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Review: Halloween (2018)

Halloween (2018)

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Premise: Directly follows the events of the 1978 film and ignores the continuity of the other sequels in the series. Laurie Strode lives in isolation, still traumatized from the events of forty years ago. Michael Myers escapes from custody and heads back to Haddonfield.

What Works: 2018’s Halloween resets the series by discarding with the continuity and returning to the original premise. This is a bold choice and the filmmakers are largely successful. By ignoring 1981’s Halloween II and everything that followed, the new film also does away with the concept that Laurie Strode is actually Michael Myers’ long lost sister and that he is hunting down his family. This returns Michael to his origins as a random predator and the new movie makes him scary in a specific way that hasn’t been seen since the original movie. The new Halloween is largely focused on Laurie Strode. As portrayed in this film, Laurie has been coping with post-traumatic stress for the past forty years and has been awaiting Michael’s return. Laurie is given impressive depth and nuance and Jamie Lee Curtis does an impressive job in the role. We can see a hint of the teenager from the original film but decades of anxiety weigh on the character and Curtis brings that out vividly in her performance. Halloween is partly about the repercussions of trauma and that plays out effectively in Laurie’s relationship with her daughter and granddaughter (Judy Greer and Andi Matichak). These are many of the best moments in the film and give this Halloween an impressively mature perspective on violence. The new Halloween film also succeeds as a nostalgia sequel. Like Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this is an attempt to append onto the continuity of a classic film and reinvigorate the series. Halloween does that especially well. It matches the look and tone of the original and it is an example of fan service done right. There are references to the older movies but this film is never obnoxious about it and the allusions aren’t distractingly shoehorned in. The new Halloween sees the return of John Carpenter to the series for the first time since 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch and he serves as producer and musical composer along with Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies. The score is terrific. It adapts the score from the 1978 film but it doesn’t overuse the classic Halloween theme and the music adds a lot to the atmosphere.

What Doesn’t: Halloween is a compromise between creating an original story and giving fans what they expect. The filmmakers split the difference. We’re treated to a reiteration of familiar Halloween tropes as Michael Myers escapes custody, regains his mask, and stalks teenagers. This alternates with the story of Laurie Strode and her family. The familiar stalk and slash elements are less compelling than the Strode family storyline. That’s partly because the teenage characters are so thinly drawn. The filmmakers don’t introduce the young characters very well and none of them stand out. The teenagers come across as an afterthought who are only included to fulfill audience expectations. The exploration of Laurie’s psychology is also shallow and plays out without any interesting complications. Halloween was written by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride who are primarily known for comedy. Some of the humor is out of place and compromises the tone. It’s also worth pointing out how the premise of 2018’s Halloween undoes one of the key strengths of the original. The 1978 film had an ambiguous ending that concluded the story on a lastingly creepy note. The opening of the new film undoes that ending. This is a strange choice for a movie whose entire existence in predicated upon paying tribute to the original Halloween and working off of its strengths. 

Bottom Line: 2018’s Halloween is the best follow-up to the original film and one of the most successful nostalgia sequels. The take on the material is innovative enough while retaining the core appeals of the franchise.

Episode: #722 (October 28, 2018)