Late Movie Review: ‘Halloween’

Plot: Forty years after Michael Myers’ (James Jude Courtney) Halloween night killing spree, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has become a survivalist recluse. Estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie prays for a day where Michael will escape so she can kill him. After two true crime podcasters Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) interview Laurie, Michael breaks out of the bus that was transferring him to a new facility. Bent on unleashing a new swath of death, Michael returns to Haddonfield, Ilinois to finish what he began…and an ultimate confrontation with Laurie.

Review: It wasn’t until my early thirties that I saw John Carpenter’s original 1978 horror classic Halloween for the first time. I saw it at the Dryden Theater with my friend John in my hometown of Rochester, New York, a preservation theater most associated with Kodak Film, and one that specialized in showing older movies. Having been hardened by years of heady fare like Scream and Hellraiser I was worried the slasher flick would feel quaint and dated. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I marveled at Carpenter’s minimalism and ability to build tension. The deaths were brutal and the use of music was exceptional. Halloween, for all intents and purposes, is the bloody successor to Hitchcock’s Psycho.

In the subsequent forty years since the film’s release there had been a total of no less than NINE sequels before director David Gordon Green’s 2018 version. Thankfully, Green’s version ignores all of the sequels past the original Halloween. Now don’t get me wrong, while Halloween II is solid and Halloween III: Season of the Witch certainly has its supporters, most of the other entries have been straight hot garbage. I mean Good Lord at one point the franchise degenerated into this bullshit:

We’ve gotten to the point where reboots, remakes, re-imaginings, etc…have become very commonplace in Hollywood. They are legion and most of them are awful. My take has always been that if you are going to do a reboot, do something interesting, otherwise you’re wasting my time. Thankfully, director David Gordon Green has done something interesting with his latest take on Halloween. Taunt, stripped down, racked with tension, and incredibly scary, 2018’s Halloween manages to recapture the tone and feel of the original while standing on it’s own as a solid slasher film.

What’s interesting about Green’s film is how it serves as a character study for Laurie Strode. This film is just as much Laurie’s movie as it is Michael Myers’. It examines the effect a traumatic experience can have on a person. Laurie, for lack of a better word, is a mess. She’s had two failed marriages and her daughter Karen (who she also raised to be a survivalist) is estranged after being taken away from Laurie by social services when Karen was twelve. Additionally, Laurie is agoraphobic, an alcoholic, and treats her house like a souped up militaristic version of Kevin McCallister’s house in Home Alone, replete with booby-traps and hidden weapons. In other words it’s awesome. Gone is the terrified, cowering “final girl” from Carpenter’s original. This Laurie Strode is a badass and all the credit in the world has to go to Jamie Lee Curtis. She fully commits to the role and her stellar performance is the lynch pin of this entire film.

From a horror perspective, Halloween‘s slasher scares are on point. The kills in this movie are brutal and vicious, whether it’s a friend of Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) being impaled on a gate, or the crunch of a broken neck at the hands of Myers, the deaths are in your face and unrelenting. I particularly loved a sequence where one of the podcasters, who are running a story on the Haddonfield murders, is methodically stalked in the women’s bathroom. It’s a sparse and simple scene with little music, but man does it deliver. Courtney’s Michael Myers is a true force of nature in this film and proves a worthy successor to Nick Castle.

Where Halloween occasionally falters is the story. There’s a ridiculous subplot involving Michael’s doctor, Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), that feels half-baked. Additionally, there’s some teenage boyfriend drama revolving around Allyson that comes off incredibly clunky, awkward, and cliche. It could have been eliminated and the movie would have been better for it. And I love Will Patton but he’s completely underused as Deputy Frank Hawkins, a police officer trying to take Michael down. However, when it sticks to the plot points of Michael’s rampage, Laurie’s attempts to stop Michael, and Allyson’s attempts to escape Michael, Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride’s script works beautifully. Furthermore, I’d argue that the climax of this film is far superior to Carpenter’s original.

At 106 minutes, Halloween never overstays it’s welcome and while there are several nods to Carpenter’s original classic, the film doesn’t crush you with nostalgia. I think the best thing that can be said about Halloween is that it left me wanting more. With over $250 million earned on a $15 million budget it’s more than likely we’ll be seeing a sequel in the not too distant future. And after forty years and ten films, the fact that this franchise still has appeal, and that this film is that solid, speaks volumes.

My rating System:

0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
3 Bad
4 Sub Par
5 Average
6 Ok
7 Good
8 Very Good
9 Great
10 A Must See

Halloween: 8/10