Forty years after he terrorised the residents of Haddonfield, Illinois after escaping from the sanitorium he has been imprisoned in since a child, Michael Myers is back to finish what he started with Laurie Strode. Then a teenage babysitter, she and her friends were stalked by Michael and one by one, killed by Michael in cold blood.
As envisioned by director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride, this year’s ‘Halloween’ supposes that Michael has been imprisoned in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium all this while, but manages to escape when the transport he is in gets into an accident. On the other hand, Laurie has been preparing all this time for Michael’s return, turning her house into a heavily fortified homestead; yet she is not only defending her life this time round, but also the lives of her daughter Karen and grand-daughter Allyson.
Unlike the Laurie in 2018’s ‘Halloween’, the franchise first started by John Carpenter hasn’t been biding its time. Oh no, since the first movie became known as a slasher classic, there has been nine other films trying to expand on Michael’s mythology, and to some extent that of Laurie’s. But if you’re thinking of playing catch-up in time for the latest sequel, you might as well not – because ‘Halloween’ ignores all the original’s sequels that have come before it, and discards perhaps the most significant relationship in the series following the original.
McBride says of the deliberate choice: “I feel like it’s almost one of the things like Batman or something. You see these different artists take on these iconic characters so I think it’s kind of cool to see what different filmmakers will do with a property that is so well known. I would rather have that approach to Michael Myers than everyone just continuing some storyline and just trying to regurgitate these things.”
“I think it’s more interesting to have someone like David or Rob Zombie, these filmmakers that just come and put their own stamp on it for better or worse. I think that’s a more interesting way for a franchise to stay alive than to just continue to beat the same drum over and over again.” And that was how McBride and Green pitched their take to series producer Malek Akkad, whose father produced Carpenter’s original and who now owns the rights to the franchise.
“It does and it doesn’t (hurt),” Akkad says. “First, a little bit, you’re always wondering what the fans’ reaction to that is going to be and to be honest, the franchise has taken a lot of left turns…There are so many arcs in there that you can never satisfy them all, and I think what David and Danny and Jeff (Fradley, co-writer) have done has really cracked it in a way that the fans are going to love. The fans are going to love all the homages they put in the film, there are just so many little Easter Eggs and you know, just kind of touches to the original.”
If that isn’t endorsement for 2018’s ‘Halloween’, then consider this. “It’s a very interesting take on the movie because it references Halloween 1 in every way it can,” Jamie Lee Curtis, who played Laurie as a teenager and whom Green approached to reprise her role, says. “Stylistically, characterologically, visually, emotionally, it follows very similar themes but it’s its own movie so it’s a very clever mash-up, to use a young people’s word, of the first movie in a retelling like a direct sequel but it’s fascinating. When you see what they’ve come up with you’ll be like ‘Wow,’ because it’s a very modern and yet very true movie.”
That Curtis herself has given her stamp of approval over the creative direction which Green and McBride chooses to take their sequel is significant in more ways than one. After all, ‘Halloween’ gets rid of the most important relationship between Michael and Laurie that Carpenter’s hasty sequel ‘Halloween 2’ established, i.e. that Michael and Laurie are brother and sister.
“I was pushing for that removal right off the bat,” McBride says. “I just felt like that was an area where he wasn’t quite as scary anymore, it seemed too personalized. I wasn’t as afraid of Michael Myers anymore because I’m not his f***ing brother so he’s not coming after me. Also you’ve seen it, so wouldn’t it be interesting just to see what would happen if it wasn’t that, and what does that open up for us if it wasn’t this random killing that has affected this character, so it just seemed like new territory to bite off.”
Looking back at the nine films in between the first movie and this sequel, the sibling relationship between Laurie and Michael is probably the most referenced element of the franchise. In ‘Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’ (1988), Michael returns to Haddonfield to kill Laurie’s niece, and then tries again in ‘Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers’ (1989). ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ (1998) and its sequel ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ (2002) saw Curtis return as Laurie, though not with a fair bit of behind-the-scenes tension on the latter. Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ (2007) and ‘Halloween II’ (2009) even further established Michael as Laurie’s baby sister, even though those two films didn’t star Curtis as Laurie.
“We were trying to come up with what our take would be and really just found an original path that more or less takes the first one as our reality,” Green says. “(That film) kind of sets the tone for our story or history and then we jumped forty years into the future and we see how the world today responds to, was affected by, how we meet our characters in a different phase of their life under the reality of this traumatic event and have to come to terms with some of these issues horrifically, in many circumstances, how that is relayed and that’s kind of the fun of how we launch off.”
Judging by the critical reviews and audience reception coming out of Toronto, ‘Halloween’ seems to be a big step in the right direction for the series, which frankly had run out of steam after Zombie’s last ‘Halloween II’. In fact, the previous studio Dimension Films had failed to make another sequel in time, thus losing their rights to the franchise, which then went to Jason Blum’s horror outfit Blumhouse Productions. Now as they say, the rest is history, with reports that another sequel is already in the works. Regardless of how that fares, you can be sure that Laurie and Michael will live on as long as Halloween comes along.