Not quite a reboot and not quite a sequel, Halloween is part of an eleven-instalment franchise stretching back to 1978. Without particular for continuity with its previous sequels, this version of what’s become a sort of re-told myth in the American slasher tradition of filmmaking sees Jamie Lee Curtis reprise her original role as Laurie Strode, seeking some forty years later to enact violent revenge on the escaped mental patient and original film’s murderer, Michael Myers (Nick Castle). As such, the film is best thought of as a direct sequel to the original, within its own continuity.
John Carpenter’s original piano-based theme does make its obligatory appearance here, but not first without some lead-in. The trailer begins with a deep, ominous bass; at 0:09 we hear a a sharp sound effect as the murder of Halloween 1978 is mentioned. At 0:12-0:13 some low-fidelity sounding gunshots (presumable to emphasize their occurring forty years ago) accompany a flickering screen. This sets up some backstory for those who may be new to the franchise as much as it jogs the memory of those who’ve followed the franchise in any of its multiple iterations.
At 0:24 the sound reaches a peak and cuts off as we see a sweeping outdoor shot of the psychiatric facility that Michael is kept at. “Hello Michael,” the first bit of dialogue intones. The whimpering of a dog and the otherwise innocuous tones of a trolley bell are juxtaposed with Michael’s maniacal laughter and subversive creepy, steadily building sound effects. These elements quickly turn into a cacophonous wash, the bell cutting through as a rhythmic base, as Michael’s mask is held up.
And then, at 0:44, we jump cut directly to a single octave (two notes on the piano of the same quality and of a different range) at the studio title cards, murky synths lurking just beneath. At 0:53 the piano begins to deviate, adding a two-note, semi-tone based riff from time to time which, to these ears, is actually evocative of the Jurassic Park theme. This is probably not at all what the editors were doing for, and it may just as well work for another person’s ears, but the intention here is likely to try to musically allude to the famous Halloween piano theme by John Carpenter.
Some more exposition later, we learn that Laurie Strode is bent on killing Michael; her practice shotgun work is heard front and centre leading into the second half of the trailer. At 1:21 we hear a new, pulsing bass sound, and we learn that Michael has escaped. Sound effects both within and outside the movie coalesce to enhance the action: as teeth the floor, there is an accompanying sound effect; as the bathroom door is shaken, there are additional sounds to highlight that tension.
Finally, at 1:50, alongside the date card (“This Halloween,”) Carpenter’s theme comes practically roaring in. The dialogue focuses rather intently on Laurie Strode’s determination to end the lengthy, forty-year conflict between her and Michael. While the film is firmly in the slasher genre, this is a rather fresh character dynamic in the form of a character who appears to be completely unafraid and determined to face the unhinged killer. It lends a different dynamic to the music itself, a pulsating, algorithmic, minimal sort of theme that suggests the resolve of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character as much as it did – and does – the brutal, cold nature of the masked murderer she faces.
At 2:23 we see one more satisfying, if somewhat predictable, jump scare, with the music cutting out to help set it up. At 2:34 we hear the theme return with the main title card.
Overall, this trailer for the latest instalment of Halloween seems to go rather comfortably by the book as far as horror trailers tropes are concerned: the requisite menacing synths, jump scares, and brooding moments of solo piano and dramatic single notes are all here. What’s interesting about this trailer, perhaps, is the finer details: the low-fi gunshots and other sound effects, timing for introducing that classic main theme, and synchronization of in-film sounds augmented by extra effects serve as subtly effective accoutrements that serve the dialogue and visual narrative rather than compete for attention. Similarly, the trailer doesn’t necessarily hit you on the head with that famous piano theme, but nor does it shy away from it. The trailer is indicative of a franchise well aware of its particular value and identity some forty years in, and working comfortably within it.
– Curtis Perry