UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: David Gordon Green

 

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle

All those Halloween movies that came after the 1978 classic? Sod ‘em!

 

Such was the desire of executive producer John Carpenter as he swiftly retconned every movie since his original for this iteration of Halloween, a direct sequel to…Halloween. He did manage to get Jamie Lee Curtis to return in her iconic role as Laurie Strode and also the original ‘Shape’, Nick Castle. The feeling in the air was that this would return the franchise to its glory days and be a real return to form. Despite the extremely low bar, it certainly achieves that.

Set forty years since the Haddonfield babysitter murders of 1978, Michael Myers (Castle) is incarcerated and seemingly mute, whereas Laurie Strode (Curtis) has spent every day of the four decades preparing for Myers’ return – whilst living with the full trauma and pain of that night all those years ago. When Michael (invariably) escapes, he hot foots it straight back to Haddonfield for a final showdown with the one that got away.

 

All those sequels and great movie moments gone. I jest, but it is a bold move – arrogant, some might say – and speaks to the levels of confidence the studio, writers, Carpenter and Green had in Halloween. It also set the levels of expectations pretty high and, thankfully, for the vast majority of the movie, those expectations are met. This feels like a real sequel to the original and, in fact, having a forty-year gap in between movies ‘one’ and ‘two’ lends the movie more depth than a rushed out samey sequel – though this movie does have its fair share of nods and recycled ideas.

 

The most crucial aspect that Halloween needed to crush was to make Michael Myers frightening again, to make him the true evil that Donald Pleasence was so fearful of. Nothing to fear here except Michael himself. The icon is returned to his evil, soulless ways – he’s basically a killing machine, a man on a mission to find Laurie for their inevitable showdown - and, boy, does he get some vicious kills. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie is extremely good as she portrays the prolonged trauma and effects that her original meeting with Myers had on her, including her fractured relationship with daughter Karen (Greer) and granddaughter (Matichak). Both characters and performances just felt right after all these years. Not just full of death and destruction, there are a few decent gags in the movie, with young Jibrail Nantambu stealing pretty much all of them in his small performance.

 

There’s a familiar feeling to the streets of Haddonfield that lend a nostalgic comfort to proceedings, but Green is careful not to retread iconic old ground. Fall is in the air and this always provides many opportunities for great looking visuals and we get these here. The idea of showing Michael/The Shape in shadows, out of focus, outside of the houses as we see inside and in reflections (including one gloriously chilling reflection looking into a living room) allowed for the tension to build and the use of long tracking shots are handled excellently - having him drift in and out of motion sensor lights was excellently delivered also. In terms of the original, this isn‘t quite as concise and at times can jump around a bit, but it’s never detrimental. As to be expected, there are nods to the original, not too many, to be fair, but a few fairly large ones (including a late night hold up on a deserted looking road) but, yes, that score in back and reworked.

 

It's also fair to note that in this current climate of saturated horror movies, in a PG-13 world, Halloween really doesn't hold back on the ferocity of Michael's murder spree. Not necessarily gore, just brutality. 

 

As a sequel, Halloween works on most levels. As a highly anticipated return to a classic horror movie, Halloween is a very commendable effort. It’s familiar, but never a full retread – in fact, the themes and messages within the movie are very present as the empowered women fight back. Despite playing it safe at times, Halloween brings the kills and thrills that allow it to sidle up to its older, bigger brother from 1978.

October 19th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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