Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Haluk Bilginer
Release date: October 19, 2018
Halloween… Or, two senior citizens magically find their way back to each other after 40 long years apart
They did it! They made Michael Myers scary again! In 1978, John Carpenter created Michael Myers, a boogeyman who killed babysitters before disappearing into the night after taking 6 bullets fired by his doctor. The franchise has since given us nine sequels, a reboot, and four convoluted timelines. All the mythos and fear from one of the faces on the Mount Rushmore of horror were essentially gone. And then came the guys from Pineapple Express! David Gordon Green and Danny McBride led the charge and with Jason Blum of Blumhouse on board producing, they crafted a Halloween film that pays loving homage to the original, winks at all the fans, and creates a new and worthy sequel that is, again above everything else, scary.
Halloween opens with a visit to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium from crime journalists Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), who re-examine old cases and look for “fresh takes.” Apparently that means cornering a chained-up Michael, waving his old mask at him, and screaming at him to talk… subtle, huh. We hit the title card and fans will feel warm and fuzzy watching the opening credits as they mimic Carpenter’s classic, even naming characters under the actor’s name. The journalists then pay a visit to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the one survivor of Michael’s 1978 rampage whose PTSD has caused her to live a harsh life, including multiple failed marriages, alcoholism, and having her child taken by protective services (apparently training 8-year olds to live like The Walking Dead survivalists is off limits in Haddonfield).
There were only two things that David Gordon Green’s film needed to get 100 perfect right and that was Laurie and Michael. The film NAILS them! Laurie is the Sarah Connor for a new generation. She’s tough, angry, and seeking final revenge. Curtis showed glimpses of this in one of the good Halloween sequels, the aptly named H20, back in 1998. Her final fight with Michael in that film is a favorite of fans. They took that element of her character and fleshed out a believable life story. At one point early in the new film, a teenager jokes that surviving a serial killer who murdered your friends wouldn’t be that big of a deal today, and it took awhile for that to sink in. Sadly, he’s probably right. But in 1978, there were no 24-hour news cycles and Laurie Strode must have relived that night over and over and been the town’s only story to focus on. Curtis portrays Laurie as a hard woman, crazed but assured, ready to fight but hoping not to need to. A 57-year-old woman as a kickass vengeance-seeking hero fighting toe to toe with evil is pretty cool.
As for Michael Myers, I could not have been more impressed with the combined performances of James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle. Courtney, a 6’3″ stuntman, plays Michael as the stoic unflinching personification of evil and Castle’s subtleties as The Shape are what make Michael such an ominous threat. Oftentimes in horror, the villain, especially the slashers, grow to become folk heroes. Freddy wisecracked his way into pop culture and Jason became a farce in later sequels playing a game of “what weapon should I use next?” But Michael has always been the one who scared me because of his simplicity. The pale white mask, his slow yet effective movements. The way everything about him is so obviously human, and at the same time, so obviously not. This film combines Michael’s two scariest traits: his methodical pace and his sheer brutality. There are some brutal and memorable kills in the film. The long unedited cut of Michael tracking in and out of backyards and houses on a murder rampage is just thrilling stuff.
Another major victory for the production was the score composed by the legend himself, John Carpenter along with his son Cody Carpenter and collaborator Daniel A. Davies. The score is a character in and of itself. The Halloween theme is up there with JAWS in terms of classic recognizable horror music. The trio take that and alter it slightly with a deeper bass and making it wholly unique. As is the norm in the horror genre, the score is the backbone that holds the film upright.
While I definitely enjoyed the overall product, the film is far from flawless. There are some lulls in the story that give unnecessary screen time to unnecessary characters. And while I’ll credit Danny McBride, I can’t help but think some of my biggest issues were his additions to the script. There are some really awkward attempts at humor throughout that don’t play well at all. One particular bizarrely unfunny scene involved two cops who we as the audience know are just there to be fodder. There are some characters we meet and expect to have more impactful roles who simply disappear. I did laugh out loud when Laurie Strode meets a rambling Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) and says what everyone in the crowd was thinking, “Oh, you’re the new Loomis.”
Overall, Halloween met my expectations and was a pulse-pounding 90 minutes in the dark theater. Was it Carpenter’s masterpiece? Of course not. But was it the best Halloween film since Carpenter’s 1978 original? After one viewing, I think it’s a clear YES from me. It makes Michael scary again, allows the most famous final girl to grow into a badass final woman, and has enough winks for the old guard while keeping things fresh for today’s horror audience. As this plans to open wide this Friday, October 19th, less than two weeks before the Halloween holiday, something tells me that the box office will be financing another sequel in short order.
Halloween was not the best or even my favorite horror film of 2018, but it is unquestionably my most satisfying. 4¼ out of 5.
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