- Originally published at JP’s Video Vices (https://videovices.wordpress.com/)
The Boogeyman is back.
During the opening credits of Halloween (2018), a rotted pumpkin springs back, inflates back to life as the names of the cast and crew are presented. The symbolism won’t be lost on horror fans as Halloween (2018) represents the resurrection of the long-suffering slasher franchise.
All of my cards on the table, the original 1978 masterpiece by John Carpenter is indeed my favourite movie of all time. That is partly because when I was about 10 or 12, I stayed up one night when I wasn’t supposed to and watched it on television…with the lights out.
As I sat on the couch, peaking around a blanket, I was paralyzed with fear, so much so that I stayed motionless on the couch during and after the movie. The thing is, as a young horror fan, I just couldn’t stop watching. The Michael Myers – The Shape’s character and his seemingly supernatural powers, John Carpenter’s direction and that haunting theme song got to me. The theme song rattled me so much so that years later I refused to enter one of those amusement park haunted houses in Niagara Falls with my wife because they were playing John Carpenter’s Halloween theme. Even if there were just cheesy rubber props on display inside, there was no way I was wandering around in the dark with THAT music playing. No way. No how.
Halloween fans have put up with a lot, and I mean a lot, of crappola over the years. The first two films in the series were fantastic but everything after them ranged from mediocre to bad to absolute trash. There was the annual horror anthology pitch: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch which had its moments, the decent Halloween 4 and then besides the inventive Halloween H20, the franchise went off the rails with the introduction of a silly cult and its lowest moment of all: Busta Rhymes fending off Michael Myers with kung fu or whatever the hell that was.
Just as Bryan Singer purposely ignored X-Men: Last Stand when he made X-Men: Apocalypse, David Gordon Green closes his eyes to every Halloween sequel after Halloween 2. The cult? Never happened. Jamie Lee Curtis hiding out as a teacher at a Northern California private school? Never happened. The Shape hunting down his niece Jamie Lloyd through two films? Never happened. Busta Rhymes karate chopping Michael Myers? Never happened. And thankfully, the cinematic equivalents of nuclear waste: the Rob Zombie Halloween movies? Never happened.
And yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. When I bought Halloween: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray, the first thing I did was throw the Rob Zombie films down our condo’s garbage chute. That’s how much I hate those movies.
Halloween (2018) picks up some forty years after the first two films which took place. Michael Myers has been incarcerated at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Loomis who was played by the unforgettable Donald Pleasence in the original series. Loomis has passed on leaving his life’s work in the hands of his pupil, Sartain.
Since being arrested 40 years ago, Myers has not spoken a single word to anyone. A documentary filmmaker (Jefferson Hall) and his assistant (Rhian Rees) arrive on the scene. The attempt to speak to Myers and do manage to score an interview with the reclusive Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Michael’s sister and sole survivor of his killing spree.
Laurie suffers from acute post-traumatic stress disorder. In an often heart-wrenching performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, Laurie has never been able to move past the traumatic events of that fateful night. She lives on a heavy guarded rural property with all manner of weapons, security measures and even a safe room, panic room hidden in the basement.
Laurie is so obsessed with what she thinks will be a final showdown with The Shape that she raised her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) as a survivalist, spending her childhood teaching her self-defence and other combat skills. Eventually authorities removed Karen from Laurie’s care declaring her an unfit mother.
Karen Strode has moved on with her life, married husband Ray (Toby Huss, John Bosworth from TV’s Halt and Catch Fire) and has a teenage daughter, Allyson, played by Andi Matichak. Allyson is caught in the middle of her mother and grandmother’s dysfunctional relationship. Allyson is more sympathetic to her grandmother’s plight, reaching out to her often, trying to mend her broken family at any opportunity.
Things go from bad to worse for Laurie when it is revealed that, in shades of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Michael is being transferred to another psychiatric hospital for the duration of his miserable life. As you might guess, that transfer becomes a bungled mass of human carnage, Michael (played by the returning Nick Castle and new comer to the series, James Jude Courtney) escapes, dons the mask and the killings in Haddonfield and hunt for Laurie begins. This all leads up to the fateful showdown at Laurie’s doomsday bunker.
And what killings they are. At the onset, Myers snaps the neck of a tween and crosses a line he never has before. It audibly shocked the Toronto Film Festival audience I screened the movie with. From there on in, Michael doesn’t pull any punches but in a revealing scene, a moment of restraint, does murder a mom but after menacingly hovering over their cradle doesn’t kill the now motherless baby.
That is not to say the movie is wall-to-wall gore, it isn’t. Most of the murders happen off screen, which is actually more chilling especially a scene in which a victim is battered with a hammer. The sound of the hammer striking and your imagination filling in the graphic details is more unnerving that anything they could have shown on screen. Throughout Halloween (2018) we usually see the results of Michael’s handiwork but not the acts themselves.
Michael is nastier, crueler than ever before. Most of the body count are beaten badly, their heads smashed over and over again against walls or doors or just plain crushed in his hands. Michael is not just an unstoppable engine of destruction; he is really, really, really pissed off.
Perhaps the most horrific scene is one in which director David Gordon Green puts the audience in the role of the silent observer. We agonizingly peer helplessly through a living room window for minutes on end as the homeowner blathers on the phone oblivious to the fact that Michael is entering the house and coming for her.
The hook of Halloween (2018) is the clever throwbacks, the multitude of references to the original first two films. For example, in a mirroring of a scene in Halloween (1978), like her grandmother did, Allyson is daydreaming in class and looks absentmindedly out a window. Instead of seeing Michael as her grandmother did though, she sees…her grandmother waving from across the street. Those déjà vu moments and there are many of them, will really delight fans of the series.
The one failing of the film is the lack of strong male characters and a small bit of political grandstanding. Besides Karen’s husband Ray and police officer Hawkins (Will Patton), there are no strong male characters in the film. Allyson’s male friends (her wimpy boyfriend in particular) are made out to be mostly inane and spineless continuing the recent unnecessary Hollywood trend of boosting female characters by surrounding them with feeble males. Why not just have everyone stand side by side as equals in every way? I just don’t get it.
We also don’t learn that much more about the mythos surrounding Michael which in the past have included references to the spirit of Halloween, Samhain. The only piece of the puzzle we get is provided by Michael’s shrink who has a theory that what drives Michael and Laurie is their obsession with one another.
Halloween (2018) represents a return to greatness putting the series solidly back on track. It is the movie Halloween and horror fans have waited 37 years or 20 years to see, depending if you liked Halloween H20 or not. One can only hope this marks not only a resurrection of the Halloween series but the slasher genre as a whole. I don’t know about you but I have had enough of those dopey, supernatural horror films.
In my best Father Karras…Begone, wicked spirits! Begone for good!
- THE GOOD
- Sweeps away the awful Halloween films, mythology.
- The Shape’s wanton brutality.
- An enthralling, unique story.
- All of the references to the original film.
- Great FX.
- THE BAD
- Some unnecessary politics.
- Too many weak male characters.
Horror and Halloween fans should celebrate. The franchise has finally returned to greatness.