Halloween 2018 and Chronology of Slasher Films
Since I first started writing this piece inspired by the new Halloween sequel called Halloween coming out on 19 October, quite a lot has happened. The second trailer, released on 5 September, has almost cleared 4 million views on YouTube. The film itself premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews. TIFF tends to be friendlier to genre films than most major mainstream festivals, so I'd say the jury's still out on if the film will live up to the hype. I'm hopeful. People I know and trust say it's the best sequel in the series and the best Halloween film since 1978 (the original).
Why did it take me so long to pull together a piece on the new Halloween when so many were satisfied with waxing poetic about the trailer? Chronology. In a move that will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed me for more than a day, I began to obsess over minutia in the trailer and needed to gather my receipts to feel satisfied approaching that subject. I do not like to speak out of turn and enjoy research work far too much to just accept my intuition and recollection as a valid source.
So what could throw me into such a spiral over the new trailer? Was I overcome with emotion over seeing a Halloween film that actually looked like a Halloween film for the first time since the VHS era? Partly. It looks really good. The first trailer gave me pause--the colors were not doing it for me (or the stereotypical portrayal of patients at a mental hospital--gross). This one? Chef's kiss to the air and no regrets.
Am I excited to see Jamie Lee Curtis evolve into a hybrid of Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis, thereby giving her on trailer alone the title of ultimate horror hero? Obviously. Laurie Strode proved herself one of the greats in the original and now she's a one-person Michael Myers hunting operation with 40 years of research under her belt. She might bump Mavis Gary (Young Adult) as my favorite and most relatable film character. It's one thing to be an iconic nerd; it's another thing to be an iconic nerd who has memorized the ins and outs of one of the greatest movie monsters of all time and is ready to act on that research (even if Michael is real in her universe).
I obsess. I consume. I find out everything I can when I'm interested in something. I went back to that first trailer to see what scenes/cuts were reused and what changed. Instead, I was thrown off by one short sequence. Laurie's granddaughter is walking with her friends through Haddonfield. He asks about something that has been canon in every other incarnation of Halloween--comics, novel adaptations, the Rob Zombie remakes, and the original series of films--and she disavows it:
"Wasn't it her brother who murdered all those babysitters?"
"No. It was not her brother. That's something that people made up."
Get ready for a bumpy ride full of spoilers for the Halloween series onscreen. You've been warned.
Full stop. The justification for Michael's unnatural obsession with Laurie Strode is one of the most chilling details of the series. Laurie is his baby sister. Michael kills a lot of people, but his specialty is young women, including his older sister on Halloween night. Every time he escapes, he will go after any and everyone who stands in the way of him finishing off the rest of his family--Laurie to start, then it wrinkles out from there. He knows who Laurie is from the first time he sees her and, for unexplained reasons, is obsessed with murdering her. They are bonded for life with no way for Laurie to escape except death.
What is the new Halloween film doing with the continuity if it is going to ignore that driving force of the series?
In an interview with CinemaBlend two years ago, screenwriter Danny McBride set the limits of what is being dealt with in the film. Sort of. Specifically, Halloween is a sequel to Halloween 78 and Halloween II. Anything that happens after that is not part of canon for this film.
Things change all the time while films are produced. I found other, more recent interviews while trying to find that article (I remembered reading it, but struggled to find it) that set up a "have your cake and eat it, too," scenario for continuity in the Halloween series. Rafael Motamayer of Flickering Myth got an exclusive interview with Danny McBride on red carpet of a SXSW event earlier this year. McBride blurred the lines from the original plan, claiming "For fans, we pay homage and respect to every Halloween that has been out there." Further, in episode 262 of The Empire Film Podcast, McBride also claims that the film will disregard the Rob Zombie sequels to focus on a more realistic horror. Michael can be killed (unlike in Zombie's film); no one has done it yet.
So what does this do to the continuity leading up to the new Halloween film? It is near impossible to say. Homage could mean there is a scrapbook that Laurie Strode keeps with news articles about major victims from all the films.
That doesn't explain away any of the conflicting timelines created by Laurie Strode existing as a figure in the series. Laurie was announced dead in 4, reappeared without consequence (and the Soap Opera staple of "she faked her death") in H20: 20 Years Later (7th film in the series), and is actually murdered by Myers in Resurrection (8th film in the series). She's also murdered Michael and replaced him as the killer in the comic series, but that's its own bizarre chronology to investigate.
Further, much like the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series, when it became inconvenient to keep up with the original survivor girl, a stand in with an almost identical personality but new name replaced Laurie Strode in the Halloween series: her daughter, Jamie, originally played by Danielle Harris. Jamie took the lead in 4 and 5 before being replaced with a new actor in The Curse of Michael Myers (6th film in the series) and being promptly killed off. The existence of Laurie Strode's only daughter isn't even common in continuity, as Jamie is never mentioned again in the series.
As you can see in the trailer, the new Halloween film sees Laurie Strode not only alive but with a living daughter and grandchild. That daughter is not Jamie, but Karen, played by Judy Greer. Any confusion about whether or not she pulls from Jamie is cleared up in the trailer. Karen does she not believe anything is ever going to happen again--meaning the murders only occurred on Halloween night/1 November in 1978. Further, that means Karen has never witnessed anything related to Michael Myers, meaning anything concerning Michael in Haddonfield after 1978 has not happened in the world of the new film.
That also, mercifully, kills the bizarre Michael wants to murder his niece's baby storyline, too. Oh, you weren't aware? If we look at the full chronology of the series, Michael murders Jamie in an attempt to kidnap his grandnephew and kill him. There's a cult involved that claims responsibility for making Michael evil. That means that Michael might actually be an antihero in The Curse of Michael Myers (and possibly the real hero of the Halloween series, doing everything he can with his last ounce of humanity to prevent another child from being born to the Myers/Strode bloodline, since they are routinely targeted by a cult as infants, made evil, and forced to commit human sacrifices) and it's...problematic. Let's just leave it at that.
Let's be clear that, until the new film comes out, this is all speculation on my part. The film might address these continuity errors head on or have a clear response for the how and why of Laurie's repeated deaths that don't last. They might not. We can laugh at the absurdity of the timeline in this kind of film--how many murders can John Kramer really have had lined up before his death in Saw III (and we'll leave that there, thank you)? I mean, no one wants to claim Halloween III: Season of the Witch fits into the chronology because it doesn't by design. It was a failed attempt to rebrand the series into something easier to maintain than the continued adventures of a silent serial killer and his constantly victimized and surprisingly resilient little sister. That only explains away one of seven sequels that contradict concepts and statements in the two trailers for the new film.
Halloween 2018 is not promoting itself as a remake, but as a new sequel to Halloween 78 and Halloween 2. I don't see how the film can stand by the granddaughter's statement on Laurie not being Michael's brother when that's a major plot point of Halloween 2. It is the connecting thread of the expanded novels, the comics, and a major motivator throughout the series. If Laurie's not there, Michael targets Jamie or other extended family members. He always goes back to the house he committed the initial murders in if the film is set in Haddonfield. Everyone in and around Haddonfield is well aware of what he did as a child to his family. The only remaining family member from his attacks is his infant sister and, for whatever reason (if we choose to ignore The Curse of Michael Myers and the problematic motivations it puts on the cinematic boogeyman and Laurie's death in Resurrection), his obsession for 40 years.
All will be revealed on 19 October when Halloween releases in theaters. There are few things we know for sure. One, it's a sequel to the first two films by design. Two, Season of the Witch is part of the series, but not the chronology of any Michael Myers/Laurie Strode story. Three, the Rob Zombie films are not being used. Four, Jamie Lee Curtis is playing Laurie 40 years after the murder of her three friends. That's it. Everything else is speculation.
Leading into the release of the film, I will be going deep into the series in every way I can. I can't help myself. The site will not be dedicated solely to Halloween, but you can safely expect a piece or two each week through the release of the film, and probably more after to account for the new continuity of the series.
This is how I treat the things I like. Imagine what happens to the things I don't.
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