In the new Halloween movie, the murderous boogeyman Michael Myers once again escapes from the asylum and returns home to paint the town red with blood. Anticipating his return, however, is survivor Laurie Strode.
Fritz: From the new Star Wars trilogy to Creed to Blade Runner 2049, revisiting iconic characters in old age is a hot new trend in Hollywood. Now, Halloween is traveling that route. But...unlike the other films, the new Halloween movie is saying that every single one of the sequels to John Carpenter's 1978 horror masterpiece did not happen. So, I guess the questions to start with are 1) are you looking forward to the new film and 2) how many of the Halloween movies do you actually think are good?
David: I am approaching the new Halloween with caution. What is hopeful is that it is directed by an accomplished filmmaker, David Gordon Green (George Washington, Snow Angels, Joe) and that John Carpenter is serving as an Executive Producer and is involved with the film's music score.
As for what films in the Halloween series do I actually like? Only Carpenter's original. Halloween II (1981) is probably the closest of the sequels to being a good movie. Carpenter freely admits it was a cash-in and that he sat at a typewriter with a six pack of beer every night and struggled to take the story somewhere. In desperation, he concocted the revelation that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was the sister of unstoppable killer Michael Myers/The Shape which ruined the unsettling idea of simple fate that was planted in the first movie. Halloween II's director, Rick Rosenthal, wanted to make a tense thriller, but it ended up being too tame so Carpenter himself came in and shot addition gory murder scenes. The original film contains blood and brutality, but it isn't overly gory. And I am concerned when I hear that Green's film is pretty violent.
Next came the Michael Myers-less Halloween III: Season of the Witch(1982). Carpenter and company did have a cool idea – make every Halloween movie a completely different horror story. Unfortunately, the story of Halloween masks engineered to kill children has major script problems and just isn't very good. Halloween IIIwas the last Halloween film, until now, that Carpenter had anything to do with.
After that it was back to basics with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and its direct sequel Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), both of which are pretty dull. Then Myers is linked to the Druids in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
There was a glimmer of hope when Curtis, but not Carpenter, returned for Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later (1998). It was directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th 2& 3, My Father the Hero) and comes off like a Halloween-themed episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.
The franchise finally jumped the shark with Halloween: Resurrection (2002) wherein rapper Busta Rhymes karate kicks Myers out of a window.
So, are you looking forward to the new movie? And what was your first impression of the original?
Fritz: Green is certainly the best non-Carpenter director to tackle a Halloween movie, so there is cause for hope. You're right about that. As for my first encounter with Halloween, it wasn't until I was in high school. I was born in 1978, so my exposure to the early Halloween films was on TV. I actually saw Halloween II first, which I just thought was an ugly, joyless gorefest like the Friday the 13th movies (but with a much better score). So I never felt any urgency to see the original Halloween, because it would just be more of that. My brother kept telling me I needed to see the original, and when I finally did, it blew me away. Carpenter, like Alfred Hitchcock and like Spielberg in Jaws, understood that what you don't see is often scarier than what you do see. His use of space and composition is infinitely superior to most horror filmmakers.
Like all truly great horror films, Halloween taps into a primal human fear. I think many kids fear the darkened, empty corners of their own homes (I certainly did) and the original plays into that brilliantly. It also works in a way the sequels don't because Michael Myers starts as an actual human being. In other words, it all feels like something that could conceivably happen to you. It may be a small possibility, but a crazy person could break into your house and kill you. One of the reasons the sequels aren't good is that once you establish Myers is an unstoppable killing machine, it no longer feels real. You know he's going to get up every time someone seemingly kills him, and it stops being scary because it stops feeling like something that could actually occur.
Green and co-writer Danny McBride are trying to address this by pretending that none of the other sequels ever happened. In many ways, it's a smart decision, but retconning has its own pitfalls. Once you tell audiences you're willing to just press reset, the stakes feel lower. After all, Curtis' character was already killed in Halloween: Resurrection.
Have you seen the trailer for the new film? One problem I have is that I think it gives way too much away, a common issue with movie trailers. While some recent trailers like those for A Simple Favor and Bad Times at the El Royale admirably convey a sense of mystery without giving too much away, I counted six characters in the new Halloween trailer whose deaths are clearly implied. That's a huge mistake on the part of the marketing department.
David: Yes, I did see the new trailer and, yes, it does give too much away.
And you are correct that the sequels just don't have the sense of terror that the original has because by the end of Carpenter's film we come to the shocking realization that Myers is a somewhat supernatural force of evil. Halloween was the first movie I saw where the psycho murderer is killed, then gets back up again...and again. That was scary, but in horror films ever since it is a given that the killer isn't dead. So, the sequels just had nowhere to go.
I think even as adults, our imaginations can get the best of us after we see a good, scary horror movie then walk down a quiet street at night to our car. After film critic Gene Siskel attended a screening of Carpenter's Halloween, he took a cab home even though he only lived about four blocks away. Then, when he got to his apartment, he opened his shower curtain to make sure a killer wasn't waiting for him in the bathtub.
I just hope David Gordon Green's Halloween has the power to scare us the same way Carpenter's does.