Halloween (2018) Review

A “CUT” ABOVE THE REST


 

Over the years, there has been many iconic cinematic figures that have been permeant staples to the horror movie genre. These include Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elms Street), Jason Voorhees (Jason), Pinhead (Hellraiser), Chucky (Chucky), and many other fictional horrors beings / creatures. Amongst the grouping is the famous character of Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise series. First appearing in the original Halloween movie back in 1978, the film, which was directed by John Carpenter and starred actress Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (as the titular villain) focuses on the psychopath serial killer Michael Myers, who killed his sister, and then stalked teen Laurie Strode (killing her friends in the process) years later. Despite a few criticism remarks, Carpenter’s Halloween was well-received during its release, grossing $70 million during its theatrical release and becoming the most profitable independent films of its time as well as opening up the horror genre for “slasher” features. After the success of the film, Halloween grew into a long-running franchise that spawned multiple sequels, including 1981’s Halloween II, 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, 1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection as well as a singer / filmmaker Rob Zombie’s remake with 2007’s Halloween and its follow-up sequel (Halloween II) in 2009. For the most part, these sequels, while have their horror-ish moments, were a bit mediocre endeavors, taking the franchise (including the characters of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers) into some strange directions; finding each one never really being a worthy successor to the original 1978. Now, roughly forty years since its released, Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, and director David Gordon Green present the latest entry in the horror / slasher franchise with the movie Halloween; a more direct sequel to the 1978 original. Does this latest film prove to be worthy installment in the iconic series or is it just another run-of-the-mill sequel that’s just trying to “cash in” on the whole Michael Myers / Halloween premise and nothing more?

THE STORY


Roughly forty years have passed since Michael Myers (Nick Castle) murdered Laurie Strode’s friends in Haddonfield, Illinois, nearly killing her too, before he was arrested and taken into custody.  Traumatized by the episode, Laure (Jamie Lee Curtis) still lives in Haddonfield, but now resides in heavily fortified and isolated house, where she spends most of her time training and preparing for Michael’s return. Laurie obsession with Myers has also cost her multiple marriages as well as alienating herself from adult daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and teenage granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who are frustrated by her refusal to seek professional help and to let her past trauma of Michael Myers go. However, true-crime podcasters sleuths Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhain Rees) contact both Laurie and Michael to try and “dig up” anything new from the old case; only to be stonewalled by Laurie and learning that Michael is being transferred to a maximum-security prison to spend the rest of his life. Unfortunately, the bus (of which Michael is being transported on) crashes, freeing the silent psychopath serial killer from his prolonged captivity. Before long, Michael returns to Haddonfield (donning his whist mask again) and carries out another murder spree on Halloween night. As the local police struggle to get a handle on the situation, Laurie takes matters into her own hands, trying to track down her daughter and granddaughter from being in harms way and to put a stop Michael Myers, once and for all.

Andi Matichak in Halloween (2018)

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As I’ve said before (and I’ll say it again) I (myself) am not a huge fan of the horror movie genre. Again, I don’t discredit the genre itself nor anyone who loves watching all the various feature films that come from that particular film genre. Its just not my “cup of tea”. However, with me seeing some recent horror movies (in my attempt to broaden my movie horizons), I might have to “reconsider” my overall take on the genre as there have been several (including some recent ones). Still, going back to the point of this review, I naturally have heard of the Halloween movies and of the horror icon Michael Myers, but never actually seeing any of the Halloween films (again…. I just wasn’t interested in seeing them). However, because of 2018’s Halloween coming out, I was slightly curious to see the movie and decided to give the first Halloween movie a try. To be honest, I liked it. Though it maybe “dated” to other horror features out there (in terms of violence), but it was definitely one of the better ones I’ve personally seeing and I can see why many like this movie (a good old-fashioned slasher movie as well as a good performance by a then younger Jamie Lee Curtis). After the movie, I decided to read the plot / premise of the other Halloween sequels and found them pretty “meh”, especially considering all the weird twists and turns that has been added to the franchise (i.e. Laurie and Michael being brother and sister). Plus, Paul Rudd in a Halloween movie (i.e. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers) seem totally strange to me. Suffice to say that the Halloween franchise has seeing a long road of mediocre sequels that didn’t live up to the success of the original feature.

Of course, this review is in talking about 2018’s Halloween, the latest entry in the long-running horror franchise. Much like what I said above, I really didn’t particular care for the Halloween movies, so I first heard that there was going to be a new Halloween movie, I kind of just said “meh” as I didn’t care for the series nor that much of the horror genre (especially today’s current trend of horror features). However, in my continuing effort in trying to “expand” my movie horizons (as well as seeing the original Halloween film) I decided that I would go and check this movie out. Also, to be honest, I was slightly intrigued. While most current horror movies of today are mostly focused on supernatural or body possession, 2018’s Halloween promised a more classic “slasher” film, which is definitely different from the plethora of horror movies that Hollywood has been coming out with recently. Additionally, hearing that actress Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (the original two Halloween cast members) were gonna be in this one somewhat peaked my interest. And, of course, I saw the film’s movie trailer several times (in theaters). Thus, all of this combined, made me go physically see the movie during its opening weekend, hoping that this horror film was gonna be “better than the rest” sort of speak. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, I really liked it. While there’s a sense of familiarity (and a few other things), Halloween is definitely a solid movie that’s definitely worth the hype. It may not beat out the original film, but its probably the better belated sequel from Hollywood of late.

Halloween is directed by David Gordon Green, whose previously directed such films like Pineapple Express and Your Highness as well as directing several episodes for TV shows like Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals. With majority of those projects being more “comedic” endeavors, it’s kind of an odd choice that Green would direct Halloween, which is considered to be one of the more iconic and classic horror movie franchise out there. However, in a surprise turn, Green’s efforts on this particular project are rather good, making this 2018’s iteration of Halloween. What’s perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the movie is that Green decides to ignore the plethora of sequels that this franchise has. It’s true, finding Halloween to be a direct sequel-ish to the original 1978 film. This means that Green chooses to ignore all the continuity that was establish in the previous installments and relying only on the story of the first film as Halloween’s only backstory contribution. While an odd choice, it definitely works, keeping the narrative in its simplest form between Strode and Myers. Also, with a runtime of only 109 minutes, Green makes the feature tight and compact, making the film a breezy horror feature (the film gets in and gets out quick enough) and doesn’t feel long or fatigued at all. All in all, Green makes for a solid sequel that’s been well-worth the wait.

Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, and Rhian Rees in Halloween (2018)

Of course, the film’s horror violence bits are also great, with Green setting up various scenes for Michael to go on his killing spree and given fans what they want to see from the iconic character. It’s overdone and over-the-top (nothing ultra-gory), but it’s still effective and brutal and…. have to fun (cinematically speaking). Interestingly enough, the character of Michael Myers has definitely become one of the main icons of the horror genre and rightly so as the mask that Michael wears looks creepy as well as his silent demeanor of not uttering a single word and only hearing his breathing. I don’t know…. there’s just something that makes persona much scarier than an unnatural demonic being terrorizing people or some possessed inanimate object. Perhaps it’s because a psychopathic serial killer like Myers is something more realistic (especially in today’s world) than something like Freddy Kruger or Pinhead, which (if one thinks about it) can be pretty scary.

More interest is that the film’s script, which was penned by Green along with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, infuses a dose of self-awareness as well in the comedy aspect. Yes, even comedy bits appear in Halloween. Some of it is a bit forced (more on that below), but majority of the more “humorous” pieces do actually work and are a welcomed addition. Now, I’m not saying its well-written comedy, but its enough to make it interesting against the darker scenes that the Halloween franchise is known for. Also, in conjunction with what I said few lines up, the film’s narrative is a very streamlined and keeps a straight and forward path on the film’s trajectory. This means that the film’s script doesn’t deviate into unnecessary territory of side-stories and secondary characters; keeping the narrative mostly focused on Laurie (and her estranged family) and, of course, Michael Myers.

As a relatively low-budget feature, Halloween (in terms of a technical presentation) is actually quite good; finding Green and his filmmaking staff smartly utilizing the efforts (and money) behind the camera in order to bring this latest Halloween movie to life. Since this more of a grounded “slasher” movie, there isn’t much visual effects laden sequences, which (to be honest) is kind of good thing as Green and his team keep the feature aspects / nuances on that level. Thus, I do have to give credit to the production designs by Richard D. Wright as well as the cinematography work by Michael Simmonds for creating some well-designs (as well as cinematically creepy) sequences and overall film background layout throughout. Again, I didn’t really expect anything super intricate or elaborate (in terms of setting pieces), so I was pleasantly happy with how the film overall looks and feels. I don’t know…maybe that’s the movie critic in me, but you know what I mean.

Additionally, original Halloween director John Carpenter (who did the music score for the 1978 film) scored the music for this 2018 Halloween sequel. The music, which was composed by him, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies for the film, is another positive remark, creating an effective “mood” music that elevates the scenes being displayed on screen. Of course, as to expected from a Halloween movie, you do hear the classic “Halloween theme” being played at various parts, which is great to hear.

There were a few problems I did notice with Halloween, which does make the film a bit problematic that I didn’t like about, but I think its part of the cinematic genetic make-up of the movie being part of the franchise. What do I mean? Well, my biggest gripe is the overall familiarity that the movie has. Being the eleventh installment in the franchise (including Rob Zombie’s remakes), Halloween doesn’t fare well in terms of any big surprises or twists. Of course, I loved the movie and found it brutally fun and entertaining, but there wasn’t no unexpected surprise that wasn’t “wow” over. Well, maybe some of the killing deaths that are done by Myers, but that’s it. Thus, despite the efforts made by Green, the movie’s story follows a predictable and formulaic path for a horror slasher movie. Michael escapes, people die, people go looking for Michael, more people die. You know the path and what the outcome will be. Again, this is mostly due to the very nature of the Halloween franchise. Another (more of a minor one) is that film’s comedy. Yes, I did find it works (for the most part), but there were a few times that the dark comedy dialogue didn’t land properly, missing its intended target. On the whole, it’s a welcomed addition and not necessarily a bad thing that “derailed” the movie, but (for those brief moments of which it didn’t work) it felt more forced and clunky.

The cast of Halloween is a mixture of several known and relatively unknown actors and actresses, with most (if not all) give solid performances in their respective roles (be it big or small). Of course, the most interesting person to see is actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who returns to the project once again in playing her character of Laurie Strode. Curtis, who is known for other roles in True Lies, Freaky Friday, and Trading Places, certainly made a name for herself by originally playing Laurie way back (and reprising the role several times in a few other Halloween sequels). However, this iteration of the character seems more appropriate and (to be quite honest) “meatier”, finding an aged Laurie (paranoid and slightly unstable) unable to coupe with a “normal life” as she continues to be obsessed with Michael Myers. Curtis is definitely up for the task and executes her character’s persona perfectly, making her role of Laurie Strode the somewhat “backbone” of the feature. It’s clearly interesting to see this play out in the movie and shows us why Jamie Lee Curtis was the right fit for such heroine character in such a iconic horror movie role.

While Curtis’s return to the role is “main attraction” of the feature, actresses Jude Greer (13 Going on 30 and Ant-Man and the Wasp) and Andi Matichak (Replicate and Underground) as Laurie Strode’s daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson. While I liked these characters and the deeper understanding of Laurie’s obsession with Michael and how it estranged them from her, I would’ve liked to seeing a bit more insight. We (the viewers) get a understand of Karen and how Laurie trained her (when she was younger) if Michael was to returning and how that affected her, but I kind of wanted to see more. The same can be said about Allyson. Like the new generation of moviegoers out there, she gets to see the character of Michael Myers first-hand and why he’s so dangerous, but a lot of her high school drama with friends / boyfriends was pretty “meh” to me and maybe could’ve been better handled. Still, both Greer and Matichak gave some fine performances in their roles and would be interesting to see them again in another Halloween movie (if one ever does materialize on the horizon).

Beyond three generation of the Strode women is (of course) the sort of “rock star” baddie of these Halloween movies…namely the psychopathic serial killer Michael Myers or better known as “The Shape”.  Interestingly, the role of Michael is actually done by two people in this movie. Of course, the big news that I’m sure that everyone has heard is that writer / director Nick Castle (The Last Starfighter and Tap), who portrayed Myers in the first Halloween movie, reprises his role (doing a few scenes and post-production work), while actor / stuntman James Jude Courtney (The Hit List and Far and Away) provides some of the body work and stunts for the character. It’s quite interesting to have two people playing the character, but it ultimately works as the Michael Myers (in this movie) is still creepy and murderously horrifying to watch on-screen, especially since the character doesn’t need to utter a single word to be memorable. Still, in the end, the efforts made to make the iconic Michael Myers return to the big screen once again is fantastic and the resulting factor of that can be visibly (quite literally) whenever the character is on-screen during any point of the movie.

As I mentioned above, this 2018 movie also acts as a somewhat “entry level” to the Halloween franchise (beyond the first film naturally) and does present a sort of rudimentary basic in sort of recapping the first Halloween feature with several of its characters. This is most prevalent in the two true crime podcasters Aaron Korey and Dana Haines, who are played by actor Jefferson Hall (Vikings and Taboo) and actress Rhian Rees (Disengaged and The Lears). These two characters, while considered minor characters, provide enough insight / background into presenting information of the story from the original Halloween in a way to “catch up” viewers on the film’s events, especially since the movie only acknowledge the original film and none of their others. Thus, their involvement in the movie is exposition narrative piece, which (on the whole) is not for those who need a bit of a “refresher” on Laurie / Michael. The other character that plays a role along the same lines is the character Dr. Ranbir Sartain, who is played by actor Haluk Bilginer (Ben-Hur and Ezel). Much like the characters of Korey and Haines, Dr. Sartain acts as a character in providing background information for viewers on Michael Myers in his attempts to try to understand the serial killer’s psyche. For his parts, it works and provides enough context for the narrative being told. Basically, Dr. Sartain is the “new Loomis” …. even the character of Laurie acknowledges that. Altogether, all three of the characters are good (for their respective roles) and the acting talents behind each one are solid.

The rest of the cast, including actor Toby Huss (Dickinson and Halt and Catch Fire) as Allyson’s father / Karen’s husband Ray, actress Virginia Gardner (Runaways and Project Almanac) as Allyson’s best friend Vicky, actor Dylan Arnold (Nashville and Mudbound) as Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron Elam (yes, the son of Lonnie Elam from the first film), actor Drew Scheid (Boy Erased and Stranger Things) as Cameron’s best friend Oscar, actor Miles Robbins (Blockers and Mozart in the Jungle) as Vicky’s boyfriend Dave, and actor Will Patton (Remember the Titans and Armageddon) play various minor characters (mostly townsfolk in Haddonfield) throughout the movie. Of course, as to be expected in a horror movie, most of these individuals are “cannon fodder”. Thus, none are really characteristic deep beyond their initial setup, but again…. I never expected these supporting players to be. Still, the collective actors and actresses that make up them give solidly enough performances to make them to be semi-memorable (for their sum parts of Halloween).

FINAL THOUGHTS


It’s been forty years, Michael Myers has escaped from captivity (going on another Halloween murder spree) and Laurie Strode prepares to take down the infamous killer once and for all in the movie Halloween. Director David Gordon Green latest film sees the newest entry in the long running Halloween franchise returning to its roots (dismissing all the sequels) and keeping the narrative being told streamlined and keeping the focus on Laurie and Michael. While the movie does have a few problems of being a bit too familiar, the movie is effectively entertaining, keeping its story more focused on what made the original film a horror classic as well as its dark wit, its slight self-awareness, and fine performance from Jamie Lee Curtis. Personally, I liked the movie. The movie was well-made and had enough entertaining horror thrills to make for a modern-day slasher horror thriller. All around, I was pleasantly surprise on how much I liked the movie, especially since the horror genre isn’t my particular favorite movie genre. Thus, I would say that I would give this movie my “highly recommended” stamp of approval as the film, especially for fans of the Halloween series as well as causal moviegoers out there. In the end, while today’s current age of Hollywood will continue to release horror features of supernatural creatures, possessed beings, and uber gory violent endeavors, 2018’s Halloween stands as a reminder how a classic can be reinvented for modern times and how it can be a “cut” above the rest.

4.3 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Release On: October 19th, 2018
Reviewed On: October 25th, 2018

Halloween  is 106 minutes long and is rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use, and nudity

 

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