3. Halloween 2 (1981)
Immediately following the events of the first film, Laurie is rushed into hospital as Dr Loomis and Sheriff Bracket are hunting down Michael Myers. With a higher body count and the knowledge that the formula works, the second film takes the slasher movie method and elevates it from the first film, giving us plenty of scares and memorable scenes whilst staying faithful to the original.
Almost everyone in the film is great, aside from one or two characters that are almost purely written in for knife-fodder (the hospital security guard isn’t going to win any Oscars, no offence intended). The only real complaint is that Michael’s body language (something I inspect in every film) is radically different to the first film – it’s a slow and laborious approach, completely different to the Michael from the original, which was deliberate, yes, but he could also move when he needed to (think of his crouching, defensive stance atop the stairs in the Doyle house, or his fairly swift descent down them). This Michael is much slower, and I think a little less scary as a result, but not too much.
The film is still well-constructed and well paced. Everything falls nicely into the slots it needs to. The direction is still excellent, the music is good, the writing is top notch. If you need to see how the follow-up to a good film should be done, this is your main case study.
2. Halloween (2018)
Set 40 years after the first film, Laurie remains forever scarred by the fateful night and has brought up her daughter, Karen, in a delusion of target practice and gun training. Now a hermit not far from Haddonfield, Laurie’s preparation for a reunion with Michael is needed as the killer escapes and returns on Halloween night in 2018, hunting three generations of Strodes, including young Allyson.
The movie is delightfully 21st century. The silhouettes, the camerawork, the direction; everything is slick and polished. The performances, including Jamie-Lee Curtis’ reprisal of Laurie, are great, and they each help to bring the franchise right into where it needs to be. The references to the original film are countless and each work to highlight the blurring of Laurie and Michael into respective doppelgangers. There are some strange moments of comedy, whether intentional or not, which do detract from the overall fear in some scenes, but it’s not too distracting when it matters most.
There’s also a fairly high body count, which allows some analysis of the killing tactics of this version of Myers. There are several instances where he will leave one person alive and kill another, which both de-mystifies him and, somehow, makes him scarier. This Michael Myers chooses who he kills. It’s a cold, scientific Myers, but still one that manages to put the scares on, and this contrasts with the warm passion that still burns in the Strode family despite their difficulties, despite their troubles. Halloween (2018) is the perfect sequel for the right time.
1. Halloween (1978)
Was there ever any doubt which film would top the list?
One of the godfathers of the slasher genre, the original 1978 film revolutionised horror cinema forever. The film introduces the terrifying figure of Michael Myers, escaping from the asylum to continue his killing spree 15 years after murdering his sister. Chasing Jamie-Lee Curtis and pursued by Donald Pleasance, the film’s relentless attack on quiet suburbia, far away from the gothic castles of old, hits right at the core of modern paranoia, a direct attack on western civilisation.
The acting is perfect, with everyone (including the kids) performing their socks off. Each moment of the film is phenomenally executed and gives birth to some of the most iconic images in cinema. From the beautiful opening POV steady cam shot to the final montage of Haddonfield with Myers’ breathing, it grips your throat and never releases your windpipe. Myers comes in, stalking, watching, and strikes for maximum impact. The mask has never been beaten, the acting of all 5 (yes, 5) actors helping to create the unique body language of the stalker that can snap and rage in seconds.
Halloween didn’t invent the slasher film, but it proved that it consistently worked. It grounded the tropes, the themes and motifs, and it gave us one of the most iconic scores in cinema. It still terrifies today, and if you have the chance to see it at the cinema then you absolutely should go. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated by any film in any setting. It’s a true one-off; an tremendous masterpiece.
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Article updated 30th October 2021 (Originally 22nd October 2018).
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