Halloween 2018: My Worst Nightmares Come True

Photo courtesy of TIFF

Photo courtesy of TIFF

I immediately identified with the 2018 version of Laurie Strode watching the new Halloween sequel last night.

For almost 40 years, I have been plagued with visions, dreams, nightmares, and a general anxiety surrounding Michael Myers—the unstoppable Halloween killer—resulting in a complex that as a kid sometimes forced me to sleep with my parents, and as an adult has seen me awaken drenched in sweat, my teeth and gums sore from incessant grinding.

I watched the original Halloween as a very young child, the beginning of a life-long fascination with the series (with the exception of the Rob Zombie reboots) that culminated last night with Michael’s most recent (and final?) appearance. Like Laurie Strode, I felt a familiar pang of terror when I heard the news that Michael was coming back. Like Laurie Strode, I am older, stronger, and more prepared than ever to deal with that fear. Like Laurie Strode, no matter how much time goes by and no matter how much space has been put between me and my PTSD from seeing that mask, that shape, and that relentless, methodical walk for the first time, I will always buckle in fear at the thought of being forced to confront Michael Myers.

I’ll give you the scoop up front: I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF THIS MOVIE.

But I’m a special case. My heart starts racing at the first sound of Carpenter’s timeless theme, my systems on high alert, my eyes racing around the room looking for each potential point of entry. If you don’t have 40 years of Michael Myers baggage nipping at your heels, then I can’t promise you this film will resonate like it did with me. My wife, for example, was not scared at all. She had high hopes, but left rather unimpressed. I, on the other hand, was on the edge of my seat, gripping the armrests out of sheer stress.

Some things…..

1) It’s the shots. If you’re a student of horror cinema, many of the scenes will play out in your mind before they occur on the screen. The camera sets up and immediately you feel a sinking in your gut because you can then predict what’s about to happen based on the layout. Then you actually see it happen. It’s fucking terrifying. If you’re into cinematography, you’ll have many memorable moments.

2) The Myers mythology is in question. As my friend Luke said to me afterward, “undercutting the mythology is one of the biggest trends in the modern narrative.” However, the aspect that scared me the most is the same element that ruined it for my wife: Michael is in his sixties now, and the film reveals that age through his appearance. For my wife, that made him too human and less scary. For me, it made the experience far too real, cutting too close to home. It was like reality blurring into my deepest, darkest fears, bringing them too near to the surface.

3) It’s Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney (Michael) who steal the show. Michael is more Michael than he’s ever been in this film. The acting is fine, but experiencing the Michael Myers choreography in an updated, modern style is almost too much to handle. He’s more calculated and far less curious this time around. Now that he’s in his sixties, there’s no beating around the bush—every brutal killing is a straightforward, full-on assault right out of the gate. It’s through Michael’s movements that the film holds on to its 40 years of mythology, bringing back old memories, forcing you to ask the question: just how much is myth and how much is real?

Rebooting a sequel to Halloween that completely ignores the eight films that came between was a bold decision. You’re effectively killing the the legacy and the lore of the modern era’s most terrifying movie slasher, and refashioning it to fit this generation’s needs and desires. Yet, while doing just that, the production team managed to include ALL of the details that have seared Michael’s legend into our collective psyche. It’s the perfect hybrid. Imagine It Follows starring Michael Myers, rather than a walking STD, and you’re close. It’s moody, atmospheric, and believable. It’s to Michael Myers and Halloween what Stallone’s Rambo and Rocky Balboa were for those characters: an updated version that sheds much of its dated campiness.

While the film may or may not terrify you, there’s no debating one thing: despite his age, Michael Myers has never been more ruthless and more real on the silver screen. He’s had 40 years to reflect on the past, thinking, planning, dreaming, waiting. Take that for what you will; either the final escapades of a haggard old man who’s well past his prime, or simply the specter of evil that can never be extinguished, never be repressed, and will always come back to haunt you, no matter how much time as passed.

-David Driscoll