Commentary

'Halloween' Seizes The Weekend (And The Tenor Of The Time)

It is, indeed, going to be a happy Halloween for the movie franchise that saw its eleventh installment opened to the tune of $77.5 million over the weekend, shattering several records.

“OK. I’m going for one BOAST post.  Biggest horror movie opening with a female lead. Biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55. Second biggest October movie opening ever.  Biggest Halloween opening ever,” star Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted yesterday, appending #womengetthingsdone. 

“David Gordon Green directed the ‘Halloween’ sequel, which brings back Curtis as Laurie Strode and Nick Castle in a cameo as Michael Myers, essentially ignoring the events of the other sequels and spinoffs that followed John Carpenter's 1978 original,” writes the AP’s Lindsey Bahr for USA Today.

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“Reviews have been largely positive for the new installment, with an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B-plus grade on CinemaScore from audiences that were mostly older (59% over 25) and male (53%). Internationally, ‘Halloween’ earned $14.3 million from 23 markets,” Bahr continues.

Curtis, who has had a role in five of the movies including the progenitor in 1978, has been very visible in promoting the flick.

“At [the Toronto International Film Festival], where she was promoting her reprisal of scream-queen Laurie Strode … the actress kept things real from the jump. She shimmied toward me down the hallway of the InterContinental Hotel humming 'The Hustle' -- a nod to the marketing merry-go-round she’s riding to promote the film,” Julie Miller wrote for Vanity Fair last month.

“Curtis, who is an executive producer on the movie as well, certainly didn’t sign onto the project because she missed the publicity aspect of moviemaking. Having recently published another children’s book, she also didn’t return to her star-making franchise because she was bored,” Miller continues.

“I signed on because I liked the idea that they were focusing on a trauma that occurred 40 years ago, and the generational effects of that trauma,” Curtis tells Miller. 

Indeed, “this ‘Halloween’ treats Laurie differently, both in Green’s story and in Universal’s marketing. For decades, ‘Halloween’ has been the subject of feminist criticism, pinning it as the film that popularized the use of the ‘final girl’ (the one survivor of the slasher film who is often a virgin while more sexually promiscuous women are killed off). Critics have also noted that while Laurie fights off Michael, he survives, and it ultimately takes several gunshots from Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, to save her,” writes Jeremy Fuster for The Wrap.

“The movie has bred 1000 PhDs, but … in retrospect, I know that was not the intention here. It was not a feminist statement. It had nothing to do with the fact that promiscuous girls died and the virgin lived, none of it. It was written as an emotional journey of a very vulnerable girl being chosen as the centerpoint of this story, where this vulnerable creature is in collision with pure evil, and she’s somewhat an archetype of this young vulnerable dreamer,” Curtis said in an interview with Rachel Simon for Bustle, Furster points out.

“Among R-rated horror debuts, [‘Halloween’ is] ahead of everything else, even adjusted for inflation, save for ‘It,’ reports Scott Mendelson for Forbes. “‘Halloween’ sold almost as many tickets, in a Netflix and chill era, sans the benefit of IMAX or 3D (or 4DX where they’d presumably throw blood on your head, ‘Carrie’ style), over its opening weekend as ‘Interview with the Vampire’ ($36m in 1994/$79m adjusted) and more than Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ ($32m in 1992/$66m adjusted).” 

The popularity of "Halloween" may have something to do with the zeitgeist.

Curtis was recently the subject of a New York cover story by David Edelstein. For Curtis, “talking about her character, Laurie Strode, means also addressing #MeToo and PTSD and ways of connecting the horror genre — which, despite its unprecedented box-office ascendance, she knows to be disreputable — with healing,” Edelstein writes.

“Things are so bad that we’re turning for uplift to horror movies, which tell us how not crazy we are to be paranoid in a world of predators, some in high office. Where classic horror films proceeded from the quaint assumption that the universe leans toward stability but that poisons do build up, producing monsters that must be put down, most contemporary horror films, like ‘Get Out,’ ‘The Purge,’ and ‘A Quiet Place,’ see the presence of monsters as the baseline, the worst-case scenario as the rule, not the exception. So it’s all uphill, really,” Edelstein adds. 

Scary times, indeed.

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