Side By Side: Halloween (1978) & Halloween (2018) [Reviews]

Happy Halloween, everybody! Originally, I was going to write this as two separate pieces, but seeing as I’ll constantly be making references between the two, I decided to write it as one big Super Review (trademark pending). The relationship between the original Halloween and its 2018 counterpart is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time but until now, have never had the platform to do so. And as an equal fan of both movies, naturally I have a lot to say. 

Halloween (1978): Where It All Started 

Everyone knows this movie is a horror masterpiece. I mean, it basically wrote the book on slasher flicks. You’ve never heard someone say “this movie tops Halloween!” because it simply can’t be done (and if you have heard those words, I strongly recommend reevaluating your relationship with that person). True, Halloween isn’t the first slasher to have existed, but it definitely solidified slashers as a subgenre. But what makes it so good, and why after 40 years are we still making Halloween movies with the same masked killer at its forefront? Well, that’s easy. Because it still works.

Originally titled The Babysitter Murders, the plot of Halloween centres on Michael Myers, who escapes from a mental institution after 15 years to return to his hometown of Haddonfield and continue his killing spree. Enter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a young babysitter who falls prey to Michael on Halloween night. Thus begins one of my favourite rivalries in movie history. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a rivalry. The characters of Michael and Laurie are connected by something much more than coincidence, and if you’re disregarding Halloween II where we discover that Laurie is Michael’s sister (which we are), then it isn’t blood that connects them either. It’s as if these two were destined to be on this road together, and that they’re only purpose is to destroy the other. It’s a dynamic that’s explored much more in the 2018 Halloween, and something I hope gets a lot more focus in the upcoming sequels. 

Halloween was directed by one of horror’s most arguably influential filmmakers, John Carpenter, and sat on a tight budget of only $325,000. To me, the biggest difference between these two movies is that the original Halloween was an independently made slasher with a budget that almost entirely came out of Carpenter’s own pocket, while the 2018 reincarnation had a studio budget of $10 Million, and grossed over $250 Million worldwide. And while I might be among only a few to believe that Halloween (2018) is slightly superior to the original (and yes, I will die on that hill), it doesn’t change what the original did for horror, and film in general. The tropes that nowadays are considered “corny” or “cliche” were revolutionary at the time; the virginal central character, the masked killer looming in the shadows, the sexually promiscuous friends who are first to die, the hero turning their back on the seemingly “unconscious” killer. And while earlier films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) incorporated some of these same elements, none did so as effectively or as elegantly as Halloween. And no wonder it shocked audiences. Before this, suburban neighbourhoods were thought of as safe places, not a hunting ground for knife-wielding lunatics. 

Director John Carpenter and Dick Warlock on the set of Halloween II (1981)

Halloween (2018): A Reboot Done Right

In 2018, director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) hit the refresh button on the Halloween franchise, basically erasing every sequel that followed the original from the Halloween canon. It was a clean slate; a chance for Halloween to return to form. It’s a good thing too, because the Halloween series got pretty ridiculous after it’s first few installments. I mean, Halloween III tried to turn the series into an anthology, and what was up with that cult in Part 6? At least they never went to space.

However, I do believe that Halloween (2018) is a perfect sequel, and pays respect to the 40 year mythos that the original created. Why doesn’t Michael speak? What makes him so evil? What is his obsession with the mask? These are the questions that made the original Halloween so damn scary, and this movie has no interest in giving us answers to any of them. Michael is the perfect slasher movie villain because he has no motivation. He isn’t exacting revenge against the camp counsellors that let him drown, or punishing the children of Elm Street in their dreams. To quote Dr. Loomis, Michael is “purely, and simply, evil,” and that is one of the most terrifying thoughts of all. 

“He’s waited for this night. He’s waited for me…I’ve waited for him.”

The 2018 Halloween picks up 40 years after the massacre that took place on Halloween night in 1978. Laurie Strode (reprised by Curtis) lives in wait for the day that Michael will escape the institution, and return to Haddonfield. First off, Laurie Strode is the definition of a badass female character, and it’s a character that no one but Curtis can portray. This isn’t the first time she’s returned to the role of Laurie after several years; she appeared in H2O (1998), and then again in Halloween: Resurrection (2002), but neither did her character justice. For 40 years, Laurie has been living with the trauma of that fateful night, and preparing for her final showdown with Michael. Gone is the helpless teenage babysitter, and here is one of my favourite horror movie characters in recent memory. Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are both strong characters in their own rights, and I can’t wait to see the development they get in the next two instalments. If that final shot of Allyson holding onto the bloody kitchen knife is any indication, then she may have a dark road ahead of her as well. Will she perhaps wear the mask at some point? 

We live in a world where you can’t scroll through Twitter or turn on the news without seeing horror and violence happening in some part of the world (most often our own backyard). As one character puts it; “There’s a lot worse stuff happening today. A couple of people getting murdered by one guy with a knife is not that big of a deal.” Society has become far too desensitized to violence in the last few decades, and I’m glad the slightly meta script of Halloween (2018) calls attention to this. By doubling down on the gore and brutality, the 2018 Halloween manages to still inflict that shock factor that the 1978 one did so well. There are quite a few genuinely disturbing scenes; the two that come to mind is a gas station bathroom scene, where Michael brutally kills two innocent journalists, and one scene in a bedroom, where a character played by Virginia Gardner (Marvel’s The Runaways) claws for her life before being mercilessly slashed. It’s upsetting seeing likeable and authentic-feeling characters fighting desperately to stay alive, knowing full-well that they aren’t going to make it. I also just straight-up love the scene where Michael walks around Haddonfield, entering random houses and killing their inhabitants. I remember watching this sequence in theatres and thinking to myself, “Now THIS is Michael Myers!” Senseless and purposeless mayhem. “Purely, and simply, evil.”

Another thing I think this movie does masterfully is it’s music. For budget purposes, the original Halloween was composed by none other than Carpenter himself. Carpenter has a knack for creating thrilling and emotionally powerful scores, and this time around, he’s joined by his son, Cody Carpenter. The scene where Michael is reunited with his mask after 40 years gives me chills every single time; the scene where two journalists listen to a recording of the late Dr. Loomis saying that death is the only cure for Michael is haunting; and another, where Michael pursues Allyson down a dark suburban road will surely get your adrenaline pumping. These feelings of dread couldn’t have been accomplished without the fantastic score, which keeps with the same feel of the original, but with a modern flair. And of course, no Halloween movie would be complete without the classic opening theme. Seriously, Halloween (2018) has one of the best horror movie scores in a very long time. In fact, one of my favourite possessions is the entire motion picture soundtrack on vinyl (gifted to me by one of our other horror-obsessed writers, Alex). 

In Conclusion 

If you’re still reading along, cheers. Perhaps you’re as much of a Halloween fan as I am. I know I’ve said that I enjoy the 2018 Halloween more than the original but the truth is, nothing can replace the OG. I just think that it came very close, and that is no easy feat. Halloween (2018) was created by people who understand what the 1978 one stood for; they didn’t try to bog it down with needless backstory or give us answers to questions we didn’t want answered in the first place (much like a certain 2007 remake did). They kept it simple, and proved that the formula is still effective if handled by people who care. I have no doubt that writers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride will give us an epic finale to a series that has stood the test of time, and a satisfying ending for the character of Laurie Strode.