Halloween Then, Halloween Now

He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t move quickly. Michael Myers lingers because he’s unstoppable. No matter how quickly we run, he’s steadily sneaking up behind you, waiting to catch you in a dead end, at a locked door. He doesn’t explain why he’s coming for you–though others, including the writers, have decided over the years they must explain for him.

Halloween_(2018)_posterHalloween, the 2018 continuation of the franchise, has been killing it at the box office. It’s the second biggest weekend opening in October ever, just shy of Venom. The best thing this new Halloween did was erase all existing sequels and reboots, bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back to rewrite all of her appearances over the decades. I hadn’t seen any of them until friends held a Halloween II movie night last week. That 1981 sequel–the first sequel–opens right where the 1978 original left off. That first movie never really ended; Michael Myers’ body disappeared, and everyone breathed a (temporary) sigh of relief. Halloween II, directed by Rick Rosenthal (and not John Carpenter), tells us we were foolish to relax.

Why don’t they decapitate him? I yelled as we watched Michael Myers slash his way through Halloween II. You can stab him, light him in flames, but somehow his superhuman body bounces back, more impossibly than before. Michael’s invincibility wasn’t as exaggerated in the first movie. For all his omnipresent malevolence, he was plausibly a man wearing a mask, which is even ripped off so that we can see his youthful face, like Lon Chaney’s Phantom resurrected. But slasher franchises become bigger and bloodier with every new sequel, so in Halloween II, Michael survives the second-story fall… and the six bullets that entered his body. He’s now ridiculously larger than life–the walking undead.

The 2018 Halloween (directed by David Gordon Green) places Michael back in prison, where he’s been since those first attacks on Curtis’s Laurie Strode. When he escapes during his prison transfer, Laurie is waiting for him. No longer the shivering trauma victim of Halloween II, this Laurie Strode is a grandmother whose daughter was taken away from her; an assault survivor who’s barricaded herself in a remote compound in the woods. She’s ready for Michael to return so that she can avenge the murders of 40 years ago.

You’ll probably enjoy this new chapter more if you’re already a Halloween fan. The frightening parts are copies of previous Halloween jump scares. As they say, once you’ve seen Michael Myers pop up behind a sex-starved teenager the first time… The youth become grating so quickly, you find yourself rooting for the killer to hurry up.

But the thrills feel more earned, the need for this sequel more vital, because we’re invited to care about what Laurie’s endured for 40 years. The triggering effects of Laurie’s PTSD, leading to her own isolation and her estrangement from her family, resonate through Curtis’s commitment to something bigger than the scares. She has a legacy to protect: Laurie’s, the victim turned hero. It’s other horror movies’ loss that they aren’t led by a toned, gun-toting 59-year-old woman hellbent on getting her due.

The movie’s success is a double-edged sword, of course: we’re bound to get another sequel, Mikey back from the grave for the tenth time. I suggest Jamie Lee Curtis buy her own Halloween mask, and start knocking off the townspeople herself. Why not… it’s her show now?

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