Movie Review – Halloween (2018)

Halloween (2018)
Written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green
Directed by David Gordon Green

It began with Rob Zombie stating he would not return to make another Halloween film. Halloween II (2009) was a box office success, and days after its release Halloween 3D was announced. That fell apart, and attention at Dimension went to a potential Hellraiser reboot (they never happened either). There were ideas tossed around like making a direct sequel to Halloween: Resurrection (god why?), doing a found footage film or mockumentary, and even an insane multiverse idea tossed around. John Carpenter returned to act as a producer and chose an unlikely duo to make a trilogy of films: Danny McBride and David Gordon Green.

Both McBride and Green are known primarily for comedy these days. I have been a big fan of Gordon since seeing his debut feature George Washington. They were part of a collective of North Carolina-based filmmakers who rose to prominence in the 2000s and 2010s. Their idea was to ignore everything in the Halloween mythos except for the first movie. This meant no more Laurie as Michael’s sister. The attack happened that night and then nothing more for forty years. Instead, the films would focus on the effect of Michael’s brutal murders and how the people of Haddonfield have had extreme difficulty moving past that one night in their lives.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) lives on the outskirts of Haddonfield in a home she turned into a fortress. Sometime after the events of Halloween (1978), she burrowed into her trauma, had a daughter, and focused her life on preparing for the day Michael Myers came back. Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), is married to Ray (Toby Huss) and has an honor roll teenage daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Karen was taken from Laurie when she was a child, and their relationship has been wounded ever since. Meanwhile, a pair of true crime podcasters from the U.K. come to Smith’s Grove to try and interview Michael. Since his capture, he has remained mute, and they bring along the mask, which was kept in evidence. This seems to awaken something in the now elderly man, and later that night, when he’s being transferred to a maximum-security prison, Michael escapes. The only person who seems able to possibly stop him is his new doctor Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilgnier).

I have to say I really enjoyed this new timeline in the Halloween cinematic universe. Yet, I can also see how fans of other iterations (the Thorns trilogy, H20, Zombie-verse) would easily hate this. But that’s the magic of the Halloween franchise; you have a flavor for everyone at this point. I find the exploration of how a horror figure like Michael degrades a person like Laurie fascinating. Jason and Freddy veered so far into comedic farce during their original runs that I don’t think this sort of story would work with them. Other than Resurrection, most Halloween films don’t slide into camp territory. Michael’s violence is always presented as cold and brutal, and that level of destruction has to change people when it’s centered on a small town.

I found the characters in this movie much more likable and the kind I cared about. I think it helped that the cast has some strong character actors in critical positions. Someone like Ray could have been a throwaway role, but they cast Toby Huss (Halt and Catch Fire), and that choice makes Ray feel more dimensional. The writing has a lot of personality in it, and Huss delivers it well. So when Ray inevitably heads down the path to become another victim, it genuinely hurts. I understood his love for Karen and Allyson, so knowing they would have to face this loss had an impact. So much of Halloween’s history has deaths you feel nothing about. It was a pleasant change of pace.

Curtis, of course, delivers an excellent performance as Laurie Strode. I think she’s informed by her own experiences and hearing from other women who have been assaulted. Laurie is very prepared, but she isn’t much of a person at the end of these four decades. She’s allowed her life to be taken from her by Michael. Life is centered entirely around him. It’s an authentic tragedy how victims, not going through sound therapy, can allow the victimizer to keep digging in years after. There’s a sense of satisfaction seeing Laurie brutalize Michael back; it appeals to our baser instincts. She slices off fingers, shoots, and stabs him. However, I love that her brilliant trap in the basement is hinted to have failed with an ending shot that shows Michael apparently escaping.

I think the biggest thing lacking here from the original is a sense of atmosphere. Everything is executed well, but I never felt pulled into the world. I never felt the dread of Halloween night in this movie as much as I did in other entries. The focus on thematically solid writing is a welcome change, but you need the tone that continues to draw people to the 1978 picture to do it right. However, I did come to the end of Halloween 2018 excited to see the next entry in the series. I am very interested to see Green’s overall arc for these movies. And if you don’t like it, history has shown Halloween will be reimagined again and again.

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