Halloween reboot shows long reach of trauma

Producer Jason Blum (left) says it helps that original Halloween actress Jamie Lee Curtis (above) and director John Carpenter are back to reinvigorate the latest film.
Producer Jason Blum says it helps that original Halloween actress Jamie Lee Curtis (above) and director John Carpenter are back to reinvigorate the latest film.PHOTO: UIP
Producer Jason Blum (left) says it helps that original Halloween actress Jamie Lee Curtis (above) and director John Carpenter are back to reinvigorate the latest film.
Producer Jason Blum (above) says it helps that original Halloween actress Jamie Lee Curtis and director John Carpenter are back to reinvigorate the latest film.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Make Halloween great again - that was the challenge before producer Jason Blum.

Halloween (1978) was a cheaply made thriller that sparked the golden age of slasher horror, laying the groundwork for Friday The 13th (1980) and A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984).

But over nine poor-to-middling Halloween sequels, the name that was a byword for terror has become just another in a slew of cookiecutter serial-killer flicks.

Blum, 49, speaking to The Straits Times from a car in Los Angeles, admits that the original is a tough act to follow.

"The only Halloween to get a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is the first one. This is the 11th one and we are going to reinvigorate it."

He adds that it helps that two key members of the original team are back, giving the film a boost in credibility. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the "final girl" who survives the 1978 attack by killer Michael Myers, once more plays Laurie Strode.

She is joined by original director John Carpenter, who is on board as executive producer for the version now showing in cinemas.

Carpenter and Curtis have been involved in sequels, but Blum thinks things will be different this time.

The Midas-touch producer behind the hugely successful Paranormal Activity (2007 to 2015), The Purge (2013 to 2018), Sinister (2012 and 2015) and Insidious (2010 to 2018) franchises believes they now have a screenplay worthy of their names.

"We have a great concept: the storytelling ignores the nine movies - we have a tip of the hat to the nine - and the story jumps from one to 11," he says.

By leaping ahead, audiences get to see how one night of horrific trauma leaves a mark on victims that will persist decades into the future, he says.

One principle he and the creative team of writer-director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride agreed on is that Myers is scariest when he is shrouded in mystery, a rule that some sequels bent by grounding him in a history of family violence, turning him into a garden-variety psychopath.

"Myers is anonymous, he has no backstory. That makes him scarier because the audience puts whatever it is that scares it onto him," says Blum.

Besides launching the slasher boom, the first Halloween movie helped found the trope of "sex equals death" - that promiscuous characters are punished for their sins, while "pure" characters, such as Curtis' Laurie, escape.

That sort of moralising did not sit well with critics of the genre, who said such messaging is a bit much, coming from movies that exploit grisly murders for entertainment. It is a premise that Carpenter himself has rubbished.

Blum is happy that such sexist tropes are a thing of the past.

"We have a new trope. It is three generations of women uniting to defeat the most evil villain alive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2018, with the headline 'Halloween reboot shows long reach of trauma'. Print Edition | Subscribe