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Why “HALLOWEEN KILLS” is doomed to be divisive

Friday, October 15, 2021 | Culture, Opinion


Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve written here – I tend to devote my efforts into putting together the print magazine and leave the website material in the very capable hands of our online team (kudos to Rocco Thompson, Grace Detwiler and Michael Gingold for keeping this machine well-maintained and running). But I feel compelled to comment on something that’s happening right now, right at this moment – something that won’t wait for my cherished editorial space in the next issue. Let’s talk about “HALLOWEEN KILLS” and what the real discourse surrounding this movie is about.

We often refer to the “horror community” as a homogenous group that shares certain significant traits. When I mention the horror community, it’s in reference to the shared practice of horror fandom – the horror community doesn’t just enjoy horror movies, but cares enough about them to engage with it: anxiously awaiting that new trailer, for example, or attending conventions, stocking up on spooky decor around Halloween time, or (hopefully) reading Rue Morgue in one form or another. But in many ways, the horror community is incredibly diverse. Tastes differ, and insofar as the material we love might coalesce onto the same shelf at the video store or menu on a streaming service, mileage will vary between cinematic subgenres and the manner in which we enjoy them.

Which brings me to HALLOWEEN KILLS, which opens today in theatres (and streaming on Peacock, if you’re in the US). In my entire career at Rue Morgue, and indeed, my personal experience as a member of said community, I’ve yet to witness a film series as divisive as this current Blumhouse reboot. Since the launch of David Gordon Green’s 2018 HALLOWEEN, the social media discourse has showcased the community’s sharpest claws and ugliest verbal confrontations – less a matter of personal taste or opinion, one’s take on this third permutation of the franchise has fans calling one another’s very fandom into question, and there’s something interesting (if not to say troubling) to me about that.

HALLOWEEN is a difficult position with regard to pleasing its fanbase, and I suspect this goes all the way back to the original 1978 film and its position within the slasher subgenre. It’s quite clear what giallo fans like about giallo; this subset of the community is fairly consistent in its appreciation of the trademark traits that define this particular subgenre. The same goes for torture porn, J-horror, “elevated horror” (forgive the contested term) and so on – within these fandoms, individual tastes still apply but the expectations are reasonably easily defined. This isn’t quite the case with the slasher movies. In their heyday of the late ’70s and ’80s, the established and oft-replicated formula seemed quite clear – serial killer hacks through teen populus with abandon, often employing a penetrative weapon until a final showdown with the last target standing (enter the archetype of the final girl). At the time, these movies were created and marketed as a cavalcade of creative kills, designed to thrill teenage audiences who were believed to be there for the boobs and body count.

Not to say this wasn’t entirely accurate – certainly, a large portion of its audience was and remains painted with this particular brush – but in the decades that followed, the appreciation for the subgenre has expanded dramatically. The final girl, for example, who was once dismissed as anti-feminist for enforcing conservative ideals of feminine virtue, has been re-evaluated for her resourcefulness. With such reappraisals as Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws (1992), the horror world became acutely aware that the slasher was being interpreted differently by a different segment of its audience – a segment that was likely unconsidered when the subgenre was at its peak popularity. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, we’ve come to realize that the slasher fan who comes for the stalky-slashy/killy-killy is coming at it from a different perspective than the fan who’s there to root for the plucky heroine in peril. This isn’t to say there isn’t crossover, of course, but it’s fair to surmise that the modern slasher is invariably going to hit differently, even among its most fervent fans.

So getting back to HALLOWEEN KILLS and the pursuant nastiness that has currently infiltrated my social media feeds. On the surface, the reboot seems like an easy win for Blumhouse – a beloved property returns, replete with Curtis, Castle and Carpenter in tow. Michael Myers is back on his shit, and a grown-up Laurie Strode is ready to hand it right back to him. What was perhaps lost in the decades between the original film and its reboot is an understanding of the complex web of factors that made the original film a beloved classic. The answer to that question varies so strongly from fan to fan that it’s a near-impossible task to capture that particular lightning in a bottle 40 years later. This is why the film is so polarizing – a splintered fanbase that appreciates the original for such varied reasons is going to be even further divided by differing expectations and desires. This is why the 2018 reboot was such a slam-dunk for some slasher fans and a travesty to others – when you consider the substantial fragmentation of the fandom, we’re barely watching the same movie at all.

Thus, it’s a bit more understandable that those who are fully satisfied by the reboot are incensed by the criticism. “True” fans accuse one another of missing the point, and the shitty thing is they can both be right about what that point should be. I’m taking this space to write about it because it pains me to see our community reduced to such pointless slapfights. One Facebook user took such issue with Michael Gingold’s criticism of the film that they commented that Rue Morgue should have sent a more qualified reviewer to cover it (if there’s a film reviewer in existence more qualified than Mike, I’ve yet to find them). I haven’t seen HALLOWEEN KILLS yet but I’m watching it tonight, and I’m going in with full acknowledgment of the difficulty (if not impossibility) of capturing 40 years worth of nostalgia, influence, and scholarship into a reboot that will hit all the right marks for everyone. The irony is that slashers are known to be formulaic and simple, when the diversity of its reception and fandom shows the exact opposite to be true.

So let’s try to play nice in the coming weeks, weirdos – agreeing to disagree has never been more challenging than in the current cultural climate, but we are all fans, after all.

Andrea Subissati
Executive editor; Rue Morgue Magazine