Ruby: Let me just start off by saying that it’s a pretty bad idea to see a horror film with Varun.
Varun: Watching a horror movie is, for me, an act of pure masochism.
RQ: Yeah, but honestly it’s not even scary.
VB: If you’ve seen enough slashers it’s probably not that scary since the film dogmatically clings to the tropes of that genre. But I think there’s enough jump scares in the film to make all but the most hardcore horror fans sweat a little.
RQ: I think the problem is not as much “clinging to the genre,” but clinging to the original — David Gordon Green approaches the project like a loyal Carpenter fanboy, copying everything from the overall structure, the dialogue, the obsessive therapist who saves/ruins the day, to details like how the babysitter’s boyfriend was pinned up to the wall by a kitchen knife. Don’t get me wrong — I was excited at the sight of the familiar font and the ominous jack-o’-lantern during opening credits, but nostalgia only works for so long.
VB: The film does reference the original excessively. It suffers from the same disease as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and doesn’t quite manage to tell a new, compelling story. As a side note, this is sort of how I felt about Carpenter’s original theme too: it is perfect but, in a way, too perfect. It overshadows the 1978 soundtrack and makes this film feel excessively derivative.
I definitely missed the suspense and mystery that made the original terrifying. Michael Myers is still a black box but his actions in the film feel more mechanical than mysterious. He’s not given enough agency to interest me as a character.
RQ: But that’s exactly what makes him so terrifying! His mechanical movement and lack of a face, both literally and metaphorically, offer the audience no way of understanding the character — his killing spree seems anything but motivated. Yes, we do talk about “characterization” and “motivation” all the time in film criticism, but Michael Myers isn’t just another character; rather, he is an abstraction, a shape (The Shape) and an embodiment of our incomprehensible fear. Anyone could be his next target — including you and me.
VB: Because we’re not allowed a glimpse into Michael’s psychology, I can’t buy the idea of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers as two sides of the same coin. The film tried to push that pretty heavily by emphasizing Strode’s “obsession” with Michael and equating them in several ways, including through Strode’s replication of Michael’s old “reanimate and disappear” routine (which was one of my favorite moments in the film). And on the topic of Michael’s psychology, my biggest disappointment with the film was that it refused to explore the subject despite dangling it front of us more than once.
RQ: As far as I understand, Michael’s key character is not having a character/psychology. And I don’t necessarily see the emphasis on Laurie’s “obsession” with Michael as an effort to equate them. To me, the film deals with trauma, both personal and collective/intergenerational. Jamie Lee Curtis carries the film with her remarkable performance once again, eyes burning with cold fire and hands shaking with aged anger.
VB: In our last review, you brought up the “sadistic male gaze” that makes a spectacle of violence in Mandy. Do you think that gaze is present here? I’m asking because it never felt like we saw through Michael’s eyes (like in the original) but exclusively through the eyes of the three female leads.
RQ: As a pretty standard slasher, Halloween definitely offers a spectacle of violence (some very gory deaths, and the headcount definitely exceeds that of the original; not to mention the head-stomping!), but it’s not one that features the helpless female victim. Rather, the film turns women into heroines. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing three generations of women with remarkable resilience standing together against the boogeyman (a man!). Compared to the original where revealingly dressed teenage girls are killed either on the way to pick up the boyfriend or waiting for the boyfriend in bed — this is not just a small step forward.
VB: Like Michael Myers, the Halloween franchise has resurrected itself from the dead with this latest film. And if “the new Loomis” couldn’t bring himself to kill Michael once and for all, something tells me that neither can Blumhouse Productions. I think I’ve had enough horror for a while, though.