It’s been 40 years since the murderous rampage that wiped out the family and some friends of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). The person responsible for the carnage, Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) has been locked up in a mental hospital ever since. His physician Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has agreed to a allow a couple of podcasters, Dana Haines and Aaron Korey (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall), to talk with Michael. Michael is about to be transferred to a more secure, and less therapeutic, prison and the podcasters want to see if he will speak to them. Dr. Sartain, who took over after the death of Michael’s original psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, tells them Michael can speak but he chooses not to. The podcasters hold up Michael’s mask and get a mild reaction from him, but the other patients begin screaming and howling. Since the attack, Laurie has been preparing herself for the day she feels is inevitable: When Michael escapes and comes for her. Her obsession with security has driven away two husbands and alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). The two women rarely speak. Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is in high school and would like to have a closer relationship with her grandmother. The tension between Laurie and Karen makes that difficult. While Michael is being transferred on a bus with several other mental patients, the bus crashes in a ditch and Michael escapes. Sheriff’s deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) responds to the scene and finds several dead bodies. He soon learns that Michael Myers was on the bus and is unaccounted for. Michael tracks down the Dana and Aaron, kills them and gets his mask back. It’s Halloween night and Michael Myers is on the hunt for more victims and to finish up some 40 year old business.
This sequel to the original 1978 “Halloween” ignores all the sequels from “Halloween II” through “Halloween: Resurrection” and both the Rob Zombie-directed “Halloween” films. The film is a love letter to John Carpenter’s original slasher classic. Carpenter was involved in this movie’s creation and he provided the soundtrack built around his original score. It isn’t the most imaginative horror movie ever made but it is a loving tribute to the original film and to its knife-wielding antagonist as well as the damsel that is no longer in distress.
Written by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley and David Gordon Green, and directed by Green, this film tells much the same story in much the same way as the original. Michael is an unstoppable killing machine that just can’t quite seal the deal with Laurie. Last time, she would escape by the skin of her teeth. This time, she still just barely escapes but causes more damage than their last meeting. The subject matter is treated as deadly serious in the script but there are moments of levity and a few characters that are strictly for comic relief. It makes this slasher film a bit more entertaining in between gruesome and gory deaths.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode is a far more complicated character than her teen scream queen of 40 years ago. Laurie tells Michael’s doctor that she has prayed every day for him to escape so she could kill him. She has turned her home into a fort with an arsenal of weapons, metal security doors that drop from the ceiling and a hidden access to her basement that works on hydraulics. She uses mannequins in her backyard for target practice, has floodlights on her roof that turn day to night and half a dozen locks on her doors to keep her safe. Curtis is a ball of anger and rage and she dominates the screen in ever scene she’s in. Her long grey hair is a symbol of her decades of worry and fear. She is the embodiment of PTSD. Laurie has run off (or worn out) two husbands and lost custody of her daughter at age 12 due to her obsession with preparedness. While she didn’t die at the point of Michael’s blade she has paid a high price for surviving and is hoping for some payback.
The rest of the cast performs their underwritten and underutilized parts as well as could be expected. Andi Matichak is given the most to do as the granddaughter of Laurie Strode. I believe Matichak’s Allyson is being set up as the next obsession of Michael Myers in future sequels. She is given a largely time-wasting subplot involving a boyfriend and a school Halloween dance. This is mostly just an excuse for her to lose her phone, making it impossible for her mother and grandmother to get in touch with her when the Michael hits the fan. Matichak isn’t a great actress but she gives an acceptable performance when she’s asked to look fearful and to scream.
The story of “Halloween” is a bit meandering with several side trips that eventually are made relevant by having a character show up that ties things together. We all know the point of this exercise is for Michael to kill people in gory ways. There are some nasty kills that I’m sure required the special effects shop to work overtime to pull off convincingly. There are also some kills that I found troubling: Namely the death of a preteen boy. Michael strangles then breaks the boy’s neck. This death felt especially gratuitous in a film filled with gratuitous violence. Perhaps the boy’s accidently shooting another character when he was startled is supposed to make it okay for him to be killed by Michael. Another scene in the film shows Michael walking past a crib containing a crying baby. Michael looks at the child and walks past, leaving the infant alone. Is there a line that even Michael won’t cross or was this a choice by the writers fearing the audience would turn against the movie if he killed a baby? Another child, older than the baby but younger than the murdered boy, manages to escape from Michael. We get to know this kid a little bit as he’s being babysat by one of Allyson’s friends. Why does this kid get to live but the first one has to die? The film seems a bit inconsistent with its victim selection. If you’re an adult, you’re fair game. If you’re a teenager, you’re fair game. If you’re 13 and carry a rifle, you’re fair game. Younger than that and you might be safe. It seems a bit arbitrary, especially since Michael is such an indiscriminate killer.
The movie also falls back on the tried and true teenage victim attributes: Sexual exploration, alcohol consumption and weed use virtually guarantee you will die at the hands of Michael Myers. Only one character shown drinking and kissing a sexily-costumed young woman that isn’t his girlfriend survives the night. I suppose if he’d been smoking weed and completed the Devil’s Triangle his fate would have been sealed as well. Many of the victims in slasher films of the 1970’s and 1980’s was participating in these activities as their killers approached. Perhaps Carpenter and others were trying to sneak a morality lesson into their works; but I believe the writers of this film were probably just trying to pay homage to the original “Halloween.”
“Halloween” is rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity. There are several gory murders including a head being stomped flat, a jaw that appears to have been partially ripped off, a decapitated head with a flashlight stuck in it, various strangling’s, shootings and neck breakings. We see one kid smoking a joint and there is also underage drinking. We see one young woman topless as she’s murdered. Foul language is scattered.
There are many scenes in this film that will remind fans of the 1978 classic. There are tributes dropped in here and there that those with sharp eyes and good memories will find nostalgic. The whole movie is a tribute to that first film as it essentially tells the same story with a few tweaks and twists thrown in to freshen it up a bit. It isn’t scary as we’ve seen all this before. It isn’t original for the same reason. However, it is a well-done homage that is proud of how much it loves that which it is honoring.
“Halloween 2018” gets four stars out of five.
This week there are three new films and I guarantee I’ll see at least one of them and review it.
Johnny English Strikes Again—
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