19th October 2018
Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
David Gordon Green
Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer
It’s been four decades since the Haddonfield massacre in which Michael Myers, an escaped patient at a psychiatric ward held since he was a child for the murder of his sister, returned to his home town and slaughtered innocent teenage babysitters. Since then, lone survivor Laurie Strode has taken every precaution in the event of Michael’s return. Her house is now a heavily fortified compound, surrounded by barbed wire fencing and every door fitted with a variety of bolts and barricades.
Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer; Ant-Man, Jurassic World), endured the unorthodox upbringing filled with survival techniques and gun training until she was 12 years old, before Laurie lost custody of her. Now with a daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak), Karen has mostly distanced herself from Laurie.
But when the prison transfer bus carrying Michael crashes letting him loose once again, the Strode clan must re-unite and Laurie is forced to face her fears in a showdown forty years in the making.
Like a cruel parent with ten children that only holds love for their first born, director David Gordon Green turns his back on all the other entries that followed the 1978 original Halloween. There’s a few nods to imagery used and referential lines of dialogue, but Green and co-writer Danny McBride are only interested in continuing from where Carpenter left the director chair in the franchise.
It’s an unusual move, but undoubtedly straightens the tangled web that the Halloween franchise has become. With seven official sequels, a Rob Zombie reboot and a bizarre sequel to that, Myers was heading for a midlife crisis. While 2018’s Halloween isn’t without its issues, by getting back to basics it does at least excel in making Myers’ character a formidable force once again.
Billed as the ‘final confrontation’ between Laurie and Michael, Halloween‘s cracks show when it tries to focus on anything else. A slowly unfolding and surprisingly sombre first act which details the traumatic effects of Michael’s actions on Laurie’s life in the years following is smothered by a largely inconsequential strand involving two investigative journalists, prying into Laurie’s life for a podcast. Their inclusion sets in motion a potentially disastrous narrative early on that, mercifully, never materialises but considering Green and McBride desperately try to avoid the cliché’s and preposterous plot points that litter the franchise, some still remain.
Once Michael is let loose and the killings begin, Halloween becomes little more than a conventional slasher. Sure, the film thoroughly deserves its 18 (or R) certification and it does feature one of the most brutally cold and graphic killings in its history, but it’s the same rinse-repeat formula that has drained the colour from the boiler suit since ’78. The necessary perception of finality is sorely missing in a film that promises it.
Whether that’s due to my own cynicism and knowing that horror has never been more financially successful thanks to films like IT and A Quiet Place as well as Myers being too much of a moneymaker to lay him to rest for good is a possibility, but I expect the reasoning for his inevitable return to be ‘We said it’d be the last meeting of Laurie and Michael. You should’ve paid more attention to the phrasing.’
Having previously featured in three Halloween entries with one already claiming to have been the ‘last’ meeting of Strode/Myers (Halloween: H20 which, interestingly, also omitted the events of franchise forgettables 4, 5 and 6), 2018’s Halloween is indeed likely to be the curtain call for Curtis. If this is the final bow as Laurie, then it’s one of her best. Curtis effortlessly switches between a determined, gun-toting survivalist ready for anything to a broken grandmother on the verge of tears when faced with the way of life she sacrificed to be as prepared as she is.
Stuntman James Jude Courtney steps into the oversized size boots of Myers and does a fantastic job of doing so. Myers has never acted more mechanical or programmed than he does here, making sharp turns like he’s attached to a railroad and being externally controlled. A brief cameo from original Shape Nick Castle is another nice touch, but it’s Courtney who deserves the praise for making Myers a dominating and intimidating presence in an era where desensitisation is rife.
In a homage to the originals opening, Michael’s murderous return to the leafy suburbs of Haddonfield is filmed as a one take tracking shot. It’s another one of the few occasions where Halloween‘s tributes to its predecessor doesn’t feel like an inferior recreation but there’s an alarming number of moments that seem to have been lazily lifted straight from Carpenter’s classic.
One aspect that is a welcome bleed over from 1978 to 2018 is the films synth-heavy score. John Carpenter, along with his son Cody and composer Daniel Davies, have triumphantly updated the originals dread-filled chords and unquestionably heighten the anxiety of every sequence that contains them. Much like 2018’s The Predator, using music from the original works wonders for scenes that otherwise would be completely forgettable, but the new additions seamlessly fit into the picture too.
Known more for outlandish characters in comedy, script co-writer Danny McBride can’t help himself from venturing into that familiar territory. To be completely fair, the humour did land a lot of the time for me, especially the scene-stealing attitude of Jibrail Nantambu as babysitter’s job Julian, but again these moments felt completely out of place in the bigger, supposedly high-stakes nature of the film.
The final showdown of Laurie and Myers is satisfactory enough with a few moments of extended tension that have rather flat payoffs, but as I mentioned earlier I never got the impression of categorical closure that it should have brought. Still, at least it’s not Myers in space.
Opening act of Laurie's coping mechanisms
Some brutal kills from an intimidating Myers
Carpenter's sublime synth score
No sense of finality when promised
Frequently copies the original with no new additions
Everything else other than Laurie/Myers is inconsequential