It’s been forty years since the first Halloween, directed by John Carpenter, premiered; forty years since Michael Myers haunted, hunted, killed, and terrorised a handful of young people at a small suburban town in the US on October 31, 1978. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who managed to fight off Michael Myers that night, who managed to survive, is now, in David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween, a mother and grandmother who has spent the largest part of her adult life preparing (and preparing her daughter and granddaughter) for another confrontation with the famously mask-wearing Myers. We find that Myers, aided by Green’s complete disregard for all the other Halloween sequels in between, has been residing at a rehabilitation hospital. When he escapes while being transported to another institution, Laurie’s excessive preparation (and Curtis’s superb acting skills) is about to be put to use.
“the new Halloween both ticks off all the items on the list of what a proper horror/slasher film should do and elevates the film to a magnificent new level of artful ebullience”
Combining torturously (but in a good way) long, blood-splattering killing sequences with extraordinarily ravishing shots of quiet introspection, the new Halloween both ticks off all the items on the list of what a proper horror/slasher film should do and elevates the film (and, to a certain degree, the whole genre as well) to a magnificent new level of artful ebullience. Myers does kill a lot of people in this film, violently, cruelly, sardonically, imaginatively – but, while certainly conducive to the entertainment value this and similar films aim to provide, it is not the crushed skulls or maimed bodies that lend this sequel the cultural significance that the original Halloween undoubtedly has attained. Rather, through carefully rendered compositions of Myers in various parts of small-town American suburbia, be they more often than not quiet interiors of family homes at night, or the Halloween-themed orangey-dark alleys, roads, crossroads, and courtyards that bring all these homes together, Green succeeds in transcending the boundaries of a simple “scary movie” and making a film that is also aesthetically and visually pleasing.
These highly atmospheric shots and sequences, arguably the pinnacle of the new Halloween, also give the viewers the opportunity to reflect on the more serious, philosophical questions that the film seeks to raise. These questions have mostly to do with the nature of Michael Myers: in effect, with the nature of evil. For, significantly, the name Michael Myers does not appear anywhere in the final credits. Instead, the masked serial killer is credited simply as “the shape”, thus pointing to the fact that Michael Myers either is not a human being like the rest of the film’s characters and like the rest of us (a view that is supported by the almost supernatural strength he invariably exhibits) or, perhaps more appropriately, is a metaphorical metonym for evil. He is an evil that cannot be seen (he is almost always wearing his signature mask and in the instances at the beginning of the film in which he is not, we only see the back of his head, never the actual face); he is an evil that cannot be heard (he never speaks, does not utter a single word throughout the whole film); he is therefore an evil that cannot be comprehended, no matter how hard his (its?) psychiatrist strives to find a motive behind all the senseless killings, all the illogical brutality. “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you”, Nietzsche famously wrote. But since neither the viewers nor Halloween’s characters are able to gaze into Michael Myers – really gaze into his eyes and soul – the evil he represents, and the evil that is at the centre of Green’s Halloween, will forever be incomprehensible, opaque; as dark as the Halloween night that the pumpkins on October 31 of every year attempt to light.