• Christian Lynn

Fears to feelings – Why Halloween (2018) is a great example of a pure cinematic experience

A film about a mask-wearing serial killer targeting teenagers doesn’t scream romance. Yet, it served as the backdrop for a date between my partner and I. Why am I telling you this? Because as we meet the halfway point of Autumn, heading straight for Halloween, I thought it’d be interesting to look at how we relate to cinema in strange ways – how a film like 2018’s Halloween could somehow bring two people closer together.

Let me set the scene. We’re in London, it’s getting late and we both have work the following day. We should be getting back. But like a scene in a Richard Curtis movie, we spontaneously decided on a trip to the cinema. Could have checked out Bohemian Rhapsody, already hugely popular. But Halloween was drawing us in, for different reasons.

I, a fan of the franchise, wanted to see how director David Gordon Green had rebooted the characters of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. My girlfriend, having never seen the original, wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So effectively, we were off to a balanced filmgoing start: two audience members ready for two very different experiences.

"Nevertheless, for my girlfriend and I, [Halloween] became a favourite. Why? Because of how it gave us the purest form of film viewing..."

Now, when you talk about a classic cinematic experience, you think of a film that changes your perspective on an important subject, like Moonlight. Then there are films that offer a visual spectacle unlike anything you’ve ever seen: Lord of the Rings pops to mind immediately. Halloween did neither of those things: it largely follows the same beats of the original in fact. Nevertheless, for my girlfriend and I, it became a favourite. Why? Because of how it gave us the purest form of film viewing.

We were in perfect synergy with the audience and with each other. We laughed at the right moments (and some of the wrong ones too, as is typical of a slasher flick). We cringed at the gorier kills. And, fitting of a stereotype, my girlfriend actually used my hand to guard her eyes during sequences such as the bathroom confrontation, in which Michael taunts a victim with a collection of freshly pulled teeth. For someone that hasn’t been exposed to the ruthless Michael, it made sense that she was a little put off.

But as you can tell, we had the complete emotional experience. This is a testament to David Gordon Green and his team of co-writers. Working from a template set out by horror legend John Carpenter, they built a new film that streamlined the spectator’s relationship to the action without dumbing it down. There wasn’t a blank stare in the room: we were glued in for the twists, as the film twisted our emotional reactions constantly. Just see how you react when Michael approaches a crib sheltering a tearful baby.

The best way to surmise the purity of the experience is in its finale. There’s the typical third act set piece, yet it feels earned from both a fan and a newcomer’s perspective. For myself, callbacks to the original brought a smile to my face: Laurie finally standing her ground against Michael is the natural next step in her story. But for my girlfriend, she still enjoyed this sequence, for both its energy and its feminist edge. She got to see three women physically hold off an unstoppable force, completely unfazed.

So yes, structurally, Halloween does nothing to alter the formula. It has the final boss. It offers payoff for key characters, as Laurie and her family confront their fears. But ultimately, my girlfriend and I enjoyed it equally, despite approaching the film from completely different angles.

It’s that ground level enjoyment, the Autumnal communal feeling that we experienced in the cinema, which brought us closer together. The irony of two people simply having a great time within a large crowd. Hands covering the face. Laughing at the stupidity of some of the characters. Enjoying the brutality of Michael’s kills. Halloween (2018) isn’t better than the original, but it’s a proper popcorn-chewing experience that was well worth the spontaneous trip.

Be sure to check out the trailer for this film's sequel below, coming next year:

If you liked this, why not check out my girlfriend and I discussing her reaction to seeing Jurassic Park for the first time? Or, if you want to continue the Halloween theme, have a look at my Nightmare on Elm Street retrospective here.

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