The Shape Reborn: How David Gordon Green’s Halloween Remixes the Original Films
NOTE: The following article is spoiler heavy. If you have not seen the film, you should do so before reading ahead.
Very early in David Gordon Green’s compelling new take on the Halloween franchise, a teenage couple, Laurie Strode’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) and her boyfriend, Cameron (Dylan Arnold), attend a Haddonfield High Halloween party as the infamous, murderous duo Bonnie & Clyde. But here’s the kicker, they gendered swapped the roles. Cameron is Bonnie and Allyson is Clyde. Now, whether or not it’s intentional, I do not know, but this tongue n’ cheek role reversal is symbolic of the many subversive swaps and misdirects this year’s interesting new Halloween film has to offer.
In the original film, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and his nurse, Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), en route to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium on the night of Michael Myers’ transfer from the institution, arrive to find dozens of wayward patients wandering like zombies from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. As Loomis exits the vehicle, leaving Marion alone, Michael hops onto the roof, smashes the window, and frightens the nurse, who flees to safety, allowing Michael to steal the car, but ultimately surviving Michael’s spree. This scene has been revamped for the new film, as a father and his young son happen upon a crashed bus in the middle of nowhere. Like Carpenter’s original, they are greeted with the imagery of escaped mental patients creeping around like the undead. But unlike that film, neither character survives.
The boy’s death is especially subversive since we, as experienced audience members, have grown accustomed to children surviving mainstream horror movies, with notable exceptions including It, Jaws, Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Mimic, Pet Sematery, Maximum Overdrive, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, and yes, the Myer-less Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This tragic moment gives the film an extra layer of tension whenever Michael creeps around other children and infants. With Tommy and Lindsey, Jamie Lloyd, Danny Strode, and the little girl from the rest stop sequence in Halloween H20 all surviving Michael’s wrath as children, we now know not all kids will be so lucky. So naturally, our anxiety triples in one scene where Michael walks past a baby’s crib.
In that same scene with the baby, Green pays tribute to 1981’s Halloween II. Towards the beginning of that film, there’s a great steadicam sequence from Michael’s perspective, where he walks into a house and steals Mrs. Elrod’s kitchen knife. Mrs. Elrod backs up to find blood on her counter and Michael gone. This time, Michael is not so merciful. In a single, continuous shot, Michael walks towards the back of a house, where he spots a lady exiting her garage and going back inside. We follow Michael as he takes a hammer from that garage (in a shot that feels similar to Michael grabbing the knife in both the original film’s prologue and in Halloween II’s Elrod sequence) and follows his prey into the kitchen where he kills her off-screen. We only seeing the carnage moments after the pounding sounds and screams stop. As noted by many, the victim here is dressed in similar fashion to Mrs. Elrod, from the pink robe to the rollers in her hair. Farewell and adieu, Mrs. Elrod of Haddenfield, you will be missed.
One notable sequence references and blends together a pair of notable scenes from two different Halloween sequels. When “investigative journalists” (a.k.a. podcasters), Dana (Rhian Rees) and Aaron (Jefferson Hall), stop at a gas station to fill up, Dana makes a trip to the bathroom, where she is attacked by Michael, similar to the aforementioned rest stop sequence from H20. In that film, Michael simply steals the would-be victim’s purse and the woman in Dana’s situation survives. Here, Dana is brutally murdered. Meanwhile, Aaron walks into the garage and finds a dead mechanic, stripped of his clothing. This is reminiscent to a scene in Halloween 4, where Dr. Loomis walks into a desolate gas station after we see Michael kill a mechanic, from whom he also steals his iconic jumpsuit. Unlike Loomis, Aaron becomes yet another victim to Michael’s rampage.
And speaking of Halloween II, we now get to the film’s weirdest, perhaps most controversial subversion. Many of you may recall a scene from the 1981 sequel, in which Loomis and Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) are having a conversation in the police cruiser, and Brackett says to Loomis, “You let him out. His own goddamn doctor!” Later, after discovering the fate of his daughter, Brackett shouts at him, “YOU LET HIM OUT!!” Of course, we know Loomis didn’t let Michael out. Like he says, he gave orders for him to be restrained, and had shot him six times with the intent of ridding the world of the boogeyman. But what if we had found out Loomis had let him out, how would we react?
Now in Green’s version of the story, Loomis’ reputation remains unscathed. But in the years following the events of the first film, the good doctor passed away and thus, Michael was passed off to another psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), whom Laurie refers to as “the new Loomis.” Sartain is on the bus when it crashes and follows Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) around throughout the events of the film until it is revealed that his intentions are, in fact, sinister, as he states his desire to see what his patient will do in an uncontrolled environment. Admittedly, these are the scenes that are the weirdest to watch unfold and unfortunately, the twist has little impact on the film’s outcome as it’s quickly brushed aside. But the more you think about it, the more interesting it gets. Though it isn’t explicitly stated in the film, one could easily come to the conclusion that the nefarious Dr. Sartain orchestrated Michael’s latest escape. Maybe this time, it was the goddamn doctor that let him out? Hmm…
Finally, the most notable role reversal in the film is in the film’s final act. Like the original Halloween, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds herself navigating the hallways of a house as she is stalked by the very much real boogeyman. However, interestingly enough, she takes on Michael’s movements from Carpenter’s classic, as this time, she is the one who tears open a closet from the outside, falls off a balcony, disappears, and later re-appears in the shadows behind Michael, as he once did to her.
There’s no denying this film is the work of fans who revere the original film in the highest regard, are knowledgeable in the franchise’s mythos, and want to push the series forward while appropriately taking it back to the basics, hence the removal of Laurie’s familial relationship to Michael. The result is a film that follows the original film almost verbatim, with many of the same events we’ve seen throughout the series, but with different, terrifyingly new results.