HALLOWEEN (2007): From full circle (and very mild box office) to a revision of the 1978 progenitor. Here, Myers is transformed from Evil to Frankenstein’s Monster. Or sympathetic Evil. Well, his head-cracking violence might test the ol’ sympathy. A remake of Halloween seemed inevitable in the late-Nineties/Noughties climate of horror remakes. (Check out 2011’s Scream 4 for a first-class joke on the phenomenon.) But with Rob Zombie at the helm, this could only ever be a very partial facsimile. This remake/instalment throws up so many questions. How much spin on an established franchise should a filmmaker be permitted? If you hire Rob Zombie, you’ll get a Rob Zombie film. But is the savagery of the violence and the redneck preoccupations too far a distance from the almost-comic book base of the Halloween universe? (When you watch Zombie’s take, you suddenly realise how neat and sanitised slasher violence typically is, no matter the gruesome details.) Perhaps this version’s focus on very human and messy trauma - as opposed to the elusiveness of Pure Evil - somewhat justifies the violence. The film’s first third is devoted to Myers’ childhood - situated not within supposed middle-class stability, but in the overt dysfunction fuelled by an irredeemable “white trash” patriarch. Michael’s grabs for solace are mostly directed towards his mother - ready to fight for her son, but mostly ineffective against the wrath of a man who has disavowed any human warmth. The other solace is masks. When Zombie moves into a truncated recreation of Carpenter’s original the film is least successful, at least for someone reasonably well acquainted with Carpenter’s original. The overlay of viciousness and crudity on the broad strikes of the original film is often jarring. (The “Hey jerk, speed kills” bravado of one of the girls is replaced here with “Hey, freak, you want some of the young stuff?”) On the level of characterisation, Zombie’s director’s cut is the preferred choice, and a new presentation of the Loomis character is perhaps the main appeal of the Zombie films. Malcolm McDowell’s incarnation is a spikier customer, and more socially adept, than Pleasence’s blueprint. Even so, his sense of failure with Michael extends to his sense of failure with relationships in general. (Loomis to Michael: “In a weird way, you've become like my best friend. It just shows you how fucked-up my life is.”) On the level of endurance, the Theatrical Cut of the film is easier going, sparing us a rape scene that is one demonstration of miserable humanity too many. 

HALLOWEEN II (2009): the sequel is superior in that it is unshackled – it’s a sequel to a remake rather than a remake of anything else (although Zombie does nod towards the 1981  sequel with a masterfully intense 15 minute-sequence set within a hospital). And so the Halloween Theme does not even appear until the end credits, the deteriorating mask struggles to keep on Michael’s face, Michael’s mother fixation is realised via Lynchian dreamscapes. The night-time shooting (on grungy 16mm) barely illuminates the objects in its fields of vision - such feels a degree of consolation in the moments of appalling violence - and yet it has a striking beauty. Zombie's presentation of a traumatised Laurie is challenging, and even ripe for mockery: she is a wounded child daring her support networks to tolerate her. And by extension, Zombie’s work isn’t easy to digest; the rounds of intensity only relaxing into nihilistic sentiment, the general tone a non-melodic pound. Loomis is a ruined man here, grabbing onto a newfound celebrity like his life depended on it. There is that question mark of whether the Loomis of the previous film had the capacity to become such a narcissistic jerk, but perhaps we’re watching a cocktail of trauma, guilt and sudden fame. This Halloween film more than any other to date highlights an intriguing, multilayered question within the Halloween universe: what level of guilt should Loomis feel in relation to Michael’s rampages? The violence of this film is even more ghastly than last time out. In that it is so unsanitised does this make it oddly social responsible? Situated within a series steeped in a comic book base, it comes off as unbearably cruel. Zombie’s treatise takes the celebrated Final Girl of the slasher genre and says she is not coming out the other end, if at all, without torment. Zombie's Halloween II is certainly something different for the series, but does it any way reflect why you’d come out to experience a new instalment in the series? 

HALLOWEEN (2018): Its ending is superbly enigmatic and Carpenter et al.'s score is a thing of dark beauty, but it would seem to me this 'forty year later' direct sequel can only fire on all cylinders when watched back-to-back with the 1978 original. I'm not talking about its inspired switcheroos with iconic imagery: you don't need the original firmly in mind to appreciate those. With the 1978 original still pulsing away in the synapses, however, you immediately recognise how Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has become the gun-toting obsessive that Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) was, circa 1978...rather than getting caught up in the question of whether Laurie's psychology is a semi-realistic presentation of long-term trauma. Watched back-to-back, a strong thematic thread - that the touch of Evil forces a dramatically heightened, even comically heightened, response from the innocents it touches - becomes a clear and defining characteristic of the Halloween universe. Given our knowledge of Laurie's former delicacy, and how her encounter has now transformed her, the Loomis character is also retroactively deepened and dimensionalised. We, after all, never knew a pre-Michael Loomis. The psychology of 2018's Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) is another response to Michael's pure, unadulterated Evil. Evil casts its soul-sickening spells as much as it does create its traumas. Best of all, the new film engages with the question it creates: why Michael - shorn of his body count of ‘interim’ sequels - would still cast such a powerful spell over survivors, researchers, psychiatrists and - no doubt - many more? As a teenage character points out, Michael's 1978 killing spree is hardly an extensive one. But you can see why people become obsessed with Michael. They sense his energy (or is it his energy wallops them?) and they sense his awareness. The body count is immaterial: people know this blank slate is the real, unstoppable deal. He does not speak and cannot be provoked to do so. "Say something!" is the catch-cry of those who seek some reason or explanation in Michael. "Do as I say!" is the counter cry of those who know not to mess with a primal force and instead seek to protect those in his path. Taken on its own terms, Halloween (2018) feels an earnest (fairy)tale about inter-generational trauma, with a great score, and a way too over-the-top patriarchal abuser. Watched within hours of the original, though, the perspective is quite different. You can enjoy each jigsaw piece falling into place, seeing how the impact of Evil is cyclical and traverses time. 

HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021): What to make of this title? Crudely, it signifies an escalation in body count. Semi-eloquently, it indicates the toll of (The Shape’s brand of) Halloween on the the folk of Haddonfield. In many respects, I was struck by how tonally Halloween Kills feels of a piece with the despised Halloween: Resurrection. Consistently loud, edgy and bombastic, but effectively so; not a fear piece, but a hyped-up doom piece, with The Shape always enigmatically rendered, but minus Busta Rhymes fan-alienating antics. The townsfolk are the protagonist of the piece - an anxious collective mind reinforced by a visual emphasis on close-ups - with the Strode women but one part of the traumatised canvas. And the evocations of a traumatised state further escalate through the continual display of bodily harm (many a body “keeps the score”) crosscut with escalating town madness. It’s quite a ride. And in its blunt way it gives one’s moral barometer a workout. Perhaps I am bestowing a level of craft on this sequel that was unintended. But intent and outcome are two separate things and this emerges a surprisingly rich sequel - and slasher pic. For all the grue, the overall tone is not mean or bullish, bar an odd, cheap yuk where a young nurse advancing on Michael, weapon blazing, is flippantly dispatched; her resolve, in essence, mocked. Laurie further becomes Loomis, pontificating on the nature of Evil, while all hell breaks loose 'outside'. She is mostly sidelined from the physical action, which drew a large level of criticism. I admire the creative team’s gumption for letting history repeat twice. (Laurie was 'passive' in 1981’s sequel, too.) There’s the broader context of an announced trilogy – Halloween 2018 being Part 1 and Kills, Part 2 - and thus the feeling that Kills is (cynically) saving Laurie’s proactivity for Part 3, Halloween Ends. But Laurie feels the spiritual centre of this impressive, roller-coaster instalment.

HALLOWEEN ENDS (2022): “A departure” is how John Carpenter summed up this instalment during its post-production. My word. The moment the opening credits appear in the creepy blue Halloween III-font, you know the filmmakers’ are taking us on a new path. Or an altered one, at least. Like the 1982 non-Myers sequel, the power of the mask is keenly evoked. However, as we see here, this power can now be subdued by the central thread of the Blumhouse trilogy: the accumulating power of the traumatised. As we find, they made more inroads in their quest against Michael (in Halloween 2018 and Halloween Kills) than they - or we - realised. Their efforts are retroactively affirmed. Laurie has come to replace her earlier ruminations on Michael - as a diabolical force fuelled by a town’s fear - with the sense that evil is more free-floating. Michael may be a spectacular example of evil embodied, but that embodiment makes him vulnerable. Furthermore, placing Michael to the sidelines, even largely out of sight, à la Halloween III and 6, makes Michael a less imposing figure. Yet I didn’t feel bothered, those previous films having cushioned this latest venture into Myers-sidelining recalibration - and, more to the point, Michael took a battering in the previous instalments. He's a man in retreat, in hiding. Of course, his stature would be diminished. For Michael, this is more Halloween Epilogue than any grandiose Ending. What we actually have at play with the title is an acronym-of-sorts: Evil Never Dies. And the film, a love letter to early-to-mid Eighties Carpenter in its themes, characterisations and mise en scéne - most explicitly Christine (1983), but also The Thing (1982) and Starman (1985) - is most confidently and engagingly-crafted. And this instalment nails it home that David Gordon's Halloween trilogy is a three-film treatise on Small-town Trauma.

1978-1988 / 1989-2002 / 2007-2022

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