Forty years ago, your buddy John Carpenter let you hang around the set of a low-rent, low-budget horror film he was making on one condition: you had to wear a bleached-out William Shatner mask and walk around as the film’s psychotic killer. Kind of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” deal - with huge kitchen knives. Worked out well for everyone.
Now you’re back - sort of. In this most recent incarnation of Halloween, your presence is once again more like a favour than a necessity. After all, “The Shape” could be played by almost anyone that’s about six-feet-tall. Your screen-time donning the mask this go-round is (apparently) mostly a cameo appearance, with some additional help adding the laboured breathing that is the only sound the killer makes. The characters (and audience) refer to you as Michael Myers, but since the original screenplay used a more menacing moniker, that nickname has become a sort of code for superfans to tip their hat to you over the years. It’s also the way you’re credited in this film. Both decisions are a clear signal to devotees of the franchise.
Like bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis (in her fifth film playing the equally unkillable Laurie Strode), this Halloween is all about returning to the roots of the original film after so many sequels, remakes, and strange detours (like the completely Michael Myers-less Halloween 3). And in the same clever way the script refers to you one way, but everyone else uses another name, this film is in fact a direct sequel to the first film (ignoring all other incarnations), despite the fact it shares the exact same name as the original. No number to place it in sequence or semicolon after the title to distinguish it from a Rob Zombie-esque remake. Instead, the mere presence of some original cast alerts knowing fans that this film somehow fits in the Halloween timeline (erasing several sequels). At the same time, this non-chronological placement allows people unfamiliar with the film to feel like they can walk in cold. It’s both the laziest and smartest marketing decision I could imagine (Ghostbusters producers, take note). But still, the big question remains: one that you, as The Shape, are uniquely qualified to answer:
Is Halloween (2018) really a return to form?
No. Not really. Director David Gordon Green made enough right decisions to get some of the old gang back together (including John Carpenter himself to score the movie), but this Halloween film is trying to right the wrongs of slasher films of a bygone era. Today, the (great) new wave of horror films no longer tantalize sex or taunt the audience with jump scares. Movies like It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Hereditary, Raw, and Get Out emerge every year and continue to elevate the genre. Blockbuster scares are also alive and well, with It and The Conjuring universe of films still making huge money. Halloween (2018) is an attempt to grapple with the PTSD the first film would have left with its main character, but as an audience member, I’m well past the trauma of bad horror movies from the 80s. But while the film doesn’t feel essential, it also doesn’t feel unnecessary - which is saying something after 10 other Halloween films. This film’s Sarah Connor-inspired victim-turned-defender premise has been tee’d up for the #MeToo / #TimesUp era, and at least serves a purpose - even if that purpose sometimes comes at the expense of the scares.
So where does that leave us? You aren’t the only person to play the man who first perpetrated the Babysitter Murders, nor will you be the last. In fact, the torch has once again been passed, since this film mainly features James Jude Courtney as The Shape (whose previous roles include playing “Huge Goon”, “Mafia Goon”, and “Thug” - such range!). The franchise itself may never die, but hopefully now a certain generation of filmmaking can be put to rest.