By now, everyone has seen Blumhouse’s Halloween or made plans to. And to clarify with a warning, there will be spoilers as we discuss not only the film as a whole but this new incarnation of Michael Myers in particular. The new film re-contextualizes the series so that, in this version, only the original film happened. Nothing after that. Haddonfield, Illinois and—in particular—Laurie Strode are still haunted by the events of a massacre that occurred forty years ago. Obsession plays a large role in the feature, considering that Laurie’s inability to cope with the events of that night has defined her entire life. She’s had no help, she’s ruined her relationship with her daughter—and by extension her family as a whole—by being unable to do anything but prepare them for a night that she knows deep in her soul is going to happen again.
Of course, the face of obsession in the original film—and many of its sequels—was Sam Loomis, who recognized the evil within Michael and spent years trying to take precautions to prevent Michael’s escape. Like Laurie, he could see what was going to happen, he tried to prepare for it, but nobody listened to him. Michael’s new psychiatrist, a student of Loomis’ seems to be an homage to the character at first. He does, all things said and done, also represent a kind of obsession, but it is very different from anything we ever saw with Loomis.
Dr. Sartain’s obsession is almost romanticized. He enhances the return to Michael Myers as an archetypal force of evil with his Renfield complex, where his fixation on Michael stems from a place of either genuine admiration, worship, or love. All of it is a projection. There’s no attempt on the film’s part to use this to explain away any of Michael’s behavior. Sartain has worked with Michael for years and still does not understand him at all, but that need to understand him has completely overwhelmed him. Even to the point where he would kill someone, not only to complete his ultimate goal of reuniting Michael and Laurie, but simply for the sake of seeing what it feels like, in hopes that he might feel closer to understanding a patient who has remained nothing more than a fascinating mystery.
In that respect, Michael is characterized very much as he was in the first movie. He is still mostly human, but a little bit of something else. And whatever that else is goes entirely unexplained. It’s evil, it’s an abstract concept, it’s something intangible, unknowable and somewhat Lovecraftian that happens to exist at the core of what appears to be a man. Still, in some smart ways, those aspects of the man have taken a bit more prominence. The characters in the film generally pay the price for trying to differentiate between Michael Myers, the patient in state psychiatric care, and the impenetrable boogeyman, and they are one and the same. But there is one element of humanity that has crept into Michael in a clear and prominent way in this film, and it’s the same one that has defined Laurie as well: age.
In some ways, Michael and Laurie were both stunted by that Halloween night in 1978. Neither of them has moved on from it. Laurie has become a paranoid survivalist, living in fear of the notion that at any point what happened to her when she was seventeen could happen again. In this new timeline, it completely makes sense. Laurie Strode is not a sibling or relative of Michael Myers, she has no connection to him whatsoever. What happened to her was entirely random. She didn’t even know who it was that was after her until after he was apprehended. Michael went right back to the life he had known since he was six years old. He was placed back in the care of the same sanitarium he had escaped from, presumably as if nothing had changed. But in one night, Laurie’s entire life and emotional well being were slashed to ribbons.
There was no logic to what Michael did, no rhyme or reason as to why he targeted her, and in that respect it makes every kind of sense that she would be so paranoid, so driven to protect herself and so shaken by what had happened to her that it would wind up defining her entire life.
When it comes to the shape himself, we’re not really supposed to think about his motivations. What he is, whatever drives him, still remains unknown in a very compelling ways. But there are things that we, as fans, will always speculate about. There are fantastic readings of all kinds on why Michael might have been after Laurie in the original Halloween. We don’t need them all to be right. And even in the new film, we’re still not any closer to determining why he’s targeting her, only that he is. The only thing that’s really in question, and one which seems to have an apparent—and obvious—answer is, “why now?”
And the answer is likely just because he’s old.
Michael Myers sat in a sanitarium for fifteen years before breaking out the first time. Patience has always been his strongest suit. Because there’s something supernatural about him, it’s easy to think of him as immortal, but he isn’t. Even in the original Halloween, he was slowed at least for a moment by the blows Laurie landed on him. He has the ability to withstand almost anything. But he didn’t stop aging when he was six-years-old after murdering his sister, Judith. He aged normally, breaking out when he was twenty-one. Now he’s sixty and again, the age is clear. The movie does, for the most part, hide Michael’s face but it does not shy away from prominently showing his receding hairline or his gray beard. He’s older now, and even though it might not clearly define why he’s after Laurie or why he is compelled to return to Haddonfield, it might define a lot of what he does in the movie.
I am, I admit, a sucker for “Last Ride” kind of stories, be it something like The Dark Knight Returns or Logan. They’re always stories that feel almost Western in nature, an aging cowboy who doesn’t know if he has it in him anymore, preparing to take one final ride, and go out with the proverbial bang. There’s an element of that kind of storytelling here. Michael’s age is prominently shown. He moves a little slower, he takes a lot longer getting up. There’s one scene in particular in which Michael is knocked unconscious for several minutes, something that never happened in any of the earlier films. There were always these moments when Michael appeared to be unconscious, but was actually tricking someone so that he could grab their foot or disappear without them noticing. That’s definitely not the case here. In this scene, Michael is knocked out cold and instead of it being a trick, we actually get to see him slowly come to, which is as intimate a look into the way he functions as we have ever been given.
For Michael Myers, this is a story of unfinished business. It’s about realizing that there are more days behind you than in front of you. It’s been forty years down to the day since the Babysitter Murders of 1978 and while Michael murdered five people, he was unsuccessful in his ultimate goal. Those killings of her friends had really only been for her, to set up a haunted house display for her to see so that he could claim a victim he had truly and utterly destroyed. But she got away. And when one gets older, they think about those regrets more and more. Laurie Strode is the ultimate “one that got away,” and there’s a tragedy to the fact that Michael could never possibly understand that she didn’t, that even if she survived, what he did to her caused a lasting trauma that continued to live out the rest of her life afraid and alone, abandoned by the people she loved most.
For someone like Michael Myers, that is clearly not enough. And when one gets older they think about those regrets, they think about all the things they didn’t get a chance to do. So many people, at that age, think about the dreams they had when they were younger, the things that slipped through their fingertips, the things that they always wished they’d been able to accomplish. What’s the one thing you never managed to do that you wish you had done? What’s the one great failure that you wish you could take back? For Michael, all of that is represented in Laurie Strode.
It’s true, though, that sixty isn’t all that terribly old, all things considered, but Michael’s work requires a physically active lifestyle, for the damage he takes if nothing else. He has always been somewhat preternaturally aware of the world around him, that’s always been an element of the supernatural mystery of his character. He walks away from things people could not possibly walk away from, and occasionally knows things that he could not possibly know—best represented in the original movie by his ability to drive a car without ever touching one, or even know the route back to Haddonfield from Smith’s Grove, simply because they were things he needed to know in order to accomplish what he needed to do.
With that in mind, it is entirely possible that as Michael got older, that awareness turned inward. That he might have even become aware of his own body in a way that no one could naturally be, and be able to sense things that no one would be able to diagnose on their own. Whether it be cancer or something else, I think it’s completely within the realm of reason in the context of this movie to suggest that Michael might have actually realized he was dying sometime before the film begins, and realized that this could be the last chance he might ever get to fulfill the singular goal that had come to define his entire life.
It might be a stretch, but it makes sense in the fact that Michael chose now, forty years to the day—anniversary-driven killer as he has always been—to break out and begin his reign of terror anew. It makes sense in how much he’s slowed down and how he seems to feel the hits with a bit more weight than he used to. That damage, at least momentarily, does something to slow him down.
The beauty of Halloween (2018) is that everything moves. Everything builds toward the eventual showdown between Michael and Laurie which, on its own, is well worth the price of admission. There’s a cat-and-mouse game between them that is entirely different than it was in the first film. One of the best things about the movie, from a cinematic perspective, is that it pays homage to many iconic shots from the original, but with Laurie in place of the shape. Those continue throughout her battle with Michael at the end, and there’s something ultimately cathartic about seeing the surprise on Michael’s blank face when he looks over the balcony and sees that Laurie is gone.
One of the things that makes Michael’s mask so purely, simply terrifying and iconic is that we can project pretty much anything onto it, our own fears or our own interpretations. When Laurie actually one-ups Michael at the end, when the tables turn on him and he realizes he’s been had, he stares at Laurie. That stare is just as blank and empty as it always was, but there’s a clear rage in his eyes, even still. And yet, at the same time, there appears to be something like pride. She traps him, and as enraged as he might be in his inability to complete his one and only goal, it also legitimately looks like he might be impressed.
Whether Michael is already dying in 2018’s Halloween—or even aware of the fact, if he is—doesn’t matter so much as the film’s clear and purposeful exploration of an older, more weary Myers, one who has the tables turned on him at multiple points, but never so much as in the very fact that it is he who is forced to come face-to-face with his own fate for the very first time.