A horror film so notable that we have TWO reviewers on this one! I think you may have heard about this little film.
Eric’s Score: ★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Mike’s Score: ★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Did you hear that they got the band back together? Of course, you did! Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode) and Nick Castle (Michael Myers… at least part of the time) have returned to do a ret-conned sequel that kicks all the previous sequels out of the canon. With John Carpenter’s blessing (he’s an executive producer, this time) this film indicates that Michael Myers has been in a mental institution for the past 40 years, and Laurie Strode has been suffering from the PTSD yips ever since.
The powerful opening sequence, so vivid from the trailer shows two podcasting investigators confronting Michael Myers with his William Shatner mask that he donned for his murderous spree in 1978. It’s a beautiful and chaotic beginning, and it serves as a bit of exposition to get everybody dialed into what happened if for some odd reason they were not familiar with the earlier story.
With the backstory now firmly established, it’s time to cut Michael loose. On a prison transfer that was scheduled for October 30 (whose brilliant idea was THAT?) Michael manages to force the transfer bus to crash, and is now on the loose to go very, very murdery. He’s making up for lost time, and manages to mow through a significant portion of the cast. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the original 1978 film only had five deaths. And many of those deaths were not particularly gory. Not so, this time out. The Shape, as Michael Myers is referenced to by Carpenter, goes full-on grindhouse in this movie and the violence is really impactful. Be forewarned, this is a HARD R movie.
To swipe an analogy from Mike, this felt like The Force Awakens, because of how lovingly referential this movie is. It is chocked full of homages and winks at the original film and does a whole lot of fan service. The babysitting scene has multiple references built into it. There is a long one-take killing spree reminiscent of Halloween II. There’s a fabulous bit of role reversal, where Lorie gets to pull a Michael Myers disappearing act on him. Plus… so many closet doors!
What this means is that the movie does have a bit of color by numbers feel to it. The beats are so familiar, that even though there is probably triple the kill count, you can sense the direction of the film, throughout. I suppose it’s only fair since Halloween set all the rules for the modern slasher film, so if it’s being true to itself, it would be recognizable. That’s not to say this isn’t entertaining. Or intense. It is both of those things, in spades.
Jamie Lee is a rock star in this performance and her obsessive behavior that her family is so uncomfortable with was the right way to do backstory. Sometimes in the remakes of horror staples, they over-explain the history of the villains. I’m looking at you Friday the 13th. You too, A Nightmare on Elm Street. In this case, they artfully avoid that trap, by giving the additional background to Laurie, and that was super smart and gives the movie some gravity that it wouldn’t otherwise have. Being the final girl has consequences, real painful psychological ones.
The humor in this movie was hit or miss. Two of the great supporting roles in this were Toby Huss, as Laurie’s son-in-law, and Jibrail Nantambu as the spunky kid being babysat. Both of those characters had really natural humor that got fed into the story. Nantambu stole the show with every line he gave. Not so much at other times, when there was some forced-in comic dialogue that seemed like time wasting. I also found the Haluk Bilginer’s Dr. Sartain to be a frustrating character, and you’ll figure that out when you see it.
This is what I expected. It benefits from a great cast and a beloved story that they are very faithful to. The reviews from our peers suggest a wide range of feelings about this. I think the more extreme ends of the reviews (LOVED IT!) (HATED IT!) will be from those who are the biggest fans of the original. There are some plot holes you could drive a pickup truck through, and the amount of damage a 70-some-odd-year-old Michael Myers can take is staggering, It isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but in the end, I think it’s a worthy entry into the franchise. They got the tone and atmosphere right, and the violence is pointed and impactful. (golf claps)
Now… Mike’s review:
The 2018 version of Halloween and all of its illegitimate brethren hold an exceptional amount of nostalgia. Not just for the gorehounds, freaks, weirdos, and serial killer fetishists, but for everyone. People that came in to their teen years in the 1970s, people that celebrate the joy of candy and all things Halloween, to the Moms and Dads who want to give their uppity teens and tweens a good ol’ scare. Halloween really is that one thing that’s steeped in polemic dialogue and is sacrosanct to more than a few.
When I first heard news that Danny McBride and horror-greenhorn David Gordon Green took it upon themselves to effectively erase 37 years of Halloween goodness, I really wasn’t sure what to think. Clearly, they too, found Halloween so sacrosanct that there was a need to correct perceived wrongs of the past, do away with Haddonfield Hospital, and cast LL Cool J (Ronnie the H20 security guard) to the horror junk pile. But was there really a need to right these wrongs? Couldn’t they have thrown LL Cool J some props and lovingly woven Ronnie in the Halloween reboot? Couldn’t they have had Jamie Lee and Michael Meyers continue to be part of the same freaky familial bloodline? Why did they have to kill off the podcasters so quickly? Podcasters are good people. So many questions…
Alas, Danny McBride and Mr. Gordon Green decided to right those wrongs and write them they did. In a passionate and demonstrative way. Clearly, these two wear their love for this film on their sleeves. Make no mistake, they make few mistakes in this wistful reboot. But, there’s one, and it’s a small one. These filmmakers really ask the ticket-buying audience to massively suspend disbelief for the better part of one hour and forty-six minutes. That’s a lot of disbelief for anyone to purge from their film-going experience. Needless to say, there’s several plot devices and a couple twists where you’re really required to turn off the ol’ thinker and just let the brutality wash over the previous 37 years of Halloween-ing.
Speaking of brutality, this film is brutal. Compared to its progenitor, Halloween packs a dim and inhuman punch. Save for the fact that Michael Meyers stops short of killing a baby, he does pretty much kill everything else in his path. When viewing the original film you’re overtaken by the fact that there’s little blood, (relatively) little violence, and much of the gruff behavior is not seen but implied. Halloween 1978 rests on the overwhelming sense of dread and Michael’s relentless stalking, but Halloween 2018 gains its uncomfortable sentiment through pure and merciless acts of sinister violence. From a horror perspective, this might seem like splitting some awfully thin hairs, but it’s not. These two films really are very much rooted in different realities and different postures.
Halloween 2018 truly gives and gives. From that opening scene in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to the very last scene. This is a very effective and powerful film. Frankly, there’s a handful of scenes and some brilliant characters (and character development) that hold far more cache than its 1978 forefather. You’ll hear complaints about Jamie Lee’s motives, her relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, and you’ll hear complaints about how the film is tired and uninspired, and you’ll hear about the (mis) use of John Carpenter’s watershed horror soundtrack — don’t believe any of it. It’s just not true. Halloween is a well crafted, beautifully shot, and thoughtful approach to its venerated 1978 counterpart. Different is not tantamount to bad, it’s just different. And that’s OK. Killing defenseless podcasters is NOT OK, but that’s for a different…podcast.
Halloween is Rated R for strong violence, gore, intensity, and some language. It’s playing in theaters worldwide.