I wrote this archival piece nearly two years ago, and nearly one year before Halloween (2018) was released upon the world (exactly one year ago today, in fact). More than just a musing on what I thought David Gordon Green might add to the franchise, it was a reflection on growing up alongside the Halloween franchise, how it forged my love for the genre, and how absurdly, ridiculously excited I was, at fourteen years old, for Halloween: H20 (1998) -- the first Halloween sequel to seize on a 20-year anniversary, and to bring Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise. At this point, production on the next entry in the franchise, Halloween Kills, which returns all the major participants from Halloween (2018) for another go-round with the Shape, is well underway. While we all anticipate this next sequel, let's go back in time a little for a melancholy dose of watching both Michael Myers as well as the calendar...
As a kid, I was a devout Michael Myers fan. Granted, I was a horror junkie in general, but there was something about that white-masked boogeyman that fueled my imagination and struck fear into my bones like lightning. I can still remember my elementary-school self waiting impatiently in the living room, on Halloween, for my older brother and his friend to complete their dead hockey player costumes by gluing half-pucks to their faces. It took so long, and I was so antsy to get out there and trick-or-treat, that I flipped on the television hoping to find distraction in the cadre of Halloween-appropriate titles sure to be on. While surfing, a burst of screams and frantic chaos in the dark caught my attention. Feeling good about my choice, I’d put down the remote and began to watch.
That was how I first discovered John Carpenter’s Halloween.
Okay, fine, it was only the last ten minutes or so, but as a young horror-loving fiend, what better time to tune in? The film was at its frenzied peak, and the suddenness and ambiguity of the terror helped to heighten the experience. Who was this man in the mask? Who was this old man in the trench coat trying to stop him? Why here, why now? What is this?
I saw it all — Laurie Strode fleeing and shrieking across the street from masked maniac Michael Myers; her frantic pounding against the locked front door; the couch attack, the closet attack, and the final confrontation where Michael was unmasked and Dr. Sam Loomis shot him directly in the jumpsuit.
For a moment, everything was quiet. The shot had knocked Michael offscreen into a back room. Surely he was dead, right?
Loomis ran into that same back room after him. Michael waited in the darkness — still, and very much alive.
At that moment, seeing his unnatural stillness framed by darkness, I was petrified. Beyond petrified. I couldn’t move — something so simple as a scary mask in silhouette, with a bit of inhuman breathing, and I couldn’t fucking move.
Five more gunshots rang out. Michael flew backwards off the balcony and landed with a crash on the cold hard October ground. Finally, he appeared dead.
But after a quick cut away, his body was gone.
And thus began a forty-year legacy.
After that fateful television viewing of Halloween, I was hooked. One by one I sought every remaining sequel, skipping Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, as I’d go on to learn that it didn’t feature the babysitter murderer known as The Shape. (I’d eventually mature and warm to this entry, which I now watch every Halloween.) This love for the series continued for years. I bought every Halloween available on VHS, including multiple copies of the original. I bought every magazine or book or figure or poster or anything that bared the face of Michael Myers. Had there been a Halloween secret society, I’d’ve been a charter member.
1995 rolled around and I was in the fifth grade. One Friday in September, a childhood chum named Barry and I were swapping weekend plans on the bus ride home.
“My sister’s taking me to see Halloween 6 tonight,” Barry said casually.
My face went full :O and I begged him to take me along.
He did, and soon after, he became a boyhood best friend.
Flash forward a few years. It’s 1998, and I’m in eighth grade. My love for horror continues, and sometimes I’m successful in forcing my friends to go along with it. Scream 2 had proved such a massive box office success that Dimension Films re-released the sequel for encore showings. And so of course I went. It was then, in the popcorn-smelling dimness of the auditorium, that one particular trailer stuck out among all others:
From the audience’s point of view, we glided down long hallways as heavy winds made curtains billow and dry autumn leaves dance across the floor. An ominous voice growled, “he has pursued her relentlessly…”
Meanwhile, the tick-tock piano music in the background sounded so familiar…
“He has hunted her…everywhere…”
I knew I’d heard that music somewhere…
“Twenty years later, the face of good and the face of evil will meet…one last time.”
The music was a track called “Laurie’s Theme” from the Halloween soundtrack, and the trailer, which suddenly flashed to Jamie Lee Curtis looking through a window directly into the darkened eyeholes of Michael Myers, would end with the Halloween theme and the title Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later shrieking across the screen.
What I felt at that moment was indescribable — an insane amount of shock and surprise and excitement that I still haven’t felt for a movie to this day. It was euphoria. It was like meeting a superhero, or winning the lottery. A franchise that had seemed all but dead after the abysmal Curse of Michael Myers was suddenly back with a vengeance, and not only that, it was also hailing the return of Laurie Fucking Strode, the ultimate final girl.
In the dark, I could feel my friends look over at me and make their own :O faces. They didn’t care nearly as much for horror and the Halloween franchise as I did, but I could feel their excitement for me. And they were right. At that moment, I didn’t care about anything else. Once I regained my composure, I excitedly ran out of the auditorium and to the nearest payphone. (Yes, a payphone — it was 1998, ok? The only people with cell phones at that time were Mulder and Scully.) There was one person who needed to know – Barry, my horror movie/Halloween partner in crime – and he needed to know NOW. I was overjoyed, over the moon, and not thinking clearly. I felt like a celebrity, as if I had been the first person in the world to experience such groundbreaking news, and it was my privilege and duty to alert the masses.
Seeing that trailer was magical. To be taken completely by surprise still lives on in my mind as one of the happiest moments I’ve ever experienced. And here I am, nearly 20 years later, and the idea behind what I am saying – undying devotion for what is essentially Halloween 7 – sounds completely ludicrous. But that’s the kind of magic I suspect dies off as your childhood does.
By the time I got back to the auditorium, Jada Pinkett was already dead. I was so excited by this revelation that the exploits of Ghostface and the stabbing of Sarah Michelle Gellar barely registered in my mind. Suddenly, Scream 2 didn’t mean shit in the face of Halloween: H20.
For months after that, I waited impatiently for the poster to appear in the theater’s lobby — to confirm that it wasn’t all just a dream, but a reality. And once it arrived, I stared at that poster and marveled at The Shape’s mask, and took in the pure pleasure of knowing it was coming soon…
Consumer-grade internet had just become a thing (we’re talking AOL 3.0), so naturally, for the next several months until Halloween: H20’s release, I would Ask Jeeves and AOL Netfind everything I could about this new sequel. I’d click over and over on distributor Dimension Films’ official website and watch the trailers and look at the photos. Every fold of my brain needed to be saturated with every bit of info I could find. Though I’m now of the age where I depend significantly on an internet lifestyle, I can also remember what life was like before it. Back then, if you wanted to know about the next installments of Phantasm or Halloween, you only had Fangoria Magazine. And all you were allowed to know about their productions was what Fangoria allowed you to know – a quote here, description of a scene there, and topped off with a publicity still that, nine times out of ten, wasn’t indicative of the final film. Back then, I wasn’t in the habit of bookmarking film sites and receiving daily news updates about projects in production. Nowadays, as a grumpy adult with the internet on his phone, I can assure you that finding out about a new Halloween sequel coming soon in the form of an article by an online pipsqueak movie writer isn’t nearly as magical as seeing that same sequel’s trailer in a theater for the first time — the very first sign to you that it existed.
Always the pioneer, I began assembling my own version of Halloween: H20 “special features” on a VHS tape based on material recorded off television; it included a Sci-Fi Channel hour-long making-of special; an MTV thing where the cast and story writer, Kevin Williamson, hosted Dawson’s Creek trivia in between music videos; and multiple appearances of the cast on late-night talk shows. I watched that tape over and over until I could finally see the film for myself.
Opening weekend, I finally did — myself and a whole host of my chums I’d likely strong-armed into going. My eighth-grade self was not disappointed. Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis holding an ax and furiously bellowing her brother’s name gave me chills. By film’s end, I was legitimately shocked and a little heartbroken to see Michael lose his head. I was very happy with it, and my chums seemed to have enjoyed themselves as well. After months of foreplay, the big moment had arrived: the rolling out of Halloween: H20 felt like the successful culmination of a plan I had nothing to fucking to do with, yet I couldn’t have been more pleased with myself. At home I put together a framed Michael Myers memorial, complete with birthdate and death date, because I was a silly nerd/psychopath. Too young to understand the concept of commerce over creativity, I felt assured Halloween: H20 would be Michael Myers’ final hurrah (LOL), and while that made me sad, I felt that it was a perfect finale. (As an “adult,” I look at Halloween: H20 with a more critical eye, as its shortcomings are no longer veiled by childhood romanticism. The mask, which changes frequently, even relying on CGI for one scene, is terrible; the California shooting location lacks that small-town and autumn feel of Haddonfield, Illinois; the stuntman who donned Michael’s mask and jumpsuit was just a hair too pint-sized to be fully intimidating; and except for the lush and orchestral rendition of the Halloween theme, John Ottman’s score, Frankensteined with Marco Beltrami cues from Scream and Mimc, is all wrong. Those misgivings aside, I still think it’s the best Myers-centric sequel since Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.)
What might be the longest intro in the world leads us to the point of all this.
I was born in 1984. By then, the original Halloween was six years old, though I wouldn’t know it existed until the mid-’90s. That’s ten years. When you’re a kid, ten years is forever. Halloween: H20 was the twentieth anniversary of the original film, but to me it was basically Halloween: H4VR. Anything that predated my existence didn’t jive with the timeline of my life. I couldn’t appreciate the full sense of that anniversary because I didn’t exist or wasn’t cognizant for most of it.
Halloween: H20 may as well have been the bicentennial.
Here were are, in 2017, just a couple weeks away from 2018. And with it comes the twentieth anniversary of Halloween: H20, and the fortieth(!) anniversary of the original. A new Halloween film is in production — for the intent of my point, let’s call it Halloween: H40. Like Halloween: H20, this new film will be ignoring all the sequels and getting back to the original’s roots of dread, suspense, and little emphasis on violence. And Jamie Lee Curtis returns as the embattled Laurie Strode.
If you can avoid getting caught in the petty trappings of the internet, Halloween: H40 has a lot going for it. The production is in good hands with Jason Blum, who has kick started the horror genre over the last decade by sacrificing multi-million dollar budgets in exchange for handing off full creative control to the films’ talented writers and directors (a refreshing change of pace from former rights-holding and extremely meddlesome Dimension Films/the Weinstein brothers), with this approach resulting in new classics Insidious, Sinister, and more. (Dude might also be nominated for an Oscar for producing Get Out — you read it here first.) Jamie Lee Curtis is returning, of course, but the casting of Judy Greer as her daughter shows that the production is more interested in talent than vapid Facebook-level recognition value. John Carpenter returns to compose and consult. And it’s being directed by David Gordon Green — an actual filmmaker — who, comedies aside, has a solid body of work, including the very underrated, Night Of The Hunter-ish stalker thriller Undertow.
As of this writing, not a single frame of Halloween: H40 has been shot, but it’s already as terrifying to me as the original was all those Halloween nights ago. Because, to me, Halloween: H20 is only a few years old. I remember everything about the excitement I felt in the months leading up to its release. I remember going to see it, that all my boyhood chums came with me, and what each and every one of them said about it after the credits rolled. I even remember, upon Michael’s first on-screen appearance, my friend Kevin jokingly whispering to me, “It’s him, the guy from the ad!,” quoting from an episode of The Simpsons — something we did constantly.
Within the confines and timeline of my life, Halloween: H20 feels like it just happened to me. There’s no possible way it’s been twenty years. Yes, I’ve lost friends and family; I’ve moved multiple times; I’ve gotten numerous jobs; I’ve been lucky enough to have fallen in love a couple times. Those childhood friends who went with me to share in my excitement of Laurie Strode’s return, all of whom I miss dearly, eventually scattered to different parts of the world, and it’s been years since I’ve spoken to any of them. All of that makes a solid case for a two-decade timeline. But there’s just no way. I can’t fathom it. And I don’t want to.
As a film fan, a horror fan, and a Halloween fan who has weathered some serious mediocrity over the years, I’m more excited than anyone for the coming of Halloween: H40.
But as a mere mortal keeping a wary eye on the clock and the calendar, it just might be one of the most terrifying films I ever see.
[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]
[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]