We last covered the trailer campaign for Halloween back in early June; now, as we enter fall and near the film’s release, the film is ramping up its promotional presence with its second trailer dropping this past week. Having been a part of the canon of Hollywood slasher/horror films since its inception in 1978, Halloween in the 2018 edition enters a part-reboot, part-sequel wherein Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is found older, wiser, and much more stridently taking on antagonist Michael Myers (Nick Castle). As we’ll hear, John Carpenter similarly reprises his role as the composer of the franchise’s famous piano theme.
The trailer begins with the popular trailer music trope of a single, plaintive piano chord – an open fifth, in this case – as the visuals open in the middle of a scene of children trick-or-treating on a nondescript suburban American street. It does not take long, however, for the kids in question to bump into a shadowy figure, accompanied by menacing, bowed low strings that render the chord into a minor key. This quickly escalates at 0:17 with the first flash of Myers’ face. An over-the-shoulder camera angle with relative silence preserves the tension. “Forty years ago, on Halloween night, Michael Myers murdered three people,” Laurie Strode as narrator intones, reminding long-time fans of the franchise’s history while also introducing prospective new fans to its inception.
At 0:46 the sound cuts out entirely and suddenly, which makes the anticipation of Myers’ act with hammer that much more tense. Synths evocative of the sound of a deep and slow – yet quickening – heart beat follow as the narration continues, plainly but evocatively setting up the plot. Hazy strings adorn the underlying beat. As the new story develops, we hear many elements of sound design to repeated black screens, Strode’s gunshots lead rhythmically into the title card of the date (this Halloween, of course), which turns into the same rhythm on the lower end of a piano. At 1:32 we hear eighth notes plucked by what sounds perhaps like an electronically modified harpsichord, or possibly a modified warning chime from a car or alarm.
We hear the sound of dozens of (presumably human) teeth falling to the bathroom floor by Myers’ hand, before Carpenter’s theme enters – this time with a quick, glitchy synthesizer atop it. The trailer proceeds to alternate between a couple of quiet, if not silent moments, followed by action with sonic hits, punctuated by Carpenter’s mildly syncopated piano theme.
In some ways, the musical pacing is very similar to the first trailer in this campaign. However, Carpenter’s theme isn’t as relished or thoroughly placed front and centre this time, instead playing a role as an undercurrent for the action in the third half of the trailer, alongside other electronic sounds. It respects the series’ past while also being unafraid of trying new elements, perhaps in an effort to modernize it. It is a film that leans into its past, to be sure, but both musically and dramatically speaking, this is more than a retread. It opts instead to build on the franchise’s iconic music with aural accoutrements that retain the core of its sonic identity.
– Curtis Perry