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Halloween

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John Carpenter’s Halloween, to give the 1978 film its full title, has an extraordinary legacy. On its release it became the most commercially successful independent film of all time; it helped solidify the elements of the slasher sub-genre that became a staple of 80s cinema, a rite of passage for many a filmgoer and a ripe area for critical study. John Carpenter’s Halloween also spawned a franchise that has continued for forty years, through multiple sequels and remakes. Any new addition to the Halloween lineage, therefore, must strike a balance between acknowledging this legacy and declaring its own identity. David Gordon Green’s Halloween achieves this balance by narratively ignoring every film in the franchise since 1978. This frees Green and his co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride from worrying about consistency, which is a relief because Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) have been through so many transfigurations that consistency died a grisly death long ago. The new film can therefore focus on its own identity, closely tied to the iconic figures of the series. The latter is as implacable, relentless and silent as ever, as performers James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle convey the unknowable evil that Michael has always represented. It is perhaps a heavy-handed device that the viewer never sees Michael’s face, and the only sounds that we hear from him are heavy breathing, but this does not detract from the imposing Shape that lurks in the frame, his iconic white mask now battered and dirty but still unmistakably menacing. Green stages several set pieces that convey a palatable sense of fear. In one bravura sequence, captured in a single take, Michael enters the frame in the foreground and watches a woman through a window, his reflection in the glass standing in for that of the viewer. Then he moves out of shot, only to reappear in the background while the woman inside the house continues oblivious. The climax of the sequence echoes the beginning and is genuinely shocking, despite being clearly telegraphed. Other set pieces also emphasise Michael’s power and brutality, but the film’s master stroke is its presentation of Laurie. Curtis is fresh and exciting, a sympathetic embodiment of dealing with trauma. Halloween’s willingness to engage with PTSD from a female perspective is a development of the genre’s long-established trope of the Final Girl, as three generations of the Strode family – including Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) – reclaim a narrative too long held by men. Whereas the original Halloween and so many slashers since (not to mention other genres and a little thing called the real world) emphasise male subjugation of women, Halloween 2018 shows female wisdom, ingenuity, compassion and the determination to take control. It might have been even more progressive were the film been written and directed by women, but by committing to this female assertion, Green shows that challenges to patriarchy and its damaging affects, neatly represented by Michael Myers and his ilk, are the responsibility of everyone that wants monstrosity to be contained and curtailed.

Laurie

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1 Comment

  1. […] II setting. But standing masked head and shoulders in the horror genre was David Gordon Green’s Halloween, a triumphant return of this classic series that provided genuine old school tension combined with […]

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