HALLOWEEN (2018)

I don’t know if I have exactly one single film as my favorite of all time, but I certainly have plenty that I would consider my favorites. John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of those films. First seeing it when I was only 10 years old, it had a massive impact on me that no other film really has. It’s a masterpiece in minimalist horror filmmaking, and is no doubt one of the most influential films of all time. Unfortunately, the classic original has been followed up with numerous sequels, remakes, reboots, and rewhatevers, all of which never matched that initial quality. That has never sullied the original’s reputation, though. It’s still considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, even if we have yet another installment to add to the canon. 
 
Halloween (2018) takes place 40 years after the events of the original film, with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) still living in Haddonfield, Illinois, having never recovered from that traumatizing Halloween night. Estranged from her family and living in her own self-made fortress, she’s anxiously awaiting the return of Michael Myers. Well, she doesn’t have to wait much longer, as Michael finds himself being transported to a maximum-security prison to spend his remaining years. Of course, he escapes, gets his old mask back, grabs a huge knife, and heads back home. 
 
While John Carpenter’s Halloween didn’t exactly create the slasher subgenre, it made popular all of the tropes you would see in other slashers to come ever since the 1980’s. A lot of these films, like the Friday the 13th films, were just cheap imitators. All about the gore and titillation, instead of the suspense and atmosphere. Director and co-writer David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride (simply the oddest duo ever to be making a Halloween film) said they wanted to make a film in the spirit of the original. Well, I would say they half-way succeeded and half-way failed. Now, I know it’s not really fair to constantly compare a sequel to the original, but when they’re touting themselves as the true sequel to the first film, they’re kind of opening up the door to the comparison. 
 
The biggest issue with Halloween, or any slasher film for that matter, being a franchise, is that the concept is incredibly limited. It’s just about a guy going around and stabbing people. There’s not a whole lot to expand on there, so pretty much every sequel, as decent as some of them were, were just treading old ground. I got much of the same feeling here. We have Michael escaping, getting his mask and clothes, stalking and killing a bunch of people, before setting his sights on Laurie and her family. It all felt very derivative and a lot of the scares you could see coming a mile away. There were also a lot of annoying jump scares, especially at the beginning. The obnoxious comic relief, some inserted right into the middle of scene that would have been perfectly tense without them, only seemed to add to that annoyance. Green doesn’t seem to how know how to pace a horror scene effectively either, as some great scenes will be confusingly cut short to cut to some other plot point. 
 
While pretty much every character exists only to die and that’s it (it is a slasher, after all), the main characters of Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) all keep the main story interesting enough. Sure, we’re inevitably returning to some of the same story and character beats as Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, with the PTSD, crumbling family relationships, and all that, but it felt more genuine here. There is quite a bit of exposition, but Green and McBride develop and show their relationship in a natural way. Just like every other role she does, Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic, perfectly slipping back into the character. You can still see shades of the shy 17-year-old girl she once was, but that’s practically all been replaced with paranoia, alcoholism, and cynicism. Curtis gets a lot of opportunities to show off her range, from being stern and surly, to breaking down and crying, and into furious anger. She steals the show and I found the way they handled her character and family dynamic to be very logical within the film’s universe. 
 
While the characters mostly do the heavy lifting to keep the first half engaging, it isn’t completely ineffective in the fright department. There are two really solid scene of suspense where Green uses silence, sound, and darkness to great effect. Couple that with an outstandingly killer musical score by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies, and you make for some pretty good scenes. It really shows how important Carpenter’s music is to the franchise, because it really elevated the film. The best part is that it wasn’t just all redone compositions of the original music. Sure, we get the classic Opening Theme and The Shape Stalks, but there’s a lot of awesome new compositions that really added some much needed atmosphere. Some parts actually had me quite tense, which is an accomplishment for a Halloween sequel. However, one of the best things about John Carpenter’s Halloween is the foreboding, creepy atmosphere that sets in from the opening titles and never lets up. Unfortunately, I never got really any sort of creeping anxiety, or sense of dread with this one. Sure, like I said, some scenes were tense, but the overall tone felt kind of dull and just like any other modern horror film. 
 
Since they’ve erased the whole brother-sister angle and supernatural element, Michael is just a crazy dude who wants to kill, kill, kill. We have Michael’s new psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), (who Laurie calls “the new Loomis” in an annoying moment of meta-humor), running around and explaining the evil, but unlike Loomis, who wants to destroy Michael, Sartain wants to understand the evil. This added an interesting angle to the story and thankfully we don’t get any further explanation for Michael besides the whole “pure evil” thing. As far as The Shape goes, it’s great to have him back, especially since they finally got the mask right after 40 years. It was great having Nick Castle back for the unmasked scenes and James Jude Courtney as the masked Michael is the best Michael since Dick Warlock in Halloween II. He stands perfectly, walks perfectly, breathes perfectly. He does an excellent job at emulating Castle’s original performance. 
 
I hate to say this, but as great as it was to have Michael back on the big screen, he felt a little bit too brutal here. Yeah, I get that he’s been cooped up for the 40 years and is hungry to kill again, but some of these kills are just obscenely gory. Gone is the simplicity of Michael just stabbing someone, or cutting their throat. Now we have him curb stomping heads and smashing faces in. Whenever he killed someone, he honestly felt more like Jason Voorhees than Michael Myers. Sure, Michael got more creative and violent with his kills as the series went on and I know it’s odd to complain about gore and killing in a slasher film, but again, if you’re wanting to pay homage to the original, I felt the gore was a bit too much. The practical effects were pretty gnarly, though.
 
Of course, just like the other Curtis led sequels, Halloween II and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, the last half hour where her and Michael finally face off is the best part. It’s a great final sequence that isn’t just Laurie finally getting over her grief, but reconnecting with her family. When it was all said and done, though, I just felt, “That’s it?” There’s been a lot of hype building up for this film (which I was weary of) and with John Carpenter talking about how “original and creative” the new idea was, I felt like I didn’t get much out of Halloween (2018). It’s certainly better than a majority of the Halloween sequels (behind Halloween 4: The Return of Michael MyersHalloween III: Season of the Witch, and Halloween II for me), but I was hoping for something a bit more. However, if you want the Shape killing people on screen again and Jamie Lee Curtis ready to kick his ass, you’ll mostly get what you came for. 
 
6/10

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