This post contains major spoilers for Halloween.
To many, the names David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were not a natural choice to take the reins of a horror franchise like Halloween and drag it back to blockbuster acclaim. Not counting the two-installment Rob Zombie reboot, which was a little too metal for the masses, there have been seven sequels prior to the one arriving this weekend, and the story had traveled so far from John Carpenter’s classic original that those sequels feel more like a parody of the story than a continuation of it. Michael even managed to kill Laurie Strode in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection. But as any good horror fan knows, a super-killer can always rise again with a renewed sense of purpose, and armed with a revamped score from Carpenter himself, Green and McBride have finally made a new Halloween with Zeitgeist-capturing power.
The new film picks up 40 years after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived the killing spree carried out by Michael Myers (who is not her brother anymore) on that fateful night when she was just a teenager. She was stalked and attacked repeatedly. Her friends were killed, and according to the revised mythology, she watched her assailant get hauled off by the cops on his way to a lifetime in lockup. In this new timeline, Strode did not go on to become the mother of Josh Hartnett and the headmistress of chic boarding school in California (as she did in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later). Instead, she broke under the weight of untreated trauma, growing into an obsessive prepper who built her entire life around the day she knew would always come: the day Michael Myers returned to finish her off.
To steel herself against the Shape’s return, Laurie constructed a compound of death, equipped with a shooting range on the property, trick doors, a panic room, and a ton of hidden ways to neutralize intruders. To the outside world it looks like the crumbling estate of a broken woman, but to Strode, it’s a house-shaped weapon that’s taken her a lifetime to build. It’s a monument to Laurie’s PTSD, and also the embodiment of what defines the new Halloween, a movie about the price of a horror heroine’s grand triumph at the end of a scary movie. As a setpiece, it’s also an outstanding place to stage the ultimate final showdown in a horror film.
Green, who directed the movie, says his goal for production was to “find the balance between thematic excellence and capable filmmaking within extraordinary budgetary constraints.” It’s a feat he accomplishes in the fan-service spectacular that is Halloween’s last battle, which ends with Michael trapped in a secret basement shelter, bleeding from a bullet wound, and about to be engulfed in flames. To find out how it all came together, Vulture spoke with the filmmakers and the new Karen Strode (Judy Greer) about the hidden reference in Laurie house, making a kill room on a hardware-store budget, and in the case of Greer, what it felt like to be unleashed as a horror heroine.
Trust the Audience
McBride and Green’s original plan for the beginning of their Halloween was to start at the end of the original and shoot a kind of dream re-creation of the 1978 finale. That way, audiences could see Michael being apprehended and it would serve as a bridge for the new mythology. To do so, they called for a full re-creation of the bedroom where the final fight takes place. That meant going into the old set and taking exact measurements of the whole thing, putting the closet and door in the right places, and building out the balcony that Michael got tossed over. With only 25 days to shoot, however, Green was running out of time and money to film the flashback intro — but a helpful intervention from Carpenter made him realize spelling out the transition between movies was unnecessary. “You don’t even need that shit,” is how Green characterizes Carpenter’s advice. “People will get it.”
So instead, the replica set was repurposed into Laurie’s terrifying bedroom in the closing act. At first, it seems like the room is just a storage space for her terrible mannequin collection, but it’s actually where Laurie sleeps — and in addition to serving as a fun Easter egg for fans, it’s also a peek into the psyche of our grief-addled heroine. “I don’t think anyone’s going to call it out in the movie experience,” Green says about Laurie’s room, “but I’m convinced that subconsciously everyone is going to know that’s the closet where she grabbed the coat hanger and that’s the balcony he went over.”
And as for Laurie going over the balcony in a callback to the original? That one was all McBride.
Explore the Darkness
“Some of Michael rubbed off on Laurie for sure,” McBride says of 2018 Laurie, who has turned her home into one giant outlet for her fear and paranoia. “That’s what David does so well, showing this house that’s just seems derelict and broken-down, and as you get into it you’re like, ‘Oh, man. This house seems like it’s her cage, but really it’s a trap,’ and that’s where she’s been living.” But as elaborate as her home renovations are, they’re not vanity projects. They’re rooted in her pain, and function as a substitute for proper therapy and coping mechanisms. While Michael may have imprinted deeply on Laurie, the filmmakers wanted to emphasize that she was not his superheroine foil. (Remember, she has not survived numerous sequels in this incarnation.) She is just a woman doing her best to get by, and who has sacrificed everything — even a life with her daughter and granddaughter — to try and exist in this world.
“This is not scream queen Laurie Strode,” says Green. “This is the Laurie Strode that’s evolved from the very ending of the first film, when she’s talking to young Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace. She looks at him in the eye and says, ‘Do as I say,’ and in that moment she’s transitioned from a naïve honor student romantically longing for Ben Tramer to a commanding authority figure to save the life of these two kids. So we took ‘Do as I say’ as her mantra and we put it in our movie.”
Stay True to the Hero
When you know the big finish to your movie is going to literally go up in flames — and you also want your trio of heroines to have an epic triumph over evil — it’s easy to get carried away. Biometric locks! Explosions! Ten-inch-thick reinforced vault doors! A snake pit! But that’s not how a woman of modest means living on the fringes of society is going to operate. “Danny and I came up with fucked-up stuff, and then talked to the production designer Richard Wright, who says, ‘She doesn’t have a production designer. She goes to Home Depot. So it all has to be stuff that a woman on a budget can do,’” Green says, explaining how all of Laurie’s DIY defense mechanisms came about. “You know, in my mind we’re going to Panic Room — David Fincher–mode — but she’s not having a contractor go down to that secret basement. So she dug that hole.”
Given that one of our new Strodes, Laurie’s daughter, Karen, was conscripted as a small child to help outfit said secret basement, it’s fitting that her own hero’s journey would reach its climax down those hidden stairs. Greer’s character spends most of Halloween in denial and shielding her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), from exposure to her very Sarah Connor–esque grandmother. But when Michael finally comes calling, Karen no longer has the luxury of naïveté.
“Karen is a character who was actively trying to rewrite her own narrative and her life,” says Greer. “This is a woman who has spent her entire life trying to not do what she ends up doing in the movie, but it’s in her blood. It’s in her bones, in her DNA. She was conceived with this in her body.” She may have resented Laurie for it, but Karen was raised to greet her judgment day, and when that muscle memory kicks in, audiences are treated to an ascendant Greer, and a true hell yes! moment for an actress you don’t think of as serving cold justice with a gun.
“Until that moment — until that fucker came back — I succeeded in my life’s work to rewrite our history as the Strode women,” Greer says of her character’s exhilarating survivalist pivot. “Then that fucking guy came back and ruined everything, and I had to shoot him [laughs]. When it came time to do it, Karen really fucking stepped up!”
Always Leave Room for Sequel Speculation
With no official word either way about whether or not a sequel is in the works, of course neither Green nor McBride will clarify Michael’s conspicuous absence in the final shot of the small burning room he was clearly trapped in beneath a fully burning house. But it didn’t make the director’s response any less maddening when asked why Michael was missing. “Did you freeze-frame? It’s only two seconds long. Are you sure you didn’t see him? He might not have been standing on the stairs.” I assured him I checked the stairs first and maximized those two seconds by looking for the only giant man in coveralls present in the scene. “That’s such a fun thing to do in the editing room. Do you hold it long enough where you can know for sure what’s happening in that moment? Or do you just hold it long enough where the audience wonders if they saw something?”
So? Did I see something?
“You have to see it multiple times,” Green tells me. “And then buy the DVD and then that then you’ll know for sure.”
And McBride is no help either. “You know, who knows, man?” says the screenwriter. “The boogeyman could be out there!”