The Halloween remake, or second remake, is, by all means, a very good return to the franchise. It does its job of capturing the feel, atmosphere and style of John Carpenter’s original. It doesn’t miss a beat, the dread and the scares are genuine, and the Shape is as menacing as ever. One decision the producers went for in this reboot, however, is the elimination of the events of Halloween 2, and pretty much everything that came later.
Michael Myers ceased being this paranormal, un-killable ‘Shape’.
A fascinating aspect of horror, in particular the slasher genre that the Halloween series ventured into, is which of the following possess the most frightening kind of horror; psychological evil or supernatural evil?
The former evil is corporeal, almost tangible. There is a science behind it. Mental illness is a fact most people are aware of, and frightened of, as one would be of a hungry bear or rogue urban crocodile. These are monsters, which relegates slashers as part of the serial killer genre which is, in turn, a subset of the ‘Natural Monster’ story.
The subsets of Natural Monsters?
Creature monsters can be reality-based beasts such as big sharks, killer bees, snakes or a virus, or they can be fantastical, alien, prehistorical… All of which are motivated by hunger or the primordial drive to survive. The scary thing about these critters is not intent; there exists no motive such as revenge, hate or bloodthirst. We can understand and sympathise with a beast’s insatiable appetite. What we fear is the raw power and deadliness they possess. Being eaten alive or clawed to pieces is a terror that lurks in our human minds after thousands of years of dealing with these predators.
Human monsters on the other hand are scary not because of physical power, but because they have intent or a total lack of it. The monster in Halloween began with intent, hunting the sister, but Michael Myers ended up stalking and butchering random people at will, devoid of intent, lacking humanity, to the point of being described as total evil. By Halloween 2 the supernatural elemental was introduced, turning him into a different kind of monster.
Artificial monsters are beasts created by humans possessing motivational attributes from both categories, survival instincts plus intent. Machines are intelligent and biologically enhanced beasts intent to survive, no matter what. Humans are just in the way.
This is the fear of the unknown.
While death haunts us, the dread of its finality scares the living shit out of us, and the prospect of what lies beyond death even more. We look at the universe around us and see what; a colossal conflict between chaos and order. With modern science, we still struggle to ascertain if there is a point to any of this, but the ancients, who weren’t distracted or blinded by the filters of modern civilization, saw this universe morphing from forces echoing from an ethereal dimension, a conflict between heaven and hell.
Did the Gigantomachy and Titanomachy from the classical Greeks reflect what was happening in heaven, or was this political propaganda during the conflict between the priesthood and the landlords? In any case, this war produced monsters of every kind, the Gigantes, Charybdis, Typhon and a myriad of others. In the Christian religion that followed, this conflict, good versus evil, gave us a host of other beasts to fear, in particular the Devil and company.
These are the ‘Supernatural Monsters’.
So, is a hungry shark evil?
Not really, unless one wants to attribute the natural universe as being evil.
Again, the intent is important. It separates what is evil from what is a force of nature. Supernatural sea monsters such as the Charybdis and the Leviathan were feared because of their powerful presence. These beasts didn’t scheme to destroy you, their mere presence was simply dangerous, deadly, to be avoided. Supernatural agents, however, scheme. These monsters, spirits, and demons in all manifestations intend to do you harm.
This film followed the tradition set by an earlier film, Black Christmas, a slasher movie about a human monster, Billy, who seems to have intent but the intent is never revealed. With Michael Myers, his intent on re-enacting the killing of his sister is openly implied. So he hacks his way through a typical leafy suburb on Halloween night of all nights, to achieve this goal. He is a human beast, lurking, sneaking up on you, or just brazenly entering your home. The Shape is not butchering teenagers to survive, it wants to.
The ambiguity arrives at the end. When shot, and falls two storeys, his body disappears. He’s somehow survived. Still a danger.
Halloween 2 (1981)
Here Michael is again hunting his sister, who happens to be Laurie the babysitter, but this time it is strongly alluded to that he is being possessed by a supernatural force. Not only does he survive the previous film, but he survives another volley of six bullets before being blinded, and ‘killed’ after an explosion and enduring flames longer than any normal person could.
Demonic possession, pioneered in The Exorcist movie a decade earlier is at play here. The Devil possessing a little girl was scary enough, but an evil force possessing a human monster, that’s another level.
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
There is no Michael, but there is a monster. This time, instead of a slasher, there’s a cabal of witches. The Silver Shamrock Company is the monster, headed by Cochran who with his android henchmen is hellbent on unleashing the dark power of Stonehenge.
The supernatural beast doesn’t do anything to anybody, the mere dread of it being released upon the world is intense enough.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Michael returns, but the Shape is more of an escaped mental patient prone to violence rather than some demonic manifestation of evil, even though he survives getting run over and taking dozens of bullets to die. Regardless, the monster is simply a crazy man on a rampage. He has intent, not to kill, but something else entirely. The Shape is like a ferocious animal that needs to be put down.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
The Shape sheds a tear as well as lives. It is human after all, but Michael retains his superhuman strength and now possesses telepathic powers.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
There exists no allusion now, Michael Myers is cursed, making him a supernatural beast. Plus, he is joined by cultists who want to harness his metaphysical powers.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
No longer a force of the supernatural, yet still possessing inhuman strength, Michael intends to kill his sister, for reasons, and nobody’s going to stop him. Well, he gets beheaded by the end, so this should be the end of this monster. No creature could survive that, right?
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Well, yes, if indeed Michael was decapitated. It turns out he wasn’t. Yep. The Shape lives to kill again and kill his sister he does. With no more intent, The Shape reverts to being a simple killing machine; an animal doing instinctively what it does best until electrocution and fire put a stop to it.
Nothing can kill this supernatural monster.
Michael is back to being a psychopath killer. His intent; reconnecting with his sister, and it didn’t matter how many are slaughtered along the way. He gets shot in the face, but…
Halloween II (2009)
…turns out it was only a superficial wound.
Michael Myers is a human monster, haunted by a hallucinogenic vision of his mother, and has a psychic connection with his sister.
So now we have another sequel, which disregards everything that’s transpired before. No more sibling rivalry. No more a paranormal beast. Just a human animal, killing for reason unknown, existing only to kill and kill again, an animal to be studied.
As John Carpenter put it, The Shape is merely a ‘force of nature’, and ‘almost supernatural’.
The Shape of Fear
Anarchic, random, meaningless violence, is what strikes terror in our modern minds and hearts. The monster has clear intent but the intent is unknown. The physical strength is all too powerful, yet the source of this strength is unfathomable.
In the end, when one encounters a monster, be it a shark or a homicidal terrorist, it doesn’t really matter why the monster is doing what’s it doing, understanding it is not the issue. Getting away from it and surviving is. But, for an audience, the unknowable, the ‘why’, is the scariest aspect of all, and the Halloween series of movies has explored every aspect of this.
Each one is worth a visit or revisit.