Review: “Halloween” (2018)

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The “Halloween” franchise is legendary. The original John Carpenter classic still holds up today despite feeling a bit dated and the murders of Michael Myers made him one of the horror genre’s most famous icons. Forty years later Myers has returned to the big screen in a big way. After ten films and nine sequels director David Gordon Green and writers Green, Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride of all people have brought a true “proper” sequel to the masses ignoring all previous sequels and exploring the official rematch between Laurie Strode and Myers in “Halloween” (2018). This film promises to be one of the biggest hits of 2018, so I HAD to see it for myself and experience the latest chapter in this franchise on the big screen. Does “Halloween” live up to the legacy of its legendary predecessor or is it an over-hyped slasher flick driven by nostalgia and familiarity? Let’s take a look. This is my review of 2018’s “Halloween”.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT

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The 2018 “Halloween” takes place forty years after the original film and acts as a true sequel to the 1978 original retconning the series to exclude and disregard all other sequels. After killing five people in 1978, Michael Myers (played by both original actor Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) is being kept at a sanitarium under the watch of Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) a protégé of Myers’ previous psychologist Samuel Loomis. Myers is approach by a pair of journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) who are trying to put together an exposé about his infamous murders. They also approach the now reclusive Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has been preparing for Michael’s return for the last forty years, suffering from the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. When Myer is transferred to a maximum-security prison the bus carrying him and other prisoners crashes freeing the murderer to kill again on Halloween night in Haddonfield. As Myers begins to leave a trail of bodies in his wake he sets his sights on Strode and her family, including daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), and a rematch forty years in the making brews as predator and prey collide once again.

 

WHAT WORKED

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I have to start off by saying for a corny horror sequel of a seemingly tired franchise I absolutely LOVED this follow-up. I even watched John Carpenter’s original to prepare for this film seeing as it’s a true sequel to the original and in many ways the duel films represent two very different eras of horror films. The original was dark, suspenseful and unpredictable while this newer film is just as fun and unpredictable but is much more ruthless with it’s violence and mayhem. For me this is a perfect progression for the franchise. While it doesn’t have the most kills of the series there is a huge jump from the five Myers killed in the first film. I counted 16 by Myers’ hand by the end of the film. While other movies felt like they added kills and creative deaths just for the fun of it this movie feels like a natural progression of Myers’ brutality. He’s been imprisoned for 40 years waiting for his chance to hunt again, like an animal in a zoo suddenly reintroduced to the wild. In fact, that’s how Myers in described in the film many times, as more an animalistic predator than a man. Myers himself feels like he has aged. He’s slower, more cunning, and less childlike than his first appearance speaking to his evolution during his incarceration. I thoroughly enjoyed watching where they took this famous character in this new film.

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On the other end of the spectrum is Laurie Strode played one final time by Jamie Lee Curtis. Laurie is shown to be an agoraphobe and recluse who has fortified her home constantly afraid of Myers’ return. She’s a damaged person whose PTSD affects her in public and has hurt her relationship with her family. Like Myers this feels like a natural progression for Strode showing us how her life has been impacted by the fateful night when she came face to face with true evil. For her killing Michael is closure and as long as he’s alive she can’t rest. A running theme in this film is how Laurie and Myers complete each other and how their individual existences give each other an unspoken purpose. It’s a fascinating duality and one that has long been a part of the franchise but has never been explored quite like this according to my memory. While other sequels have tried to explain this relationship and Myers’ continued relevance through the supernatural or a familial relationship, here it’s just two people intertwined by fate who are destined to complete or destroy each other until only one remains. I have to give Jamie Lee Curtis some well deserved praise here for her portrayal of a victim suffering from PTSD. She does a great job showing how this disorder hurts the psyche and while we have seen many sequels of horror franchises over the years this is really the first time we get to a see the truly human aftermath of such an event.

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I was very impressed at how brutal and relentless this new “Halloween” was. We see all kinds of characters bite the dust and I genuinely found myself caring about their fates hoping that they would find a way to escape Michael’s grasp. Like the first film Michael seems to kill without any truly defined rhyme or reason but the personalities of his victims, even many of the ones that only get mere minutes of screen time, are much more defined and human compared to the disposable “dumb teenagers” he targeted in his first go around. Because I found myself sympathizing with these people most of the deaths left an impact and even had me uttering under my breath for people to just run. Seeing these people die was fun from that sadistic horror fan point of view but it was also emotionally impactful because to me they weren’t just faceless victims. They felt like real people. It made Michael Myers feel that much more threatening to me as a viewer and made the stakes feel much higher. As far as slasher films go this may be the first time since the original “Halloween” that I really felt like this was a story and situation that could happen in our world today and a truly tragic turn of events for all involved.

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As with pretty much every good horror movie there’s also some social subtext behind this film as it explores the themes of the mental impact of violence on the victim as well as providing some intriguing questions about why Michael Myers is the way he is. It’s a lasting conundrum fans have contemplated for years and while I won’t spoil whether or not this film offers any real answers it does delve much deeper into these concepts than I expected. While “Halloween” isn’t the deepest or most complex horror thriller you’ll ever see it does more than enough to pander to its core audience while also offering numerous new elements and callbacks to the story of Michael Myers and Lauri Strode that make it worth the watch and, in my opinion as with many other critics, it’s the best sequel in the entire franchise.

 

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

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That said “Halloween” is not without its flaws and for me some of those flaws were actually praised by other critics. For example, there are many moments of levity in this film clearly meant to break up the tension, but they were too numerous for my liking. Don’t get me wrong the comedy is actually great and brings the laughs, as you would expect with someone like Danny McBride involved in the writing, but it took me out of the film almost every time especially since these moments of levity occur more often than not before a thrilling death scene. But, how am I supposed to feel bad for the victim when someone else is on screen at the same time trying to make me laugh? It was confusing and gave the film multiple personalities and tones that just never meshed. On one hand it could have been a neat subversive humor-filled slasher and on the other it could have been a suspenseful thriller closer to the incredible direction of the first film but while this new “Halloween” movie is a lot of great fun in more ways than one it never goes all in with either approach. The comedy and the horror don’t blend. They feel like two very different ideas and as a result I was never able to feel fully terrified or fully amused by the experience.

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Then there’s the twist. A lot of people have talked about this moment in the film and I won’t spoil it here (I even used a moment above completely unrelated to it) but there is a scene where everything just kind of turns in an odd direction and it’s clearly a forced plot point to get us to the final conflict a little bit faster. You’re either going to find this to be a fascinating twist or one that feels unnecessary and tacked on. For me it was more the later than the former. I thought it was a neat idea but the execution is odd and rushed and its placement in the story was clearly meant to help this film cut to the chase. It does play into some of the social subtext of the film but at the same time it doesn’t answer any of the burning questions about Myers, his motivation or his psyche. Rather it asks questions that are never resolved making it feel all the more tacked on. Twists, especially in horror movies, are always a risk and here this particular moment may be all dependent on how you look at it and how necessary you think it is to the overall narrative. For me, I didn’t think it was necessary and what it accomplishes could have been resolved in a much more creative or consistent manner to the rest of the story. It just comes from so far out of left field that I couldn’t get behind it.

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My only other real complaint about “Halloween” is that it kind of forsakes its secondary characters. We have numerous key characters, specifically Laurie’s daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson, who feel like forced additions to the story. Let me explain. It’s not that they are unnecessary. Far from it. They add to the stakes as Laurie Strode has more to protect than just herself. However, at times it didn’t feel like the writers really knew what to do with these characters. Allyson is positioned to be Myers main target for much of the film but then she just kind of fades into the background after the big twist before finally being given something to do in the finale. The daughter Karen, despite being an actual good use of Judy Greer’s talent for a change, feels insignificant until the finale and only at one very specific moment does she feel like a really valuable character for this story. “Halloween” does a fine job of making me concerned for the wellbeing of these characters, especially the ones that do perish, but many of the secondary roles we spend more time with in this film are overlooked in order to develop the story of the two people we really want to see, Michael Myers and Laurie Strode.

 

CONCLUSION

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“Halloween” isn’t just a serviceable horror thriller, it’s a great slasher film and a worthy entry in a legendary franchise that perfectly follows up the events of the original film. While it is bogged down by several issues including an odd mix of tones, underutilized characters and a controversial twist it benefits from an increased brutality compared to the first movie, more character development for the main leads and even some effective social commentary that makes it feel more necessary and timely than I think a lot of people would have expected. In the end I had a lot of fun with it as did pretty much everyone in the theater where I saw it which, shocker, was a sold-out crowd. Whether you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s original or this is your first “Halloween” feature this newer take on one of horror’s most famous franchises is worth every second and captures not only everything that made the original film such a classic but also blends in modern elements that finally help push this long-running series in the right direction, something nine other sequels could not accomplish.

 

 

GRADE: 4-stars3

2 comments on “Review: “Halloween” (2018)”

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