What Does the Success of David Gordon-Green’s Halloween Mean for Horror?
The Return of the Slasher!
Horror has had a rather surprising but respectable return to the highs of the box office in recent years, both commercially and critically. 2017’s Get Out was met with universal acclaim, winning Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Oscars for its smart, thought-provoking and thrilling debut direction from Jordan Peele; whilst 2018’s A Quiet Place stunned audiences with an overwhelming atmosphere of suspense through its original story of an oh-so-quiet supernatural horror flick. Even the stories of The Conjuring and Annabelle have genuine moments of exquisite horrifying moments—exciting enough to keep audiences coming back, and scary enough for production company Blumhouse to create an interwoven universe between the two franchises (Annabelle 3 and The Conjuring 3 are both set for a 2019/2020 release). With multiple horror triumphs under Blumhouse’s belt that keep smashing the box-office (including Sinister, The Purge, Insidious), Blumhouse took another stab in the dark in October, with the release of Halloween—a direct continual sequel to John Carpenter’s original slasher way back in 1978. With the film’s honour to Carpenter’s original cinematic vision and the return of Michael Myers scarier than he’s ever been before, the film has become the highest grossing slasher film of all time, raking in a whopping $126 million from its $10 million budget since the worldwide release on October 19th. With audiences and critics alike praising the film for its return to form for the tired franchise of Halloween, surely this means the movies of the slasher genre are well and truly back from the dead?
The success of David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween has shown that there is still an appetite for the genre, with eager anticipation and excitement coming from both the notoriously loyal horror fans and the wider audiences of modern cinema-goers. Jamie Lee Curtis, star of 1978’s Halloween and the original "scream queen" of the slasher recently appeared on The Graham Norton Show to chat with the host and her fellow sofa-mates about her return as Laurie Strode to the latest instalment of the Halloween franchise. She explains how the film is set a whole 40 years later after Carpenters original masterpiece, and picks up directly from the original story, ignoring the rest of the unsatisfactory and ultimately failures of sequels (Laurie Strode was even killed off in 2004’s crass Halloween Resurrection). After explaining the new movie’s confusing but necessary return to beginning of Halloween’s timeline, Curtis boasts excitedly about this eleventh installment to the franchise, saying how she’s loving being on what she calls “the victory lap” across the globe high-fiving fans at every premiere who wait for her arrival as the iconic original scream queen. Horrors’ universal outreach of loyal enthusiasts is the target that Director Gordon-Green is trying to strike lucky with, creating 2018’s Halloween as a new breed of an "honourable sequel"— one that returns to the original premise, strips back the franchise’s tedious extended narrative, and undoubtedly acts as a sophisticated service to fans celebrating one of horror’s most beloved franchises. With these directional aims well and truly achieved with the success of Halloween, the film has not only enticed loyal horror fans back into the genre, but quite apparently excited a new generation of audiences, smashing box-office records and earning praise from critics that have slammed the slasher genre for quite some time
Though horror is and always will be a marmite-like genre dividing audiences with its unrepentant gore and pure motivation to scare, a boom of commercial success in recent years has proved that the genre is and always will be appealing to blood-thirsty audiences. Perhaps the most infamous subgenre of horror is, in fact, the slasher—the type of film that revels in bloody violence against unbeknown and mostly stupid teenagers either having sex or doing drugs, acting clueless from the masked silent man waiting outside wanting to slash them in half. After Carpenter’s Halloween introduced this ideological formula to cinema in 1978, the 80s saw a boom in these slasher movies (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street etc.), changing the course of the horror genre into a mass killing spree of debauched teenagers, all formulated from the auteur direction of Carpenter himself. As a genre, it has been senselessly repeated as tired and archetypal ever since its commercial decline in the mid-90s. When 1996’s Scream parodied these conventions and turned the slasher on its head with an ironic self-awareness, the slasher somewhat peaked- being unable to reach these heights ever since. After all, the biggest highlight of recent years tops with Happy Death Day… Anybody?
Fear not, a month since Halloween successfully resurrected villain Michael Myers to our screens, there has already been movement on yet another reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise, and this has undoubtedly been inspired from the unprecedented success of David Gordon-Green’s honourable respect to Carpenter’s original movie. Despite already failed attempts of restoring the life of Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees in 2009 (and Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddie Krueger in 2010), there seems to be no worries surrounding yet another return to Vorhee’s lair of Camp Crystal Lake, as a host of production companies are currently in battle to win the rights to the original screenplay. Perhaps their disregard to previously failed reboots is because, in 2018, Gordon-Green has come up with a new formula for the slasher as Carpenter did- to go back, honour, and celebrate with sophistication why fans fell in love with the franchises in the first. With Halloween’s supposedly new winning formula for future slasher films, the future of horror looks set to be filled with yet more sequels and reboots to honour and continue the originality of the 80s retro slasher movies—a reunion for the blood brothers in a new modern world, with Myers sharpening his kitchen knife, Vorhees wielding his machete and Krueger putting on his razor glove, waiting in the shadows for a new set of victims to play with.