Film

REVIEW: Halloween (2018) dir. David Gordon Green

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Let’s be honest with ourselves here: the Halloween franchise, for a long time now, has been nothing but a contrived mess. What with the god awful Rob “I don’t understand subtlety” Zombie remakes, the complete mess that is the Mark of Thorn trilogy, and the “reboot that doesn’t exist anymore” H20 and its (rather interesting) sequel, Resurrection, horror nerds and Halloween heads have been waiting years for a half decent Halloween film to grace the silver screens again. So when the news broke that John Carpenter was producing a new Halloween film that was going to ignore every sequel and be a straight continuation from the first, and that it was to be directed and written by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, the horror world was filled with excitement about the prospect of a new Halloween film.

Though there were a bunch of nervous fans (“Wait, a new Halloween movie by the people who did Pineapple Express and Your Highness?“), there was a sense of confidence in the air. Luckily, that confidence was rewarded, as the franchise is in the best hands imaginable. David Gordon Green’s 2018 take on the classic slasher flick is not only the perfect follow up people were hoping for, but an overall phenomenal piece of storytelling that will be seen as a horror classic for years to come.

Continuing the story that started 40 (!!!) years ago, Halloween follows the trauma stricken Laurie Strode (the returning queen of horror Jamie Lee Curtis) as we find out how she has been dealing with the repercussions of that fateful night four decades years ago. You know, the night where the psychopathic, teenager-stalking Michael Myers broke out of Smithsgrove penitentiary and wreaked his own flavor of havoc on Haddonfield.

This time is different for our protagonist, though, as, in the last 40 years, Laurie has battened down the hatches and has prepared for the day that Michael Myers would eventually break out and come back to finish what he started. Luckily for Laurie, and unluckily for the innocent town of Haddonfield, Myers does break out and starts up the mayhem he started all those years ago, with Laurie in pursuit.

A Halloween sequel in 2018 could have gone to so many places that would have either felt contrived or forced in an eye-rolling kind of way, what with all the different timelines you could have followed. Instead, director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride ripped every piece of this series to shreds and started with a clean slate, making 2018’s Halloween a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original  Halloween.

With this, Green and McBride are allowed to do whatever they want, and are given an open playing field to create their slasher classic with nothing but the simplistic and terrifying original film to go off of. This is by far the greatest strength of Halloween. With nothing more than the basics, we are given a world that is easy to understand and easy to follow. Laurie Strode is the victim, and Michael is the enemy. Just like the original, the best part of 2018’s Halloween is that it is just so damn simple!

The opposite can be said for our lead character, as this interpretation of Laurie is probably the most complex character we have ever seen from a slasher film of this caliber. While prepared and ready for the return of Michael, Laurie is, at the heart of it all, a very broken and challenged victim. With this, we are given a peek into her psyche– just as we were given a peek into Michael’s back in 1978– showing Laurie as an alcoholic, trauma-riddled survivalist. Having thrown her life away trying to protect her daughter and granddaughter, we not only root for Laurie, but feel a great amount of empathy for her, making her final confrontation with Michael even more emotional.

That’s not to say Laurie isn’t a badass in every sense. Trust me, she has a TON of moments an audience can cheer to. This builds to not only a perfect adaption of an older Laurie Strode, but also one of the best horror characters of all time, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s best performance probably ever.

Supporting Curtis is a supporting cast divided between well written characters and horror stereotypes, which creates a sense of familiarity in a movie that at times sacrifices a lot of it for originality. The two main supporting characters are Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). While Laurie’s doomsday preparation has taken its toll on her relationship with Karen, Laurie is incredibly close to Allyson, so much so that she vows to protect her from the evil force of nature that is Michael Myers, even when Allyson fails to believe.

The relationships between the three Strode characters is easily the heart of the film– the heart that eventually gets stabbed and ripped open by the iconic large kitchen knife in hand of everyone’s favorite slasher icon, Michael Myers.

Michael not only stabs and slashes his way through Haddonfield, but curb stomps, bludgeons, and necksnaps any unlucky sap that crosses paths with pure evil himself. Though the film’s treatment of Michael could have been a disaster, Green and McBride handle this horror legend with such ease and ambiguity that it even rivals the classic 1978 stalking Shape that we all know and love. While original Myers actor Nick Castle only makes a cameo (a VERY obvious cameo at that, since he does the insanely famous neck tilt), the real master behind the mask is James Jude Courtney, a stunt actor who hasn’t really done anything of this caliber in his career. From his performance, though, you would think that it was Castle the whole time. Fitting into the role like a glove, Courtney not only embodies the shape, but breathes new life into this icon, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if people walk away liking this Michael more than the original– which, in my opinion, he very well might be.

I can’t finish this review without talking in some detail about the score composed by the master of horror himself, John Carpenter, and his touring musician son Cody Carpenter. It should come to no surprise that it is a masterpiece. Honestly, other than Laurie and Michael, the score itself is easily my personal favorite part of this film. Thumping the theater with the original score we all know and love while adding some new industrial and ambient layers and textures to make it feel new and refreshing, Carpenter honors and makes better what he achieved 40 years prior. I know it is super bold, but yes, this score IS better than the original.

David Gordon Green and Danny McBride did what I thought was impossible, to make a Halloween movie that comes the closest we have ever, and maybe will ever, come to being just as good as the original. While honoring a film that both artists cherish themselves, Green and McBride have given us their love letter to not only the franchise, but to horror itself. At the same time, they’ve allowed the 40 year jump and the clean slate of being the “only” sequel to the original as a playground to bring their own ideas and skills to the table.

The drama between the three Strodes is handled with the care that only Green could perfect, while McBride adds his own brand of tongue-in-cheek humor to the world of Michael Myers. At times, the references are groan worthy, and some of the jokes fall super flat, but the talents of Green and McBride cannot go unmentioned. This is a near horror classic, and the closest we will ever get to a new slasher masterpiece. 2018’s Halloween is a love letter to not just the fans, but the world that John Carpenter built 40 years ago, and everything in between.

“It’s Halloween; everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”

Halloween
2018
dir. David Gordon Green
104 min

In Theaters Everywhere 10/19!

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