‘Halloween’ Updates Slasher Films

October 18th, 2018‘Halloween’ Updates Slasher Films

The slasher movie is a horror mainstay for good reason. It’s an elemental, effective formula: a faceless killer stalks victims in everyday locations. Movies like the Friday the 13th and Halloween series evoke the horrors we are always scared lurk just behind the doors of friends and neighbors.

But slasher movies are of a different time. Horror wasn’t as popular as it is now. TV was more limited and there was no internet. Low-budget movies were one of the few venues to tell certain stories.

Now that has all changed. Remaking the same formula doesn’t work as easily as it once did; everything around the idea of the slasher movie is different. Fortunately, David Gordon Green’s Halloween is the rare example of a slasher movie that has evolved with the times. Here’s why Halloween is the ideal new slasher film.

Return To Haddonfield

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

With the new movie, David Gordon Green and his co-writer Danny McBride strip the story back to basics.

The killer Michael Myers has been confined to a mental hospital for four decades, ever since his violent rampage through Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night in 1978. One survivor of that night, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) still deals with trauma from Michael’s attacks. She trained her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) to survive and use weapons — training Karen has rejected as an adult. Her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak)

That story is a big part of what makes Halloween such a good continuation of the slasher formula. It keeps the bones of the idea, as there is still a faceless and relentless killer on the trail of people in a normal town. At the same time, it adds a lot more character detail to the victims, and treats the idea of previous killings as a serious thing. That hasn’t always been the case in slasher films.

New Tactics

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

There’s also less overt exploitation, which is to say that Halloween isn’t full of naked women. Not that this series was ever oriented around nudity, but the same can’t always be said for other slasher films. A big part of the core formula was using sex to lure young audiences to theaters. That doesn’t have to be part of the approach now.

At the same time, Halloween is made by a bunch of people who know horror movies inside and out. They understand how to build tension and turn good ideas into incredible scares. This new movie has some of the most effective, and even the most brutal scenes in the series. It’s a different movie for a different time, but Halloween isn’t soft — far from it.

A Clean Slate

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

There is another thing Halloween smartly updates from the old slasher series formula. Franchises like these were never planned out. There were no connected movie series like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When the previous movie made money, a new one was made because there was a chance to make more money. At that point someone had to figure out a new story, and it didn’t always matter if the stories aligned perfectly from one to the next. Things could be changed and revised and discarded, and that was part of the fun. Slasher movies were opportunistic, but also rebellious.

As the plot summary above suggests, this new Halloween ditches all previous sequels. Getting rid of ideas like Laurie Strode being the Sister of Michael Myers (which is something John Carpenter cooked up for the original sequel, mainly as an excuse to keep Jamie Lee Curtis around for the second film. Sometimes those excuses end up being great story ideas, and sometimes, as with this one, they’re weight a series ends up carrying around for decades until someone has the guts to cut it loose.

David Gordon Green, producer Jason Blum, and the rest of the team behind this movie have the guts to change things, and it shows. This could be the future of slasher movies.

Halloween opens on October 19 — get tickets now!

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