My Review of Halloween (2018)

Image courtesy of  Cult Following

3.5/5| Slasher| Horror| 1hr 44m

Director: David Gordon Green
Screenplay: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds

You can define John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) in three words: classic, iconic, and groundbreaking. Whether you are talking about Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, or that bone-chilling score that gets stuck in your head on a loop, you are talking about something that has been a part of American pop culture for four decades. David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley know this franchise just as well as anyone and that is clear from the opening scene.

Halloween (2018) is homage after homage to its 1978 superior and essentially acts as a “did you spot that?” for fans of the long running franchise. The opening title sequence, a rotting Jack-o-lantern returning to life, is a great metaphor to describe a crumbling franchise returning to form. However, fans may like to know that Green and Co. made the decision to canonically do away with every film made after the original, which meant that they had total creative control on how the characters evolved over 40 years. And what did they do with that control? They shamelessly turned Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode into a Sarah Connor-type. In fact, the similarities are so blatant that they even have her cleaning her gun in a tank top at one point. This film is very Terminator 2 (1991), aside from time travel. (However they did bring Laurie Strode back from the dead. Michael killed her at the beginning of Halloween Resurrection (2002).) If you can get over that, then it actually works pretty well.

Image courtesy of Vanity Fair: Judy Greer and Jaime Lee Curtis as Karen Nelson and Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018).

Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) has never mentally or emotionally recovered from that Halloween in 1978. She has become a paranoid basket case that pushes everyone in her life away. Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), resents her for filling her childhood with fear and paranoia, and her teenage granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), worries about her well-being  and just wants her to move on. But she can’t move on. She has Home Alone-d her house and stocked up on guns in preparation for the day that Michael Myers (Nick Castle) escapes and attempts to finish what he couldn’t 40 years before. And surprise, he does just that.

What makes this film work is that it doesn’t necessarily do anything new. It doesn’t try to redefine the genre. It doesn’t beat you over the head with what it thinks the Halloween franchise should represent. It gives the audience exactly what they want. Story, stalking and slaughter. It sticks to the basics, has a little fun, but never goes beyond that. But that also raises the question to this film’s reason for existing. Is there a reason? Yes. It exists because we need it. We are currently in an era of horror movies where ghouls, goblins and haunted houses dominate the box office, and that’s fine, but it isn’t what we all grew up on. We are, after all, a nostalgia loving culture and for decades, nothing struck fun fear into movie-goers like a maniac with a knife. Michael Myers is the Coca-Cola of horror movie maniacs.

halloween 1
Image courtesy of The Verge: Jaime Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018)

Similar to an alphabet soup, Green and his cohorts, McBride and Fradley,  impressively mix a number of different genres, which is unusual for this franchise. The first third of the film works more as a suspenseful thriller. British true-crime podcasters, Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), are working on a story about the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Haddonfield murders. They visit Michael Myers at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, as well as Laurie Strode in her high tech security home. These two act as our exposition vessels until Michael ultimately escapes, but it takes a while for that to happen. I would say that this movie’s greatest weakness is how long it takes to get going,  but when it does finally pick up, it doesn’t let up for a second. The rest of the film acts as mix between horror and home invasion-action, as Michael goes on a killing spree and Laurie follows his carnage all over town. This all eventually leads to a showdown between the two that is well worth the price of admission. You have to believe me when I tell you its fun as hell. I found myself smiling from joy most of the time.

There is just something about that  eerie John Carpenter score that brings back the fond nightmares of my childhood. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I missed Michael Myers or Laurie Strode. They are like old friends who suck you into their craziness whenever you hang out with them, only with way more murdering.  Lots and lots of inventive murdering. It’s gruesome enough to satisfy blood thirsty fans, and reserved enough to not scare away those who hate horror films. It somehow finds a balance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but I have to admit that there is one twist around the third act that I could’ve done without. I felt like it came out of left field and completely took me out of the story until we got to the final showdown. Even if it did result in one of the most gruesome kills out of the bunch, reminiscent to smashing pumpkins, I just felt like it didn’t work and that’s why my score for this isn’t higher. Despite some slight misses, Halloween (2018) is a hit and you should definitely see it in theaters. The communal atmosphere will add to the experience.

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