30 Oct Halloween (2018): One Fan’s Take
Halloween (2018) – 3 Stars out of 4
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak
Before I conduct a review of the newest installment in the Halloween franchise, I should start by saying that you must ignore anything you learned from any of its predecessors. Why? Because this film does too, and for good reason.
The success of the first film would inevitably inspire others to create some of the most famous entries into the horror genre, including Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It single-handedly created the slasher flick, with all its rules and clichés so wonderfully retooled in Scream and its sequels.
However, the success of the original and the subsequent copycat films also meant that Halloween become a franchise all its own, and Michael Myers became another impossible-to-kill “supernatural” entity on an unstoppable murderous spree. The stories that followed became nothing more than regurgitated themes too derivative of the original and other similar movies in the genre.
Though this viewer is a fan of Halloween III: Season of the Witch despite its sharing few commonalities with the original, the other sequels could not hold up to the first film. Thankfully, they also could not diminish its impact.
This most recent iteration of the Halloween franchise opens with two investigative reporters visiting an aged but no-less-menacing Michael Myers at a maximum security mental institution. We can see the scar he famously got after the clever use of a wire hanger from one Laurie Strode (Joan Crawford be damned), a clear indication that despite all other claims, he is indeed human.
We learn that Michael has not uttered a word in over 40 years, and the reporters’ attempts to get him to react (with the use of his iconic mask, no less) fail miserably. We also learn that Myers is to be transported to a different facility where he is to serve out the rest of his sentence.
We quickly learn that after the events of 1978, Laurie Strode has had two failed marriages, a daughter she lost custody of and a granddaughter whom her own daughter tries to keep away from Laurie’s obsession with the bogeyman.
The film quickly establishes the family dynamic and the differences in each of the Strode women, but it also shows us just how many similarities they have. Allyson (Andi Matichak) is the likeness of her grandmother. She’s smart, dependable, responsible and strong. And like her grandmother, she’ll also find herself crossing paths with the bogeyman.
After the introduction of Myers and the Strode women, the movie makes quick work of clearing up certain loose ends from previous films that may at this point have already confused a fan or two. The first is that Michael Myers is in fact NOT Laurie Strode’s brother (as we learned in part II), and it is with this little tidbit of information that this movie starts to set itself apart from any of the other sequels in the franchise. Halloween (2018) takes place exactly 40 years after the events in the original, meaning that not only are the two NOT brother and sister, but she also never had a son or was thrown off a rooftop to her death, as seen in Resurrection. It’s explained in the film that the notion that Laurie and Michael are related is the stuff of urban legend.
Laurie has spent the last 40 years living as a recluse, preparing and waiting for the day that Michael Myers would eventually escape so that she could put an end to his murderous spree and perhaps her own torment. The rest of the story is one slasher film plot device after another, with a twist thrown in for good measure. It culminates in the highly anticipated climactic final battle between iconic slasher and ultimate scream queen.
The biggest stand out in the film is Jamie Lee Curtis. She has a lot to do here, and she does it in spades.
Laurie is damaged — there’s no question about it. She is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even though we’re told she’s sober, the way she chugs a glass of wine in one scene tells us she hasn’t quite kicked the habit.
Curtis was wonderful in the original, but here she brings a sincerity to Laurie’s struggles that gives this flick the heart that — I’m scared to say — even the original lacked. It’s Curtis’s performance that brings all the elements together and gives this movie the depth so many other horror movies lack. In this film more than all the others, we see a fully formed Laurie Strode, one of the things this movie improves upon even when compared to the original.
There is one scene where Laurie is waiting inside her car as Michael is about to be transported, and Curtis gets across the torture her character is feeling, conjuring the ghost of that night in ’78 when one encounter shaped her whole life.
Writers Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green took great care to tie up any loose ends that may have been left by the original and to clean up any mess created by the sequels. In short, it’s a film made by fans for fans. Director David Gordon Green was tasked with the challenge of taking the slasher genre and the movie that arguably created that genre and putting a new spin on it. Unfortunately, this is my biggest issue with the movie as a whole.
As a professor once explained to me, clichés only work if they are used effectively. Unfortunately, Halloween (2018) falls short. The movie features the worst kind of cliché, the predictable ones you can see coming a mile away and when they arrive, the payoff is anti-climactic. I did not expect the movie to reinvent the wheel, but I was hoping the filmmakers would find some more creative ways of using the elements so often applied to these types of films to surprise us.
Unlike in the original, the writers in this movie don’t build enough suspense. The movie never gave the sense of urgency like the first film did. Rather than a Hitchcockian approach, the filmmakers relied too heavily on violence and gore, which in the end is more shocking than it is frightening.
Part of the problem was in overusing too many tricks that worked in the original but that feel dated today. The filmmakers’ desire to raise the stakes when it came to the number of murders is understandable, but I found myself not caring very much about most of the people Michael kills. Fewer characters and more character development would have made each murder feel more significant.
Of course, as a fan of the original, I appreciate all the Easter eggs in the film, such as the mention of that night in 1978 being known as “the babysitter murders,” a nod to the first movie’s original title, and the P.J. Soles cameo. It was also a nice touch to have Nick Castle, the actor who originally played Michael Myers, return to reprise his role as the shape. But no Halloween film would be complete without mention of Dr. Loomis, who is as much a staple of the franchise as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. The movie pays a wonderful tribute to Donald Pleasence, the actor who played Dr. Loomis in five Halloween films until his death in 1995.
As overjoyed as any fan would be to see the return of Laurie Strode, the one real constant in all of the movies is and always will be “the shape.” Halloween could exist without Strode, as evidenced in several of the sequels that followed. It could even exist without Loomis, as this film shows, but you can’t have Halloween without Michael Myers, and the filmmakers kept true to the original intention and essence of what makes him such a memorable movie villain.
By creating a faceless shape who doesn’t speak, the audience is left to project our own theories as to what motivates Myers to do what he does. And by not giving us a reason, the filmmakers force us to in the end accept what Dr. Loomis said about him 40 years ago: “I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face with the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”
And 40 years later, we finally have a sequel deserving of the original that serves as a nice companion piece to the film that started it all.