How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Halloween Franchise's Continuity

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2018-10-14 19:12
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Programming note: in the interest of not bogging down my upcoming review of Halloween (2018) with my thoughts on the decision to reboot the franchise continuity again, hereís an entire editorial on the subject. Stay tuned for more Halloween coverage all week!

When David Gordon-Greenís Halloween bows in theaters later this week, fans will face a familiar conundrum: a sequel that sacrifices previous entries by slashing them out of continuity. For longtime fans, itíll be an especially ruthless bout with dťjŗ vu, what with Halloween H20 taking the same approach two decades ago, a controversial move that inspired fierce message board debates. As a veteran of that heated battle who spilled way too much digital ink in a vain effort to reconcile that filmís continuity bludgeoning, I feel uniquely qualified to declare that it was all quite silly. I spent so much time debating whether or not I didnít warm up to H20 because of its continuity issues when the truth was much more simple: I didnít warm up to it because itís not a very good movie, and I would have been more than happy to let those other issues slide if it had been.

As such, Iím heading into the latest reboot with an open mind: at this point, Iím so starved for a decent Halloween movie that Iíve embraced tossing continuity into the wind and allowing the latest sequel to thrive or stumble on its own merits. Not only that, but itís clear for numerous reasonsóthe franchiseís strange history and potential future, John Carpenterís intentions, and common senseóthat this is just about the only way Halloween can endure.

While H20 is the most egregious example of the franchiseís mangled continuity, Carpenter laid the groundwork himself with Halloween III, the infamous standalone entry that has nothing to do with the Michael Myers saga. In fact, Carpenter never imagined he would ever feature in a saga at all and turned to the anthology format to lay The Shape to rest for good. Obviously, it didnít stick, but it did introduce a wonky sense of continuity that has come to define this franchise: depending on your persuasion, itís simply baked into the mythos or tags along like excess baggage for the franchise, and the latest entry is simply carrying on the tradition. At this point, itís a featureónot a bug.

Speaking of Carpenterís intentions (and excess baggage), Halloween 2018 represents a mulligan for the master. By acting as a new, alternate Halloween II, it reverses one of his biggest regrets: desperately turning to a hackneyed sibling angle in the first sequel, an act that effectively explained and demystified Michaelís madness. Infamously inspired by several bottles and cans of booze, this revelation charted the franchiseís immediate path, leading to a convoluted turn of events thatís been retconned multiple times now. What seemed like a decent shock in 1981 soon grew into a more malignant tumor that took the franchise further and further away from Carpenterís vision of pure, inexplicable evil; no longer was he the phantom of death floating into suburbia but rather a maniac hunting his family, perhaps at the behest at pagan cult. If Carpenter has blessed Danny McBride and Gordon-Greenís decision to eschew all of this, then who am I to argue?

ďBut,Ē you might retort, ďI kind of like those silly sequels!Ē Friends, I am actually with you here, at least up until Halloween 6. Jamie Lloyd, Rachael Carruthers, cops doing it by the book, goddamn cookie woman, all of the Thorn nonsense, Dr. Loomisís deranged, decades-long battle with Myers: Iíd be lying if I said all of this wonít be lingering about in my brain during the new film, aching like some kind of phantom limb from the purgatory of continuity hell. Hereís the thing, though: all of this has already been erased since H20, and yet, these films have remained comfort food during the Halloween season for those 20 years. Multiple copies rest of my shelf at this point, while Halloween 4 and 5 practically take up residence on AMC during this time of the year. Maybe they donít technically count, but nobody can erase this trilogy from my heart (we can negotiate about anything involving Josh Hartnett, Busta Rhymes, and Rob Zombie, though).

Of course, we longtime fans also need to make a tough acknowledgement: at this point, new Halloween films arenít explicitly made for us anymore. Yes, making a direct sequel and bringing Jamie Lee Curtis, Carpenter, and even Nick Castle into the fold appeals to nostalgia, but itís not exclusively our nostalgia. After all, thereís a reason itís Curtis returning and not, say, Danielle Harris or Paul Rudd (a man can dream, though). As much as we might enjoy the weird, wacky exploits of these sequels, direct follow-ups to them are impractical, if not downright unfeasible. For Halloween to return to box office glory, it has to shed all of that excess baggage once again and take the simplest, most obviously profitable approach possible. Given the year-long buzz surrounding Blumhouseís upcoming entry, itís already tough to argue against their decision to reboot: Michael Myers is about to be back in a huge way, something that just wouldnít have been possible (or at least more difficult) with any other approach.

No stronger argument exists: any Halloween movie sounds more appealing than no Halloween movies, and barring some unforeseen box office disaster, Blumhouse has already put us on the path to a long-awaited franchise revival. As recently as a decade ago, I would have gnashed my teeth at such a mercenary, ďby any means necessaryĒ approach, but going without a Halloween film for nearly that entire stretch makes a man desperate. Probably not desperate enough to embrace Rob Zombieís Halloween III, mind you, and let that be a reminder that itís a miracle the series even recovered from that era. Even though itís doubtful those films would have been the final word for this franchise, letís be grateful that Carpenter and company have an opportunity to definitely put those bad memories to rest. For the first time in two decades, Halloween once again inspires promise instead of morbid curiosity. And if that promised isnít fulfilled, to hell with itóafter all, we have multiple options to fall back on now:

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