Kirese Narinesingh reviews Halloween, David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel to John Carpenter’s classic slasher film
How refreshing it is to see a worthy sequel, in a genre as infamous for the genius and creativity of its iconic films showcasing cinematic expression of horror, as for its inferior successors to these original landmark films. Halloween (2018) presents itself as a scourge of all bad horror sequels; it uplifts the term itself and is, undoubtedly, a breath of fresh air. Director David Gordon Green manages to transpose the familiar, eerie atmosphere of the original into the present-day sequel, bringing in new characters and modern elements to supplement the film’s reliance on the original.
The film is set forty years after the events of the previous film, therefore including its original protagonist, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Formerly timid babysitter, now hardened mother and grandmother, she has sacrificed her family life in her longstanding anticipation and preparation for Michael’s inevitable escape from his psychiatric containment.
The confrontational dimension of the two characters’ arc is examined at full length; the predator/prey relationship is featured extensively and played with, yet the considerable anticipation built within the film’s first half towards this confrontation is not fully satisfied by the resulting climactic showdown between the two central figures. This is not to say that it is not enjoyable, nor entertaining – but it does not fully fulfil our expectations, nor the dramatic power it had attempted to build.
Yet Curtis’ performance of her iconic character is one of the film’s major highlights. Her range speaks for itself; in simply one scene, she can portray her PTSD-suffering character as emotionally weak from forty years of trauma, while having simultaneously derived strength from this experience – a counterpart and formidable adversary to the film’s antagonist, Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle). Curtis almost manages to steal the thunder from her own tormentor, in fact: the three female leads, the three generations of a family tormented by horror, are a tour-de-force, relaying the traumatic experience of horror, as well as feminist tones that contest the over-played tropes of the genre.
Michael himself (or itself) is a huge improvement over the version depicted in Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween reboot, which impressed an almost humanistic justification on Michael’s murder streak in a character that original Halloween director John Carpenter conceived as simply the embodiment of evil, a restless supernatural force that displayed the dark side of human nature unleashed.
2018 director Green stays true to Carpenter’s original characterization; he includes elements of seeming invulnerability into his character, yet, breaking away from the original, reminds us of Myers’ own weakness through subverting his role as predator into that of prey as the film’s climax is reached.
While this does have the effect of depleting his status as the indestructible force of evil, which is the source of the film’s appeal, the film makes up for it through the fascination surrounding ‘The Shape’, and the nature of evil represented by Michael’s apathetic bloodlust, which, as the film depicts, can never be normalised. The film gains its originality and creative outlet through its expression of themes that are built upon the foundation of the original masterpiece.
There is no doubt that the film does rely on nostalgia through its infamous musical score and gory, familiar scenes that recall the original. However, rather than taking away from the film’s own originality, these nostalgic elements remind us why we fell in love with the original in the first place – its ingenuity in relaying the senseless nature of evil, and its effectiveness in building tension until the first stroke of horror.
In addition, the cinematography, as well as the film’s editing, is admirable for its creativity and augmentation of the pervasive atmosphere of anticipation, and eventual horrific climax of scenes. Each moment is delayed, we are only allowed to view certain angles in certain scenes, until the awaited outburst of horror, and then we are unable to see anything but the horror we have expected.
It is not, however, a perfect film, nor is it the ‘perfect sequel’. The film’s offbeat humour is a new, modern element, yet adds nothing to its enjoyment. It almost manages to create an awkward effect and imbalance the film’s serious tone conveyed through the violence of Michael’s acts. It is less subtle than the original, attempting to revamp it through this awkward, tension-breaking humour, mingled with more horrific and gory murder scenes, which, though disturbing and terrifying, do not succeed in revolutionising the genre as its original did in 1978.
We do not expect it to surpass the original’s mystic quality, its slow-paced building, and irreplicable satisfying rush of horror. It is not constructed as intricately gracefully and mysteriously as Carpenter’s original. But it is aware of the superiority of its predecessor, and takes advantage of this through a merging of the elements that made it great, and a new, contemporary style.
Here is a sequel that is able to do justice to Carpenter’s unique vision, while making strides in justifying its own being as a film.
Featured Image Credit: The Guardian