40 years after the release of the slasher film that changed the game, Halloween and Michael Myers are back and so are returning franchise alumni Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, and John Carpenter. With this latest revival being spearheaded by Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions, three of the 25YL crew had been counting down the days until its release in October 2018, and here are their thoughts after seeing the latest return of The Shape.
Sitting at the table today are:
Jon Sheasby (Managing Film Editor)
The first Halloween film I ever saw as a child was Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and I’m not joking when I say that its final reveal (featuring a very young Danielle Harris) scarred me for years. That being said, I’m a huge fan of the franchise and was greatly anticipating this 40th-anniversary showdown between Michael and Laurie.
Laura Stewart (Executive Editor/Content Strategist)
I have only ever watched the original Halloween, never seen any of the others, so for me, this was like being brand new to the franchise really. And that was back in the ’90s, so I didn’t really remember anything.
Ashley Harris (Film Editor)
I’ve seen the original, Halloween H20: 20 Years later, and the first (for sure) Rob Zombie one. Despite not being a devotee of the franchise, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this instalment. I made a little flipbook at work counting down the days until its release. Good times.
Plot: Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Main Cast: Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer), Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), Vicky (Virginia Gardner), Allyson (Andi Matichak), The Shape (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney).
Jon Sheasby: Welcome, ladies! I want to start at the very end of the film. What were your initial reactions upon leaving the cinema, and did you both stay until the very end of the credits?
Ashley Harris: I always stay until the very end of the credits of everything. My friends hate going to movies with me because I will find out who provided craft services at each location. I had a lot of feelings about that ending. I really loved how personal of a spin this one took compared to the original. Laurie was always a focus, but it was clear through this film that she and Michael had a serious vendetta in a way that only 40 years between films can do. It was interesting to me that the decision was made to involve the whole family, too. I think I would have preferred if it stayed more between Michael and Laurie but seeing three strong women command the final act of a film is pretty cool, too.
Laura Stewart: I thought it was awesome! Much better than I was expecting. I loved the very ’80s nostalgia and female kick-assness. I did not stay until the end of the credits, though, which was clearly a bad move! What did I miss? Even without seeing the end it felt like it was left wide open. That there was more story to come.
JS: Well, the end credits did reveal that Michael is alive (we hear his breathing loud and clear) having survived the inferno, which if I’m being honest, left me feeling cold. There had already been talks of numerous sequels that were in the planning stages, and we know there will never actually be a final Halloween movie, but it left me wondering where do we go next? Why put Laurie and her daughter, Karen, and granddaughter, Allyson, through all that pain and suffering if this is not the end? If it truly is the end of Laurie’s story as it’s being marketed (again), how can she now live a happy life if Michael once again returns to kill others in future films?
LS: In a sense, it’s her granddaughter who holds the vendetta now. Like Laurie, all her friends have been murdered by Michael, so I’m guessing it will be her torch to carry now. I wonder if Jamie Lee Curtis will be back for any others, or maybe in a much smaller role then pass it on?
AH: I felt cold, as well. I love sequels and reimaginings, but I just don’t understand the direction of where the film goes next. Also, I agree with Laura’s take that it seems as though the knife was passed to Allyson. Throughout the film there were allusions to that, I think, illustrated through her connection to her grandmother and her intent to keep Laurie as a part of her family’s life. Plus, that shot of her still gripping the knife at the end makes me feel like that is the direction the film will take which, for me, takes away from that sense of vendetta a bit.
JS: That’s my biggest problem with the ending. Laurie wins just like at the end of H20, but if she’s brought back just to be killed again like in Halloween: Resurrection, then I don’t want to see that movie. Again. It undermines the entire film.
LS: It’s funny because I haven’t seen the others, but it felt like part two and there would be room for more. I guess they want a whole new generation of fans to watch Halloween for the first time and to ignore everything that happened in between, which I hear is a shame because Halloween II is really good?
JS: Halloween II is a good film, yes, and so is H20 for that matter. I really like that movie a lot. And I agree with the passing of the torch to Allyson, who seems like Laurie’s natural successor.
Throughout the Halloween promotional tour, Jamie Lee Curtis has been very vocal about the themes of the film and its place within the #MeToo era. She often talks about how the main crux of the story focusses on women taking back the narrative and taking back the power from the perpetrator. About women who’ve suffered through years of trauma and PTSD being able to fight back and reclaim what was stolen from them. About the effects of trauma on three generations of Strode women, which is integral to Laurie’s relationship with both her daughter and granddaughter throughout the film. To me, that was probably the thing I enjoyed most about this film. Seeing the empowerment of Laurie and Karen and Allyson, who are stronger together than they are separate. How did these three characters and their roles within Halloween work for the two of you?
LS: It felt pretty authentic to me. I liked Laurie’s role as being a bit of a crazy old lady, who has driven her daughter mad with all her “war” preparation throughout her childhood. I liked their dynamic. The relationship being better between grandchild and grandparent has been done in movies quite a lot, though.
JS: I have a lot of problems with the film, but I think the majority of the character work was spot on. Especially the Strodes and Karen’s husband, Ray (Toby Huss), who hasn’t aged a day since Carnivàle.
AH: I love what you mention about how the women are stronger as a collective than they are on their own. The fabric of humanity is that way, as well, which is easy to forget or ignore in our increasingly individualistic society. Anytime I see that on-screen it really hits me and I love how powerful of a decision it was in this Halloween especially. It really broke down those “scared women” tropes.
LS: I thought exactly the same thing, Jon! And I totally agree, Ashley. It was really powerful seeing those three women looking down on Michael in the basement. There seemed to be quite a lot of role reversal, the hunter becoming the hunted. When Laurie fell off the roof and then disappeared when Michael looked away, she had turned the tables on him. There was definitely a feeling of an army of strong women, which makes a lot of sense now you have mentioned the #MeToo thing, Jon.
JS: Absolutely, and I imagine they’re all tied to contracts that’ll see them return in future films, so I guess we’ll maybe see them again as early as next year according to Bloody Disgusting.
LS: Oh, great! I am genuinely looking forward to that. This film definitely won me over, but what were your problems with the film?
JS: Oh, boy. Here’s where I become the Debbie Downer of the conversation. I think my problems all stem from the astonishingly positive press the film received leading up to its release. Its critical reviews are through the roof and its box office is about as impressive as anything released this year given its budget and place within the movie landscape, but I can’t help but feel that it was all too safe. It was too familiar and didn’t deliver on the film I wanted it to be. I know that’s always the biggest problem when discussing a movie (projecting the movie I wanted to see rather than the movie I was given), but I just wanted and expected something more. I wanted something new, but I walked away thinking that we got a good slasher film—a good Halloween film—but nothing more.
LS: I agree, totally. It was a really fun film, but not mind-blowing. I think perhaps this wave of horror nostalgia that we are having at the moment probably bigged it up more than it would have otherwise. Though I am truly loving the nostalgia, I must admit.
AH: I agree it felt very safe. Also, parts of it were so much like a bunch of other things I’ve seen in other slasher movies, and the frequency with which that is happening is disappointing. Then there’s the aspect of social justice films and their obvious agenda permeating so many new films that gets a bit repetitive no matter how cool it is to see in each individual film, specifically the all-woman fight against Michael in Halloween.
JS: Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally ready for a new Halloween movie every year, but the early reviews described the film as brutal, with lots of humour, and a new twist on the Halloween mythos. And I didn’t get that from my screening. Literally, nobody jumped, not once, and there were a few laughs mainly from the standout character that is Julian (Jibrail Nantambu), but the only brutally violent moment in the film was the head stomp. Mostly everything else happened off-screen, and I get that it was paying respectful homage to the original—all while smartly mirroring and inverting the iconography of the ’78 film—but at some point, you have to make your own movie and not the movie John Carpenter might have made if he ever directed a Halloween sequel.
LS: Yeah, it definitely wasn’t brutal. Though I guess I do like things to be left to the imagination, so I didn’t mind not seeing all the killings being played out. Of course, I don’t know too much about the mythology of Michael, but I really thought it was going to go down a more supernatural route after the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium scene with the mask being held up.
JS: Let’s circle back to the beginning of the film since you mentioned it, Laura. Of course, the mask had to find its way back to Michael somehow, but this was a different opening to what I had expected. I really enjoyed the start, actually. It sets up the world almost right away and features some of the best cinematography and production design in the film. What were your thoughts on the opening to the film?
AH: Likewise, I loved how quickly we were thrown into that world. The credits and music before the first scene were just incredible, too. I felt instantly like I was in a Halloween movie which was exactly what I wanted and, honestly, not sure I would get, especially as immediately as it happened.
LS: I agree. As someone who didn’t know much at all about the franchise, I clearly got the story straight away, and the score really is amazing. It couldn’t be anything but Halloween.
JS: Agreed, yeah. Anyone can enjoy this film, and I suppose that is why it was ultimately just called Halloween. It works on its own, which is a testament to David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, who can all walk away with their heads held high. Those three have collaborated on some of my favourite comedies from the past decade or so, specifically Vice Principals, so when it was announced that they were the creative team to bring The Shape back to life, I think it took everyone by surprise. With so many in-jokes and nods to the previous films, how did you react to the tone of the film? Was the humour, violence, and general horror tropes pitched just right or no?
AH: Here comes the curmudgeon! I really did not like the overtly humorous elements. Vicky’s (Virginia Gardner) babysitting sequence completely took me out of the film. That whole scene was a bust for me, and it was really difficult to get back into “horror mode” in my brain. I had a great time with the horror tropes, though, specifically the callbacks to ’80s horror.
JS: That kid, Julian, was adorable!
LS: I did love that kid! He was awesome! I have to say that when Michael donned the mask, even though I’m not a huge fan, I got chills. It was a very powerful and sinister moment. They did the mask well, and it looked more like the original than the others I’ve seen.
AH: I love the age-positive decision of making the mask look as weathered as they did!
JS: The mask did look great. Very Rob Zombie Halloween in its aged quality.
LS: Michael must be pretty old, so can he carry on forever? Or was the scene in the sanitarium hinting at the mask holding some sort of power, something that could also be passed on a bit like Laurie’s legacy?
JS: One thing that really struck me was how all the inmates at the sanitarium reacted to the mask, but Michael didn’t budge. I really dug the decision that The Shape is bigger than Michael himself. They are not mutually connected, which is something I’d love to see down the line. To actually kill Michael at some point and have The Shape take on a different form. I also love that original star Nick Castle and the new Michael, James Jude Courtney, were both credited as The Shape.
LS: I didn’t notice that! That is cool.
JS: Yeah, almost as if Michael is only Michael until he puts on the mask. From that point forward he is The Shape. He’s more than just a man.
AH: I loved that, too. The way everyone reacted but he didn’t. It really adds to the aura of The Shape, and how powerful a presence that it.
LS: I am always fascinated by the way mental health is portrayed in the movies. This was totally inaccurate, of course, but there’s always an extra creepiness if people who are ill are seemingly closer or more sensitive to evil (like they have some sixth sense). It was only the patients who reacted. Michael didn’t, which suggests he is not mentally ill and just pure evil as his doctors have always said.
JS: Exactly. He is evil. Some people are just nothing more and nothing less than pure evil. That was a twist I did not see coming, though. Michael’s doctor donning the mask late in the film to feel how Michael feels. I’m glad he got what was coming to him.
Since you both mentioned it above, there’s no time like the present to talk about Mr. John Carpenter and his new take on his iconic score. Now with his son and godson, who have released three fantastic studio albums together, Halloween sees them collaborate on their first official soundtrack as a threesome and I loved every second of the new score. The subtle variations on the iconic theme such as “The Shape Burns” is wonderful to hear, and brings an operatic, modern feel to his iconic minimalist composition. I’ve listened to it a few times since I saw the film and it’s some of his best work. Very Italian in style. I loved it.
AH: I loved it to death! As you note, the variations on the theme were so subtle but incredible and I couldn’t get enough! I’ve listened to it several times myself and just can’t get over how beautiful it is. It really makes Halloween unique in so much as the score is an element to the evil being portrayed rather than simply a trigger that “something scary is coming.”
LS: Totally agree with you both. It is beautiful. While the instruments used were more modern, they perfectly preserved the sound and feeling of the original.
JS: I think something about the film that I also really admire is the screenplay, which isn’t really being talked about that much, but there are some really clever moments that comment on society’s obsession with violence. We have the two true-crime podcasters, Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) and Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall), who go to visit Michael in the opening of Halloween and then Laurie after, which is clearly a play on our obsession with something like Serial, which is as riveting and entertaining as any film or TV show in recent years.
Also, there’s one point in the movie where Allyson’s dickhead boyfriend, Cameron Elam (Dylan Arnold), wonders why Michael is such a big deal because he only killed a handful of people 40 years ago. That line really stayed with me because for these kids, growing up in the age of social media and the world as we know it, there are monstrous atrocities on the news every day that have become so normalised that something like Michael’s legacy is almost meaningless to those who weren’t affected by it. To them, a madman killing a bunch of people one night could be any random Tuesday during any given week, which says a lot about our world and how kids are so desensitised to violence.
AH: I’m so glad you brought that up. As a devout humanist who fully believes that every life is precious and valuable to the collective human experience, that line and the genuine place it came from in the world was a gut punch. With mass shootings being such a common occurrence, for example, I have heard people say “only four were killed, etc.” That’s a real-world view. That the less death the less impact, and that Halloween taps into that speaks volumes on society and how we conceptualise violence.
LS: Definitely, it is a huge commentary on how things have changed since the original when guns weren’t so prevalent. What Michael did on-screen then was far more shocking than what it is now. I think that’s why I am glad they didn’t step it up a gear and show us everything, as what he does is still truly horrific and shocking and we don’t need to see it. Is it a commentary on itself in a way? Did films like this make real-life events like this more blasé? The fact that he still uses a knife or a hammer is still what makes him scary. If he used a gun we would be completely desensitised to the murders, as we are so used to it in the news. It’s probably slightly different for Jon and me, as it is truly shocking news if there is a mass shooting of any kind in the UK. It just never happens here.
JS: I’m always on the side of no when people accuse horror films or video games or artists like Marilyn Manson as being partially or fully responsible for influencing truly evil people, but it is true that real life horror sometimes feels as though it’s somehow lesser because we’re so exposed to everything now that some horrendous crimes do seem—as much as it makes my skin crawl to say it—blasé. I mean, the UK is going through such a horrific period of murders right now that you almost switch on the news to see how many people have been killed today. It’s like we expect someone is going to get killed in broad daylight in any major city here during the day and it is barely even news anymore. It’s just another body added to the tally, which is incredibly frightening and sad.
LS: It is true. I think Myers manages to remain terrifying, though. It’s in his demeanour—the cool, calm tactician. Again, as I don’t know anything about the rest of the franchise, was there ever a reason why he goes after Laurie all the time or was she just the one that got away?
JS: Well, Halloween II reveals that they are brother and sister, which has been retconned (correctly so) for this film. The family bond has always been a part of the franchise, which saw Laurie’s daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), introduced in Halloween 4—before she was retconned and Laurie’s son, John Tate (Josh Hartnett), was introduced in H20—but I’m glad in this new film, Laurie and Michael have no connection other than that one night 40 years ago. It makes it scarier that way.
LS: Yes, I liked that. I had heard they were siblings in later films and didn’t like that take at all. So she’s purely a random prey, which makes it even scarier. It could happen to any of us!
AH: That’s part of what I love so much about what I have seen from this franchise, and well, horror in general. How randomly the victims are chosen. Haddonfield sounds like such an “every town” and the kids are all average, typical teenagers, that such a force as evil as Michael/The Shape infiltrating the town speaks to the horrors of the world and how we’re all susceptible.
JS: Totally, which is why The Strangers films work as well as they do, because they feature completely random acts of violence. Honestly, the Halloween timeline is so messy that it’d be impossible to coherently explain it to someone who has only seen the original and this new direct sequel, but while I have many problems with the new film, it’s a good starting place to reestablish who and what and where and now it’s a matter of moving forward.
OK. One final question. We know this isn’t the end of the franchise and we might be seeing The Shape return as early as next year, so what would you both like to see? Should the story of Laurie and the Strode family finally be laid to rest, or do you think Allyson is now our heroine to follow for years to come?
AH: As much as I think Allyson will be taking over, I really want to see Laurie and the entire Strode family taking on The Shape. The film did such a wonderful job of showing how Michael impacted not just Laurie’s life, but her parenting and her daughter’s life, then by default, her granddaughter’s life, as well. It would be disappointing, for me, to see that essence gone. Plus, as we noted, their power was in their shared goal of taking on Michael and reclaiming their lives, and I think you lose a little bit of that if one or more of the Strode women isn’t a fixture moving forward.
LS: I totally agree. I think the next film may be Curtis’ last of the Halloween franchise on-camera. I kind of hope she doesn’t die at the hands of Michael, though. I hope that the next film is about the three of them hunting him down. What about you? What do you want to see happen?
JS: My preference would be to see The Shape take on a new form. I don’t want Laurie to die for the third time, but I know Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis is what sells tickets, and I’m hoping that if Laurie does return that we get a definitive ending to her story. Open endings are totally fine, but this is now the third time Jamie Lee has delivered her final performance as Laurie Strode and as much as I love the woman, I really need some closure. Either Michael or Laurie’s story has to end. Again. But this time there’s no coming back.
I want to thank Laura and Ashley for taking the time to join me for this latest 25YL roundtable. So, what are your thoughts on the latest Halloween sequel/remake/reboot? Did it surpass your expectations and live up to the hype caused after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, or did you walk away feeling it was played too safe and that no real risks were taken during the runtime of this 11th instalment in the franchise canon? Please leave a comment and let us know by following the information about our social media accounts, which can be found below. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@JonSheasby), and we’ll continue the conversation over there.