Halloween (2018) – Review

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2 STARS

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees

Forty years ago we were introduced to one of horror’s most formidable antagonists: Michael Myers. Created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, his first appearance in 1978’s Halloween struck a chord at the time for his apparently unfeeling approach to his victims. One victim who lived to tell the tale, the now-legendary Laurie Strode, became a heroine of sorts, fighting her way out of the ordeal that was laid upon her by just-as-legendary Michael. Four decades and nine opinion-splitting movies later (check out a run-down of all previous ten here) we come to the latest showdown in Michael and Laurie’s story. After all this time, does Michael still have what it takes to terrify an audience? Is Laurie still as badass as ever? Is the story that surrounds them stronger than previous poor attempts?

English journalists Aaron (Hall) and Dana (Rees) are investigating Michael Myers’ (Courtney, Castle) story, from the time he brutally murdered his teen sister Judith when he was a six-year-old boy to the infamous ‘babysitter murders’ of 1978. Their attempt to interview Michael is to no avail, and so they set their sights on the reclusive Laurie Strode (Curtis), one of Michael’s surviving victims from that night, though she too is unwilling to talk. As he’s transferred to another facility, Michael manages to escape and finds his way back to Haddonfield, the town where he’s from and where Laurie still resides, though now on the outskirts. When Laurie hears that Michael is on the loose she prepares her family for a fight, something she’d been doing for the past forty years. Her obsession with preparing for Michael’s eventual return had led her to lose custody of her daughter, Karen (Greer), when she was twelve-years-old, though Laurie tries to reconnect with Karen in adulthood and keep a relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson (Matichak). Together they must survive Halloween and maybe even take down Michael once and for all.

Perhaps the biggest trouble most of the previous Halloween films had was that of holding on too tightly to what John Carpenter originally conceived (the only exceptions may be Rob Zombie’s versions, but those films are nothing to shout about). David Gordon Green’s Halloween has the natural excuse of being a direct sequel to the ’78 original and so can get away with a lot; it holds on very tightly to a lot of things from the original, such as the tone (it borders on comical as many older horror films do when watched now), the music, the characters, even down to the set design and costuming, which are both very reminiscent of the 70’s. It gives a nice nostalgic feel, particularly if you’ve seen the first film. Having said that, your feelings on the first will probably be reflected again through this iteration. If you were a fan, you may enjoy the continued story and the way it plays out between the two leads. If you’re not a fan, you’ll likely feel the opposite – whatever disappointed you about the original will be repeated in this.

The plot as a whole is messy, if there even really is a plot, and the story itself is very basic, nothing we haven’t seen before in this franchise. The twists and fates that befall some of the characters come so out of the blue you may find yourself asking what on earth is going on more than once. There are even characters that really have no business being in this film at all, barely used as unnecessary plot devices. Having Laurie live her life on the edge for forty years seems unfair to a character who could have been much better developed and still be prepared for Michael’s return. 1998’s Halloween: H20 had a much better storyline for Laurie, wherein she had faked her death not long after the events in ‘78 and assumed a new identity as a teacher. 2018 Laurie has spent her entire life waiting to kill a man who really may or may not return for her. In some ways she still comes across as a total badass (shooting guns and kicking ass in her 60s? That’s pretty cool), yet in other ways she seems a bit pathetic and pitiful.

On the other hand we have Michael himself, who has always been a well-written character with unknown motives that drive him, these unknown motives being what is most terrifying about him. The way he casually strolls down a road, or walks up behind someone with a knife, or appears in a window or mirror is so blasé that it truly makes him the stuff of nightmares. Where other films have hinted at his supernatural origins, this film grounds him as fully human, something made quite obvious when we are almost shown his face numerous times. Although supernatural entities are naturally scary, there’s something more scary about an evil human being in that it’s so close to reality. The many different camera shots and angles used on Michael continue to set him apart from his co-characters, reminding us that it is him this movie is truly about, not so much Laurie’s justifiable vendetta. In some ways Michael is deserving of a better story to surround him, something stronger that delves into his murderous nature more so than just allowing him to roam around murdering some people and not others.

It is nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie. No other actress could ever truly portray the character, and as previously mentioned she is overall still one tough mother. Despite Laurie’s lacking storyline, Curtis puts in a performance that proves not only that she’s still got it, but that there are clearly roles that can be created for older females that aren’t just stereotyped matriarch roles. Male actors of 40+ continue to have roles written for them whereas females are grossly underrepresented. Halloween 2018 certainly proves a point here and helps to mark a turning point. We also have Nick Castle returning as Michael, or ‘The Shape’ as he continues to be known. Also co-performing as Michael is James Jude Courtney (assuming they both play him at different times, perhaps with or without Captain Kirk mask). Obviously they don’t have to do too much as Michael, as no lines are spoken and we never actually see his face, however just their presence is enough to steal any scene Michael is in. Will Patton also returns as Officer Hawkins, a policeman who was there in 1978. His performance is understated, as the character is really there for nostalgic purposes more than anything else. It’s a similar story for most other characters, generally understated and there to support either Michael or Laurie’s storylines, none of them really adding anything extra to the story overall.

If it weren’t for the character of Michael Myers, this film would likely have rated one star lower. There wasn’t really any need for there to be another Halloween film. It brings nothing new to the table other than Laurie potentially getting her own back, though admittedly for Halloween fans that might be enough. For anyone not particularly a fan, this film is probably best avoided. Although a horror film it’s not in any way scary, at least not physically. Michael’s mental state is the most terrifying aspect and even that isn’t used to full potential. It’ll take someone who thinks outside the box to create a Halloween film that is more than just gore and murder, perhaps turning more to the psychological side that hasn’t been properly or successfully explored in any Halloween film. It could be argued that this film attempts to do so, with both Michael’s refusal to kill certain people and Laurie’s obsession, but it’s a stretch. This film is a nice try, but Michael and Laurie (more so Michael) deserve better.

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