John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN: Ghost Story or Slasher Film?
This weekend we were finally hit with Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. I’m as excited as the next guy about this film, but I do worry the new movie will fall victim to the same issues that have plagued all the other Halloween sequels (including Rob Zombie’s remakes) in the past. This issue is that every film since the original has made a massive mistake right off the bat:
They are in the wrong genre.
Yes, from Halloween II through Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, the franchise has been operating under the idea that Michael Myers and his annual visits are slasher films. This genre would make sense if John Carpenter’s original flick were a slasher film. But it wasn’t. Sure John Carpenter’s Halloween helped start the slasher film and create its template for generations to come. But the original movie was isn’t a slasher film.
I mean not only had the term not been invented, but it was never designed to follow the slasher rulebook – it just accidentally created it. John Carpenter wasn’t looking to make a film about a group of horny teens that systematically get killed off one by one by a masked maniac. Yes, that is what the final movie is on the surface, but Carpenter had much simpler goals in mind when he crafted his first classic. So if John Carpenter’s Halloween isn’t a slasher film, then what is it?
John Carpenter’s Halloween is a ghost story.
This ghost story angle is evident it the fact that Carpenter’s next film The Fog was an out-and-out ghost story (complete with beginning campfire tale). And that’s why the original terror of the 1978 film has never even been close to replicated in the rest of the franchise. Sure the sequels, for the most part, are fun, but they’re still merely slashers.
And I guess this is as good a time as any to make sure that I put this out there: I love slasher films. This article is in no way, shape, or form, meant to be a knock against slasher films, don’t get me wrong. But I doubt anyone would ever argue that slasher films are rarely ever scary and that usually isn’t their intent.
I mean think about it, as horror fans all of us know that certain films are not intended to be “The Scariest Film of All-Time!” Most horror movies delight in just being fun, gory, and brutal. It isn’t often a movie comes out with the full intent to legitimately scare you into an endless stream of sleepless nights. Slasher films can throw in buckets of blood, boob, and babes and call it a successful day.
Ghost stories, on the other hand, are meant to be as scary as possible. Without the (typical) use of blood, boobs and brutal violence on their side, ghost stories have to earn their keep in the horror genre by creeping you the fuck out. They MUST make you fear the dark. They MUST make you look over your shoulder as you take out the trash. Ghost stories MUST do this to the audience – or they fail.
Ghost story films have a different approach to their telling as opposed to slasher films. Ghost stories are all about what you don’t see. They are about suspense. They are about a light wind gently whispering through the trees in the middle of the night. Not a superhuman killing-machine ripping and roaring through teenagers in the middle of the night. John Carpenter’s original film understood this, and that’s why it is such a classic. That’s why it’s so goddamn frightening.
In the end, the issue with all of the Halloween films following John Carpenter’s original is this: Carpenter’s film inspired Sean S. Cunningham to make Friday the 13th. And then, strangely, all of the Halloween sequels have been inspired by Friday the 13th, not Carpenter’s original film. The movies from here on out need to let Jason be Jason and Michael be Michael. Both are unstoppable ghosts of their former selves still trapped in their bodies, but Jason holds the market for slasher movie frights. Michael is better suited as not a lame version of Jason, but the fucking terrifying version of Jason.
So if Blumhouse and David Gordon Green want their new film lives up to the terror of John Carpenter’s original film, let’s hope they acknowledge that the original movie was not a slasher film, but a ghost story. Let’s hope they are using films such as The Shining, The Others, The Innocents, The Haunting, and The Changeling as inspiration, instead of Friday the 13th, Prom Night, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
And above all, let’s hope they are not just trying to one-up Jason again. Otherwise, this Halloween I’m afraid we’ll be stuck with yet another rip-off of Friday the 13th.
Which is beyond ironic.
Do you agree that John Carpenter’s Halloween is a ghost story and NOT a slasher film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments section or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!
Dr. Loomis tells us a ghost story.