Green is mostly known for directing comedies, and while there are hilarious scenes to even out the violence, some of them go on way too long and seem out of place.

“Halloween” (2018) is not as scary or effective as the 1978 original. Instead, it is an immensely entertaining film that mixes the modern expectations of gore and jump scares with traditional suspense and characters. It is all wrapped up in a thematic package that expands on the original, creating a movie that is a good time and a mentally satisfying experience for horror fans.

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