Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Synopsis: Laurie Strode confronts her long-time foe Michael Myers, the masked killer who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R (for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity)
Release Date: October 19, 2018
It's an extreme rarity when a horror film comes along that succeeds in being terrifying, entertaining, thoughtful, and even funny, as most horror films these days only manage to succeed in one or two of these areas (if that), with many relying on cheap jump scares to elicit a response from the audience rather than building tension and suspense and then delivering the goods.
Halloween, the latest installment in the long-running horror franchise, serves as a direct sequel to John Carpenter's original 1978 iconic slasher film Halloween about a psychotic serial killer named Michael Myers who goes on a killing rampage on Halloween night after escaping from his mental institution. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a high schooler who was babysitting at the time, is the only one to survive his attacks, and David Gordon Green's new film begins exactly forty years after Laurie's terrifying ordeal with Michael.
Halloween (2018) is a rare horror gem in a sea of lazy, uninspired, poorly crafted films to come out in the genre over the years. In fact, really the only thing lacking from the film is originality, since the film is directly connected to John Carpenter's original film. Nevertheless, producing a quality sequel has been hard to come by for the franchise, which now spans eleven films. But forty years later, David Gordon Green has finally risen to the challenge and boy, he delivers.
The film's strongest element is unquestionably Green's direction, as he repeatedly delivers highly suspenseful scenes that homage Carpenter's original film in certain ways while also offering new techniques. Reflections play a significant part (as they did in the original) but Green also cleverly utilizes lighting, shadows, and backgrounds to great effect, keeping viewers on edge as to where Michael might be lurking. The film also possesses an atmospheric quality, particularly the night sequences, which occasionally incorporate fog into the mix, further adding to the haunting nature of the film. The editing is sharp as well, with some clever scene transitions and effective fake scares, which again pay homage to the original film. The film's score, which is composed by John Carpenter (in his first effort since 2001) and his son Cody, is a strong feature in the film as well, as it beautifully incorporates the original's iconic theme while also differentiating itself to create its own entity.
But importantly, the film's success doesn't just come from its technical qualities--the story is surprisingly potent and engaging, and the characters even more so. Laurie, now in her 60's, is a woman being eaten alive by fear--haunted by her encounter with Michael, and we learn it has had a profoundly negative effect on her loved ones, particularly her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who views her as hopelessly paranoid and borderline psychotic herself. As intricately taught in Stephen King's It, Laurie knows the only way to heal is to face her fears--to confront Michael, which is why she's the only one pleased upon learning the news of his escape. The writing has its flaws though, as it sets itself up for some great character moments that unfortunately never arrive. One scene specifically involving an exciting role reversal would've heavily benefited from a longer sequence. Instead we're given a frustratingly short and less impactful scene that, while still satisfying in its own right, leaves the viewer wondering what could've been. Despite these setbacks in the writing though, one still feels at least mostly satisfied by the end of the film, as the pros far outweigh the cons.
The story also smartly expounds on the terrifying psyche of Michael Myers, while providing interesting and painfully relevant subtext about the nature of some criminals in our world. We learned in John Carpenter's film that Michael's an emotionless being--almost inhuman in the way he acts toward others. He never speaks, always wears his mask (thus revealing no emotion) and has only one purpose in life: to destroy it. Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), Michael's psychiatrist, is hell-bent on understanding Michael's mind and discovering what his motivations for his killings are, but, as was famously demonstrated in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, some criminals simply cannot be understood, reasoned, or negotiated with. Instead, the world is left to hopelessly and endlessly ponder the criminals' minds while suffering the consequences of their actions.
It's unprecedented that a sequel like this (from a horror film at that) gets made forty years after the original and works on so many levels, but Halloween accomplishes exactly that, feeling almost like a James Cameron-operated sequel. With sharp direction from Green and a surprisingly impactful story filled with rich and even fun characters, Halloween is a must-see for all horror fans, not just fans of the franchise.
Written by Anthony Watkins, November 7, 2018