My Review of "Halloween" (2018)
Poster for 2018's "Halloween" Featuring the Female Leads and Three Generations of Strode Women
Someone pointed out online that Jamie Lee Curtis has starred in one Halloween movie each decade since 1978. So, she was due to reprise her breakthrough role some time before the end of the 2010’s. But how do you bring her back when she was killed off in her last appearance: Halloween: Resurrection (2002)? Luckily, Hollywood has an easy answer for that: reboot. Erase the continuity of all sequels and continue the story from its original. No longer is it restricted by its own history of other Strode victims, family connections, or ancient curses pointing towards a motive. Add modern themes such as PTSD, female empowerment, and psychological analysis, but most of all, heighten the kills, leave no one safe, and keep Michael as the physical embodiment of pure evil. Halloween blends the past and the present into its own, standalone story that hits some beats square on the head but misses others completely.
Halloween Trailer - 2018
It’s been 40 years since the infamous “Babysitter Murders” when escaped killer Michael Myers went on a killing rampage in his home town of Haddonfield, IL, killing five and maiming 17-year-old, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the sole survivor of the attacks. These days, Strode lives in complete isolation, hunkered down in a fortress complete with security cameras, a heavy duty fence, numerous locks, a hidden entrance to her basement under her kitchen island, and numerous firearms. She is estranged from her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) struggles to build a relationship with her damaged grandmother. Then, on Halloween, the bus transporting Myers and several other patients to a maximum security prison crashes, and the masked killer is on the loose again, beginning a killing spree that culminates in a showdown between Myers and three generations of Strode women.
Michael Myers is now a senior citizen but is just as deadly as he was in the original film.
The most impressive element to this movie is the performances. Curtis is a total basket case in this movie, yet at the same time is the one you want standing next to you when Michael shows up. It’s a transition reminiscent of Sarah Connor’s between Terminator and Terminator 2, going from reluctant victim to ferocious heroine. Curtis as Strode has had 40 years to prepare for Michael’s return, and she has, taking extreme precautions, yet it has done nothing to calm her fears. She has panic attacks, possesses a one-track mind that is obsessed with her trauma, and has even been deemed an unfit mother, having lost custody of her daughter when she was 12 years old. Like Dr. Loomis, she has experienced the pure evil that Myers exhibits. She knows what it’s like to strike him down only to get back up and keep attacking, and how he seems to choose his victims without reason. None of this matters to her. Stopping him is her only priority.
At the same time, there are other characters out to find out why Michael is the way he is. These include journalists, Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) and Michael’s Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who are out to solve the mystery behind Michael Myers: Why does he kill? Why won’t he speak? How does he choose his victims?
Then, there Laurie’s family, her daughter, Karen, who managed to make a comfortable life for herself with her husband and daughter after years of practicing for Myers’ return with her mother before being taken away by social services. There is her daughter, Allyson, who wants to connect with her grandmother while juggling a boyfriend and school. She isn’t your usual self-absorbed teenager, yet she isn’t the lonely, Girl Scout that Laurie was at her age. Her dad, Ray (Toby Huss), serves as gentle comic relief and a symbol that Karen and Allyson live an ideal, stable life, despite being plagued by Laurie’s history.
Most compelling of all is Michael himself, reprised partly by Nick Castle, who portrayed The Shape in the original Halloween (1978). True to the franchise, we never see more than a glimpse of Michael unmasked except from behind. It’s obvious that he’s in his 60’s with his white hair and stubbly beard, yet his presence is just as threatening as ever with his tight stance, massive height, and silent disposition. He knows how to overtake a shot with just subtle body language. Once he’s on the loose, the iconic tracking shots appear, the audience stalking with Michael over his shoulder, though he isn’t the patient attacker that he was in the first film. He just goes for it, blending in with the trick-or-treaters before making his way from house to house, picking up a butcher knife and slaughtering everyone he encounters. Apparently, 40 years behind bars has made him antsy, and once he gets going, so does his familiar theme.
No reboot can occur without homages, and though this film works off of the premise that Halloween II through Halloween: Resurrection never happened, there are still plenty of subtle Easter Eggs for fans to hunt for. These homages don’t feel out of place or wink at the audience in anyway. They are weaved fluidly throughout the plot. From the old woman making a sandwich dressed just like a similar character in Halloween II to recordings of Dr. Loomis being played verbatim from the opening credits of H20 to Allyson's friend, Vicky, protecting her young babysitting charge, there are plenty of call backs to the previous films, especially the first one. Even the opening credits run in that same pumpkin orange color with a rotten jack-o-lantern slowing re-ripening into the same carved shape from the first movie. Some of the shots even match the first movie, usually with Laurie replacing Michael as the stalking figure in these sequences, feeling like a mirror image of its original.
Without giving it away, I appreciated how the ending was very complete and capped off the events in a very clean way. There are some open-ended questions that are never answered, but the night itself has a very distinct ending. Laurie gets a very intense and satisfying showdown, and Karen gets to utilize her childhood training in a way that she never thought she’d have to. Even inexperienced Allyson is instrumental to the ending without taking away from her grandmother’s thunder.
Laurie's 40 year preparations for Michael's inevitable return.
One of the strongest elements of the original 1978 Halloween is its simple yet intriguing plot. The same goes for my other favorite films in the franchise: Halloween II and Halloween: H20. This film tends to forget this. It’s not sure where it wants to go. So, it goes everywhere, changing focus several times throughout the film. There are so many characters from the journalists to Laurie and her family to Michael’s psychiatrist working with the Haddonfield police department to Michael’s future victims. Each storyline is almost sectioned off, creating 10 mini-movies in one. Many raise questions that are never answered. Others give you fun and interesting characters to follow who really don’t add anything to the story besides a body count. When characters die, the other characters are rarely affected. Some die in unnecessarily gruesome ways. Blood and gore is largely absent from the original film because it was shot so creatively that it wasn’t necessary. This film seems to think that it is in order to be effective.
At this point, I can’t say that the suspense was effective, even if a scene played out differently than expected. This movie had the disadvantage of following 40 years of slasher films to desensitize older fans from these cheap scares. Maybe a younger viewer more inexperienced with the genre felt differently, but I wasn’t in it for the scares. I wanted to see what they could say with this clean slate. The professionals in the story: the journalists, psychiatrists, and police, hint that they are working towards a motive. Some are driven by it. They act like they’re going to get to the bottom of it. Some think that sitting Laurie face-to-face with Michael in a controlled setting will get him to open up and figure out what makes him tick. I would have welcomed that interaction, either at Smith’s Grove or during the final battle if they had been able to find an appropriate and satisfying way to do this. But they didn’t. So, why bring it up at all? Why ask these questions if they were afraid to answer them?
The tone is also all over the place. Sometimes it’s downright funny when you don’t expect it to be. Other times, it’s super serious with the tension never breaking. So many interesting back stories are glossed over. Haddonfield merely serves as a setting rather than a character in the movie. The plot is busy and rushed. It doesn’t capture that Halloween feel that helps to add that exciting eeriness to the story.
These weaknesses ended up leaving me wondering, what was the point of making this film? Was it simply to give Laurie some closure to the events that traumatized her and essentially ruined her life? Was her reaction to this night extreme? Why didn’t she get the help that she needed to get over these events? I could see how the Laurie that survived her encounters with Michael in the sequel could prepare for him the way that she did. After all, that Michael was super human. He kept coming back for her. They shared a genetic attachment. This Michael and Laurie had one encounter after a night where he mainly focused on her friends before coming for her. It didn’t seem personal. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this Michael is mortal. Should she be spooked? Yes. Should she have expected him to escape and come after her again? After 40 years, I’d say no.
What did you think of Halloween (2018)?
The Halloween franchise has proven over the years that you can base dozens of stories around this iconic character. The best adaptations are those that stay true to the original movie. However, you have to respect those that are brave enough to bring their own additions to the story, whether they work or not. This film gathered interest by bringing back everyone’s favorite heroine, but in the end, it didn’t quite deliver the reunion I had hoped. It contains the seeds of a really interesting story yet concentrates too much on upping the body count in over-the-top kills and loses focus several times, bringing no clarity to the story as a whole. Perhaps it’s impossible to revisit the simplicity and lightning-in-a-bottle charisma from 1978. Maybe the film will grow on me with repeated viewings, but it’s one of those films that I will always view as what it could have been versus what it is.