Fans and critics were certainly split over last October’s Halloween reboot. While critics gave the film praise for updating the franchise for a modern audience, fans who have followed the series since John Carpenter’s original were less impressed, finding the film to be derivative and (the cardinal sin of any horror film) not scary enough.
Despite the mixed feelings about 2018’s version of Michael Myers tale, fans still hold the series in high regard, including some of the questionable later entries in the series. Author Ernie Magnotta is one who certainly hold the films near and dear to his heart, but he also approaches the many Halloween films with a critical perspective in his new book Halloween: The Changing Shape of an Iconic Series.
Magnotta’s book is a comprehensive cataloging of the series, weighing in at 380 pages in an over-sized (almost coffee-table sized) trade paperback edition. The book starts with an introduction that is more of a “love letter” to the franchise and one that many long-time fans will easily connect with. From there, Magnotta examines the influences on the first Halloween movie, detailing the obvious (Psycho), as well as a few convincing surprises (such as some of the camera shots that were used in Universal’s Revenge of the Creature).
After the introduction and influences, Magnotta dedicates a chapter to each of the films in the series and follows a similar format in terms of each sub-section in the chapters. Each film gets a panoramic view, including discussions of the characters, story, acting talent, direction and composition, psychological overtones, music, theme, and a summative evaluation of the film, both in Magnotta’s opinion, the box office revenue, and the critical reception at the time of release. With such a wide variety of information, Changing Shape reads like one of the many film guides that are produced every year on genre classics, but where the book separates itself from those editions is when Magnotta offers his critical perspective on the film making techniques, providing commentary along with factual information about each film. For the most part, the criticism Magnotta provides far outweighs the straight facts, which is information that can be found elsewhere and often.
Each of the chapters also offer more than 200 illustrations and still photos (including the cover illustration by P.L. Boucher which would make an excellent Mondo Poster). The larger, full page photos stand out in an over-sized edition such as this one, while some of the smaller stills from the various films appear a bit “glossy”, perhaps due to the size or the type of paper used for the book.
While the job done on the franchise is comprehensive (going all the way up to Rob Zombie’s second film, Halloween 2, and a final chapter on the future of the series, particularly the at time of publication unreleased Halloween remake) Halloween 3 isn’t covered in the book. We reached out to Magnotta about this omission and he told HNN that it was intentional “…because it wouldn’t make sense to compare the film making techniques of that film to the original as it has nothing to do with the original Halloween.” He also wants fans to know that the removal of Silver Shamrock masks from the discussion is not out of “… a lack of respect or a lack of love” for the film.
Even with Halloween 3 removed from the conversation, Changing Shape offers a comprehensive look at the film series, with commentary that only a true student of the films could provide.
Halloween: The Changing Shape of an Iconic Series is currently available at the official website.