“Halloween” (2018) Movie Review

Sometimes, you just gotta go back to the basics. This slasher horror thriller premiered as part of the Midnight Madness section at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Following screenings at a handful of other genre centric festivals, Universal Pictures released it in theaters on October 19th, 2018, almost 40 years to the day of the iconic original film’s release. With a global box office intake of over $173 million thus far, it has easily become the highest grossing film in the entire franchise. It also broke a number of other records, including the third-biggest Thursday previews for an R-Rated horror film and highest grossing film with a lead actress over the age of 55. Directed by David Gordon Green, the rights to a new film had been tossed around for a few years after Rob Zombie failed to produce his own sequel. Jason Blum and his Blumhouse banner got a hold of it eventually, scoring a deal with co-writers Green and Danny McBride. What’s more is that the film was executive produced and given the creative stamp of approval by John Carpenter, the director of the original Halloween. Taking place 40 years after the events of the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, now a mother and grandmother still living in Haddenfield, Illinois. Her near-death experience with Michael Myers has deeply traumatized her, making her something of a social pariah to the rest of the town. However, her fears are soon realized when Michael Myers escapes from a mental institution during a patient transport. Now Laurie must get her bearings to protect her estranged daughter and granddaughter and prepare for (potentially) one final confrontation with The Shape. Obviously, I’m a huge admirer of the first Halloween from 1978 by John Carpenter. I think it’s a genuine classic horror film that deserves the same recognition and celebration as any of the Bela Lugosi pictures from the early 20th century. Prior to this I had only seen one other sequel, and the rest of them didn’t ever interest me in the slightest. So I was very glad and intrigued to hear that this new installment essentially wipes away all of them, including Rob Zombie’s remake, from continuity, making the one true sequel that matters. Especially with John Carpenter’s official involvement, this new Halloween certainly had a lot to live up to. And while it’s certainly not as good as the original, it is indeed a deserving follow-up in a franchise full of mediocre installments. What’s most surprising, and interesting, is how its plot is actually somewhat relevant in the #MeToo era. You see, Laurie has spent the last 40 years of her life traumatized by a horrible attempt at violence that happened to her and has prepared for her attacker ever since. Because of this, she has become distanced from her own kin, who think she may be overreacting to the situation. The most fascinating part about it is that Laurie is not interested in being seen as a victim but a survivor. There’s a certain indescribable connection between her and Michael, telling her daughter, “He’s waited for this night. He’s waited for me. And I’ve waited for him.” Whenever the film focuses on something else, it feels less strong. Franchise star Jamie Lee Curtis carries this movie on her two shoulders as Laurie Strode once more. This is not the shy bookworm we saw 40 years ago; she’s a callous, calculating woman with a determined control over everything that happens in her life. Newcomers to the series, for the most part, fail to leave a lasting impression. Judy Greer is mostly believable as her grown daughter Karen, who has an extremely conflicted relationship with Laurie. She initially believes she needs to seek help for her mental health, but soon gets genuinely frightened as she tries to remember the intense training from her childhood. Meanwhile, teenage breakout Andi Matichak is something of a revelation as the granddaughter. Echoing Strode’s scream queen in the original, she brilliantly mirrors that arc for a new generation. Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney, meanwhile, return as Michael Myers or The Shape with ease. Without speaking a word, even with just that iconic breathing, they’re able to inject a presence that’s hard to shake. He’s NOT Laurie Strode’s long-lost brother, or anything else the previous sequels tried to say. He’s a relentless, unstoppable force of pure evil that will kill everyone in his way. (For the most part) Meanwhile, from a filmmaking perspective, David Gordon Green is able to make Halloween a treat for both the eyes and the ears. With cinematographer Michael Simmonds, nearly every shot in each scene is displayed on a Steadicam that captures everything. The crisp widescreen framing allows for a dark, autumnal color palette, especially in its strong use of lighting. The very subtle bits of mist or fog add to the atmosphere, particularly an early scene with some gorgeous car headlights in the middle of the night. It goes well with Tim Alverson’s calculated editing. It wisely cuts away from Michael’s head early on to make him like a faceless monster, until he puts on the iconic William Shatner mask. There’s an amazingly smooth tracking shot of Michael moving from house to house finding new victims, one almost completely void of any dialogue. All of it makes it feel as though the original director made this movie himself, or possibly even David Fincher. John Carpenter isn’t just an executive producer; he returns to write the musical score with Daniel Davies and his son Cody. The soundtrack beautifully emulates the sound and the immortal theme song of the original, especially with its glowing orange opening credits sequence. There are also some new tracks worth enjoying, most of which primarily use the synth or electronic guitar. Each one seemingly builds and builds in its intensity as The Shape gets ever closer to his would-be victims. It can also be really creative, such as one where it involves the distorted sound of Carpenter slowly scratching his pantleg. Despite an abundance of callbacks to the original film and some humorous moments that don’t really work, Halloween is a fun and scary good time, and a welcome return to form for the saga. Seeing it in a packed theater at night with your friends is sure to be a great way to spend or celebrate the titular season. I can’t say for sure if this is truly the end of the road for Laurie and Michael, but for a major studio horror film, it certainly ranks among to most satisfying entries in recent memory. 2018 will be remembered as a fantastic year for horror cinema, and this reboot/sequel hybrid might be the best way to cap it all off.

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1 thought on ““Halloween” (2018) Movie Review

  1. Sartaj Govind Singh

    This is an excellent review that succinctly points out some of the virtues of the film. I am also glad you gave kudos to the soundtrack and the cinematography.

    I think Halloween (2018) occupies a strange middle ground between the sense of mystery that permeated Carpenter’s film, and the streak of sadism that defined many of its imitators.

    You can find out more in my review below:

    https://sgsonfilm.net/2018/10/29/review-halloween-2018/

    If you find the piece to your liking, then please comment and follow.

    Reply

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