H40: Our Review of ‘Halloween’ (2018)

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 19, 2018
H40: Our Review of ‘Halloween’ (2018)

40 years after the original genre-defining classic from maestro John Carpenter, this week sees the newest film in the Halloween franchise debut, but this time around Carpenter is only on board as executive producer’s role. Director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) is behind the camera, writing the script with comedian and Pineapple Express star Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, as they attempt to rewrite and retcon the entire series of film save the original 1978 film that started everything.

Completely ignoring every film that came out after the original, even Carpenter’s direct sequel Halloween 2, this new Halloween starts with a pair of entitled podcasters, ne “investigative journalists” (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees), trying to revisit the killings 40 years prior. The pair attempt to provoke a reaction from the once again docile Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), currently committed to a heavily guarded mental health facility, the day before he’s scheduled to be moved to serve the rest of his sentence locked away from everyone in a maximum-security prison. Their next order of business sees them track down the now reclusive Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), still obsessed with Michael 40 years later, who has lost contact with every connection in her life including her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and teenaged granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Unsurprisingly, Michael springs to action once loaded onto the transport, overpowering the guards and forcing the bus off the road, and makes his way back to Haddonfield to resume his path of destruction anew. But this time Laurie is loaded to bear and willing to go to extreme lengths to protect her family.

The first thing that moviegoers will notice through the beginning of this film is just how smart the script for this film is. The film quickly does away with the “Laurie Strode is Michael’s sister” storyline from Halloween 2 (that film’s only real weak point in my opinion) with a simple piece of dialogue that helps set the intention of the filmmakers in motion as well. By leaving behind all the films after the first, it also allows this Michael to be the version of the character from the first film, a wandering psychopath who kills indiscriminately and is not obsessed with anyone but the potential body in front of him. Rather instead its Laurie’s obsession and interference in Michael’s killing that puts her back in his field of vision. In fact, if it weren’t for the actions of another character in the film, actions that make no sense for that character but seem to just be there to move Michael into place for the finale, then Michael would likely be content to continue killing indiscriminately. It’s a change in tone that makes more sense for the Myers character, as the previous sequels rely way too much on Michael knowing and hunting down family members, which frankly gets so preposterous at times that is has become reminiscent of the dumb “shark followed my family for revenge” plot from the awful Jaws: The Revenge.

Jamie Lee Curtis’ aged and hardened version of Laurie is likely to gather comparisons to Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor of Terminator 2: Judgement Day but there are some very telling differences in the characters. Where Hamilton’s character was eager to travel and learn from militias and extremists, Curtis’ Laurie fell back away from the world, training herself for the most part and driving everyone away with her obsession. While they both are preparing for what they see as an inevitable future showdown, Laurie’s more calculating than Sarah Connor’s ‘shotgun to the face and run’ approach in her execution. Judy Greer’s Karen is hardly a version of Edward Furlong’s John Connor though, and the comparisons between the movies end there, as she has actively tried to avoid this conflict her entire life. The only other character in the film who immediately seems to realize the extreme nature of Michael’s actions is Will Patton’s Officer Hawkins, the first officer to respond to the scene of the murders 40 years ago. The one character that really doesn’t work here though is the new version of Dr. Loomis that they put into place, Dr. Sartain played by Haluk Bilginer. The audience is supposed to buy into the fact that Sartain is half the obsessed Loomis and half psychopath himself, but it never adds up and the character makes one extreme decision that does not ring true.

There’s not much to say about the performances here other than they are all very good. Curtis slips into Laurie like a set of old clothes that after decades still magically fit, but also imbues the performance with years of emotional trauma that can bubble up to the surface in a heartbeat. Everyone else provides excellent supporting work, with Patton a standout in a smaller role that could have easily been swallowed up on screen if it weren’t for his presence. For his part, David Gordon Green does an admirable job living in Carpenter’s camera aesthetic for the film, using Carpenter’s now legendary use of off-center framing and lingering camera to keep the audience guessing as to when Michael may be lurking in the background. There’s also an excellent motion sensor lighting sequence that is reminiscent of a similar sequence from 2014’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown, itself a long-gestating follow up to a 70’s horror staple, but Halloween’s version is compelling enough that it comes off as fresh and original.

Many debates will rage as to where this follow up ranks in the series of Halloween films that have come prior, most of which will immediately fall to the wayside. This version of Michael Myers is a lean, mean killing machine compared to the excess baggage that had accumulated over some of the other sequels in series.  And unlike the Rob Zombie version of Myers, Green’s version is immediately more menacing because he’s back to just being pure evil without some convoluted and unnecessary explanation as to why he’s evil. Myers has always been scarier when you can’t explain why he kills indiscriminately. In this critic’s opinion this Halloween is the 3rd best film in the series, with Halloween 2 retaining the slimmest of margins ahead of this film for now, but the sure to be yearly revisits around the spookiest holiday of the year may help the film age more gracefully. Either way, Halloween delivers and should be on every horror fan’s must-see list this fall.

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