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Review: Halloween

October 19, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Forty years after terrorizing the town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night, the silent killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) returns to once again wreak havoc on October 31st and hunt down Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who survived his first rampage.

Laurie has spent the past forty years trying to come to terms with what happened to her and her friends at the hands of this masked madman, and she has channelled her trauma into becoming a survivalist, turning her house in the woods into a secure fortress, and stockpiling firearms and training herself to use them. You see, she has been praying for Michael to escape for years, so she can finally get her revenge by killing him.

This is one hell of a hook for a belated sequel, and this premise of a woman getting overdue revenge on the man who attacked her is what fuels this new iteration of Halloween, which hails from director David Gordon Green and producer Jason Blum, who brings the series under his Blumhouse Productions label. The film functions as both a new spin on John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic as well as a direct sequel to it that pretty much sidesteps all of the other additions to the franchise, and the results are a lot of fun to watch.

The screenplay, which was co-written by Green along with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, pays tribute to the mythos of the original, offering a good mix of suspense and character moments, as well as some perfectly timed bits of humour to help break the tension, of which there is plenty. The film begins with a pair of “investigative journalists” (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees), who are doing a true-crime podcast about the “babysitter murders” of forty years ago, paying a visit to Michael Myers in the maximum security psychiatric hospital where he has been held for the past few decades.

But Michael is being moved to another facility, and when the bus that he is travelling on crashes on a backroad, he is able to escape, and starts slicing and dices his way into town and towards the victim who got away. Laurie now has an adult daughter named Karen (Judy Greer) whom she raised from a young age to be paranoid and able to fend for herself, an upbringing that caused them to grow estranged when she lost custody of her at age twelve, as well as a granddaughter named Ally (Andi Matichak), who is in high school and curious to know more about her grandma. The rest of the film focuses on these three generations of women as they are left to fight for their lives.

There is no denying that the original Halloween remains an untouchable masterwork and is a definitive classic of the slasher genre. Carpenter took what could have been a forgettable B-movie and elevated it to the level of art, masterfully building suspense and using the camera to help drum up tension in a way that is comparable to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. While this 2018 version of Halloween doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the 1978 original, it’s absolutely a worthy successor to it, and a superbly well crafted horror movie in its own right.

The film offers plenty of little nods and throwbacks to the original, and while some of this is fan service, it is very well done and finds some intriguing angles from which to approach the story. We get scenes with Ally and her high school friends that playfully recall the stuff with Laurie and the other babysitters in the original film, drawing parallels between the different generations of characters. Jamie Lee Curtis proves that she still has it, returning comfortably to her most iconic role, while bringing some interesting shades to her portrayal of someone who is still haunted by past trauma.

Cinematographer Michael Simmonds does an excellent job of conjuring up some evocative images of his own, while also paying homage to Dean Cundey’s iconic work in the original film, even recreating certain images and framing choices in inventive and fresh new ways. David Gordon Green directs the film with a strong visual sense, crafting several gripping and intense set-pieces, including a brutal encounter in a truck stop restroom, and a chilling sequence on the side of the road following the bus crash that makes appropriately creepy use of the foggy nighttime setting.

The other standout element of the film is, of course, the music. John Carpenter came out of his partial retirement to both executive produce the film and get back behind the synthesizers to help craft the score, and his involvement is crucial to the success of it. Working alongside his son Cody Carpenter and musician Daniel A. Davies, he does a great job of playing around with his iconic theme, building upon the chilling synth and strings arrangement in a lot of really cool ways.

The film also understands that it is the simplicity of Michael Myers, with his worn mechanic uniform and white face mask, which appears appropriately weathered after several decades, that makes him so terrifying. Michael is evil personified, a masked figure who kills with ruthless abandon and never says a word, tearing through everyone who crosses his path. He has no emotions, and no remorse. He is a killing machine, plain and simple, a real life version of the boogeyman if there ever was one.

The kills here are twisted and often brutal, with Michael committing a series of grisly murders as he makes his way towards his main target, his signature head tilt showing the coldness with which he is able to take lives. The film builds with a propulsive drive towards the final showdown between Strode and Myers, at which point it delivers an intense, suspenseful and finally cathartic climax that gives fans exactly what they want and brings the story full circle from the original.

Watching Halloween gives you exactly the rush that you want it to. The music and cinematography are top notch and do a great job of setting the tone, and the film offers a good mix of entertaining moments and jump scares, proving that the wait was indeed worth it for this long overdue sequel.

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