Contemporary Review / Review

Halloween

By Jon Mendelsohn

Michael-Myers-in-Halloween-2018

Franchises are a funny thing. If a movie has a legacy, It really doesn’t matter whether a new take on a classic story is necessary. Hollywood will make a sequel every ten years if it’s guaranteed to make bank. That’s why I was skeptical when I first heard about Halloween (2018). Is there really anything new for the boogeyman of Haddonfield to do? Michael Myers hasn’t slashed his way through the big screen in 10 years, and it’s been more than 15 since the original cast has been involved. Thankfully, despite my initial hesitation, this new chapter in the Michael Myers saga proves to be a bloody good time, although still a bit too familiar.

One of the most intriguing things about this film is the fact that it plays as a direct sequel to the very first Halloween film, ignoring all other installments in between but still occasionally paying homage to them. This time around in Haddonfield, we follow a much older Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who, instead of being stuck inside the trauma of that fateful night forty years prior, is acting as a soldier in preparation. She lives in a gated, trap-ridden, bunker of a house which looks like it’s straight out of Doomsday Preppers.

Early in the film, Laurie is visited in her humble abode by Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees), two journalists who want to dedicate their podcast to the infamous killer, Michael Myers. They inform Laurie that Michael is being transferred from the mental institution to a maximum security prison, and if she wants closure, now’s the time. Laurie doesn’t want closure, she just wants to make sure he doesn’t come back to finish what he started. Well of course, the bus crashes, and Michael returns to the streets of haddonfield to make the holiday of halloween truly frightening again. The only thing that can stop this vicious madman from wiping out an entire town; a truly badass, OG final girl.

I would say the best thing this film has to offer is Jamie Lee Curtis, who delivers possibly the best performance of her career. Laurie is broken and damaged, but she is strong as a bull and will stop at nothing to protect herself and her loved ones. 20 years ago, a similar attempt was made with Halloween H20 (1998). In that film, Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role as Laurie, but that film failed in every way that this film succeeded. Laurie was scared in that film. She was running from everything, changed her name, moved far away. She wanted to forget the past. It’s almost as if the writers of this film carefully watched H20 and realized how not to write Laurie Strode, and made this iconic super woman.

I also love that Laurie has flaws. In her attempts to protect the town of haddonfield, she hurts people emotionally, like her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). Karen shares what seems like PTSD with her mom. This film may be a Halloween sequel, but it also plays as a meditation on mental illness and how it impacts families. Laurie’s Granddaughter Allyson (Newcomer Andi Matichak) has to go behind her mother’s back in order to see her, because of how bad Laurie’s PTSD affected Karen as a kid. There is some pretty raw family drama in here, which is very surprising for an eleventh film in a franchise.

After praising Jamie Lee Curtis, I have to talk about the downside of Laurie Strode, and that’s the fact that she really isn’t in the film enough. In the beginning, a lot of time is spent with the journalists who are pretty generic characters that any horror fan knows are just there to enlarge the body count. Towards the second half of the movie, we start getting more Laurie and Jamie Lee’s energy is magnificent to watch. However, for some reason, the point of view starts to shift to Allyson the granddaughter. Allyson is the most typical teenage final girl in a horror movie. Not that much depth, caring, pretty, and has a not so nice boyfriend. All stuff that really isn’t very new or interesting. There’s a scene at a school dance dealing with teenage drama, and it made me feel like I was watching Degrassi. I think it’s fair that fans should get as much of Laurie Strode as possible. Sure she comes back full force for an explosive third act, but she was the heart of the story, and giving her only about 40 minutes of screentime in this 1 hour and 50 minute film was a bit of a mistake.

Another thing that was surprising were the death scenes. Michael rings up a pretty high death count here, but the amount of necks we see being broken gets a bit on the boring side. As a horror buff, I want to see some gnarly gore effects in a Michael Myers movie, and even though Michael does some grisly acts that are quite satisfying to any horror fan, (there is a home invasion tracking shot for the ages) most of the really creative deaths are done off screen. Whenever a well-thought out death was left out and we just see the corpse, I scoffed at the screen. However, there was one death scene that finally delivered the bloody, practical goods that I was waiting for during the entire film, but at that point, it was too little too late.

Bottom line is, Halloween (2018) is incredibly entertaining. The film is the first sequel to really capture the energy of the first. It has this cool, 70s grindhouse style that you really don’t see much anymore in mainstream horror movies. The score is a new and improved modern version of the original film score made by John Carpenter and his son Cody Carpenter. It’s so powerful that I was transfixed by just the music and I forgot what was happening in the scene.

Another thing is the humor most likely added by co-writer Danny Mcbride of Pineapple Express fame. Humor in slashers is usually cheesy and unfunny, but there are conversations in here, sometimes just between bit characters, that are funnier than the best scenes in a lot of modern day comedies. But having said all this, the movie still fails to cover any new ground. I came out of it in a good mood, but not thinking enough. There may have been enough exploration of mental illness to make it noteworthy, but not enough to call this a brilliant modern horror masterpiece like Hereditary (2018). It may be a fun time, but that’s all it really is, a fun slasher sequel that is slightly above average from the rest. The film is now the highest grossing Halloween of all time, so maybe the sequel to this will improve on it’s flaws and we’ll be given a true Michael Myers masterpiece.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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