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Halloween (2018) - Movie Review

Movie Review - Halloween (2018)

2018's new Halloween is now in theaters. The movie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and the reviews are in; find out what we thought in our review below. Beyond that, we've got a look at the series' most brutal kills, and we've ranked every Halloween film. But does the new Halloween hold a candle to the original? Read on.

Movie Review - Halloween (2018)
Remember when fans were worried that Danny McBride and David Gordon Green--the guys behind HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down--would ruin the Halloween franchise by trying to make it funny? Well, the newest chapter in the Michael Myers saga--which is technically only the second, since it ignores all other sequels--is definitely the funniest film in the franchise. But surprisingly, it's also the perfect continuation to the story begun in the original Halloween 40 years ago.

Yes, it’s been 40 years since Michael Myers put on a mask and terrorized the town of Haddonfield, Illinois as "The Shape," and he hasn’t done much since then. Played by the original actor Nick Castle, as well as newcomer James Jude Courtney, Myers hasn’t spoken a word in the 40 years he's apparently been incarcerated at the movie's start. Not even when two podcasters--or “investigative journalists,” as they refer to themselves--present him with the iconic mask in an attempt to get a reaction does Michael stir. This is a return to form (or shape) for Michael. No longer the brother of Laurie Strode, as was established in sequels to the original, he is back to being a force of pure evil who commits random acts of violence with no cause or reason. Green, who directs with co-writer McBride, treats the character with utmost respect, like a larger-than-life force that deserves your complete attention and fear.

Trailer Halloween (2018) - Movie Review

Castle and Courtney, who seamlessly share the role of The Shape, don’t miss a beat with their performances, as this is the most terrifying Michael has been since 1978. It helps that Green and McBride have made this one mean and nasty Halloween movie. It surpasses the body count of John Carpenter’s original even before Michael gets to Haddonfield, and we see kills involving knives going through throats, lethal headbutts, and more.
Movie Review - Halloween (2018)

Meanwhile, the core of the story focuses on Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis gives what is perhaps the best performance of her career in the role that first gave her the spotlight. She effortlessly steps back into Laurie’s shoes, evolving the trauma and psychological damage Myers inflicted on her all those years ago. Yes, she is a complete and absolute badass in this film, as she is now the hunter and no longer the hunted. However, she is no Sarah Connor. She is a broken woman who hasn’t been able to let go of that fateful Halloween night.

Strode now lives in a fortified house in the middle of the woods and spends every day shooting at target dummies, preparing for the day when her paranoia finally bears fruit. Of course, it doesn’t take long before Myers escapes and finds his way to Haddonfield, where he obsesses over finishing the job he started 40 years earlier.

Despite the gravity of Halloween's themes, and the gory and violent fun audiences expect from a slasher, McBride, and Green infuse the script with their signature sense of humor, and surprisingly, it actually works. Every side character gets a moment to shine, and the jokes never feel out of place, especially when coming from soon-to-be breakout star Jibrail Nantambu. Nantambu plays the only character who has any idea what’s going on in the film--he never makes a stupid choice (it's a slasher, so naturally, characters make a lot of stupid choices) and provides insightful meta-commentary about the horror tropes on display.

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Speaking of meta, Halloween pokes fun at every single film in the franchise, all while paying homage to its predecessors. There are references to Silver Shamrock, tributes to Halloween 2, and a fun cameo or two. The film also comments on this being a pseudo-remake of the original, but in modern times. For example, when discussing the original babysitter killings from the first film, a character remarks that five dead people isn’t too much "by today’s standards." Green has fun with the idea of Laurie being prepared for Michael by playing with role reversal throughout the film. One instance, in particular, got the audience at the world premiere cheering so hard, the next three lines of dialogue were inaudible.

If there’s one problem with Halloween, it's that it never uses Laurie's granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and Allyson's mom Karen (Judy Greer) to their full potential. Thankfully, it isn’t a big issue, as Laurie’s story is compelling enough on its own. And those missing the magic Carpenter touch will be delighted to know that the film is keen on using silence to increase the tension, and there is a 5-minute-long single-shot sequence that is a marvel to watch, even if it’s quite brutal. Green may not have a ton of experience filming horror, but he sure knows how to create nail-biting tension at the right moments.
Movie Review - Halloween (2018)
John Carpenter returns to score the film with the help of his son, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies. Yes, you do hear the classic Halloween theme, and Carpenter even uses a slower version of the theme at several key moments. Carpenter also uses a whole new style of synth rock that pulsates and beats like a heart and will have everyone in the audience on the edge of their seat while also making them pre-order the soundtrack as soon as they leave the theater.

Halloween doesn’t reinvent the wheel or create a new subgenre of horror. What it does is take the best parts of all the films in the franchise, and deliver the ultimate companion piece to Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. It's a film that not only has something to say about trauma and PTSD, but also delivers a bloody, fun time at the theater. Will Michael Myers return again? Who knows, but we sure as hell welcome him home.

The latest entry in the Halloween series was probably always a fool’s errand, yet its myriad failures are still shocking given the talent involved. After all, steering the ship is David Gordon Green as director and co-writer, and the film marks the return of original Halloween creator and director John Carpenter to the series—and in more than a paycheck-cashing supervisory role (he composed the score with his son, Cody Carpenter, and guitarist Daniel A. Davies). Among the producers is Jason Blum of Blumhouse, currently the go-to mini-studio for horror movies made on low budgets with blockbuster returns. And then there’s Jamie Lee Curtis, returning to her star-making role of Laurie Strode, the resourceful all-American suburbanite who survived knife-wielding masked psycho Michael Myers’s rampage 40 years earlier.

Curtis has been here before, with the risible Halloween II, a same-night continuation of the first Halloween that reveals—in a soap-operatic twist—that Laurie is Michael’s long-lost sister, and with Halloween: H2O, which picked up Laurie’s story 20 years after the original. But Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride give all the narrative deadweight the heave-ho, ignoring those two films as well as every other Halloween sequel. In this alternate timeline, only the 1978 original is canon. That’s not an inadvisable approach, though what they come up with is a wearisome hodgepodge that consistently undercuts deficiently executed terror with tons of ill-fitting humor.

Laurie herself has basically become Grandma Ripley, a gun-toting survivalist so scarred by her encounter with Myers, and convinced of a rematch, that she’s built a secluded gated compound with surveillance cameras, motion sensors, a hidden room, and lots of booby traps. Because of her antisocial obsessiveness, she’s become estranged from her adult daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), though she maintains some contact with the family through her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), who’s a bit more sympathetic toward, if still perplexed by, the whole situation. As Allyson’s friend, Dave (Miles Robbins), notes, a crazy man killing a handful of people with a knife in 1978 seems pretty small potatoes in comparison to the world’s current horrors.

Yet that’s the power of the original Halloween. It doesn’t matter that the body count is low. Michael Myers’s upending of the seemingly tranquil community of Haddonfield, Illinois speaks to much larger existential concerns. As the Ahab-esque Dr. Loomis says in the first film, “Death has come to your little town.” Michael forsakes his humanity as a boy by killing his sister, Judith. As a result, he becomes a ruthless spectre, hence his end-credits designation in the original film as “The Shape.” Evil has no concrete form, Carpenter seems to be saying. It moves, it mutates, and it can vanish as quickly as it descends.

Green, McBride, and Fradley’s biggest mistake is to remove that sickening sense of the ephemeral from Michael. Though he’s no longer Laurie’s brother, the pair are still joined at hip and heart. The killer’s not-very-stable caretaker, Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), suggests that both prey and patient are mutually, neurotically needy. Because he failed to kill her in 1978, the ever-silent, heavy-breathing Michael has become murderously obsessed with his target. (Michael is played mostly by James Jude Courtney, though Nick Castle, who played the part in the original Halloween, appears briefly in the role when he and Laurie first cross paths.) Laurie, meanwhile, is consumed with the full-bore eradication of her adversary, to a sanity-altering degree. At certain points, Green puts her in poses similar to Michael in the first film (standing eerily sentinel outside her granddaughter’s school, for one), thus emphasizing the likelihood that our heroine isn’t so staunchly rational as she thinks. Sadly, once Michael makes his Halloween-night escape during a transfer gone wrong, it becomes dishearteningly clear that Laurie is no longer up against an amorphous myth, but a shallowly motivated man.

For all of the film’s attempts to get back to the sinisterly sidling Michael of the first Halloween, his stealth movements no longer terrify because his fixations are less unthinkingly instinctual, more compulsively mortal. It doesn’t help that Green has no evident flair for horror. You can see that he and DP Michael Simmonds have thought through certain of the sequences conceptually. Michael’s initial killing spree unfolds in an apparent single shot that moves between the sidewalk and two houses. There’s also an inspired bit of business with a motion-sensor light, and a very clever reveal, already spoiled in the film’s trailer, of Michael hiding in a bedroom closet. But these scenes never rise above the notional stage. You can sense Green is trying too hard, attempting to placate many masters (Carpenter, the producers, the fanbase—take your pick) instead of striking out fiercely on his own.

What does feel closer to Green’s heart is the unrefined and, in this case, unbefitting comedy that seeps into the proceedings. For one, two snooty British journalists (Jackson Hall and Rhian Rees) attempt to do a podcast on the Myers case, if only so the film can half-assedly satirize Serial. Which means that all the pre-release chatter about Green and his collaborators treating the terror with utmost earnestness proves to be a sham. There’s barely a single scare that isn’t undermined by some forced bit of funniness, be it the precocious kid (Jibrail Nantambu) who cracks wise while Michael is knifing a babysitter, all the bantering cops who might as well have “Comic Relief/Dead Meat” tattooed on their foreheads, or a strange and off-putting prelude to the killer’s escape in which a macho hunter (Brien Gregorie) argues with his dance-obsessed young son (Vince Mattis). The only truly effective fright occurs at a high school dance, as a DJ’s sick beat drop takes the place of one of Carpenter’s patented jump-in-your-seat synth stingers.

There’s an intriguing larger theme that the filmmakers are trying to mine about terror and tragedy being passed down a family tree. The events of this Halloween are meant to bring Laurie, Karen, and Allyson together in such a way that they become the ultimate “final girl,” three generations of women banding together to vanquish the ultimate aggressive male. But Curtis, Greer, and Matichak never build anything approaching a believable genetic chemistry. They each seem to be starring in their own movie: Curtis in some infernal redneck homage to James Cameron’s Aliens, Greer in a screwball farce about the mother she just can’t stand, and Matichak in a rote high school comedy that just happens to have a killer on the loose. So the motif, like the film itself, comes off as pandering rather than provocative.
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