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Halloween

October 26, 2018

 

            Michael Meyers is back for his tenth, and hopefully final, outing (doubtful but a guy can dream). This film ignores everything after the first Halloween, serving as a direct sequel to it. Yes, it even ignores the, quite good in my opinion, Halloween II. So, Laurie Strode is not Michael’s long-lost sister, although that is alluded to. It’s the first Halloween to have John Carpenter’s involvement since Halloween III, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle both reprise the roles that made them famous.

            This year is the 40th anniversary of Halloween (1978), and so Halloween (2018) takes place exactly 40 years after Michael’s original killing spree. I find that most anniversary sequel to beloved movies tend to rely heavily on nostalgia and completely miss what made the original great. Halloween is one of the only films in recent memory that I can think of that subverts that trend. This is good movie, a great horror movie, and serves as both a worthy sequel, and finale, to Halloween.

            When Halloween first came out in 1978, it codified most of the tropes that became associated with the slasher genre, but unlike its many imitators, it wasn’t the violence or the gore that made it scary. What made it scary was the tension that it builds, as most of Michael’s kills are in the dark. Stuck together with John Carpenter’s original score, the suspense becomes absolutely nerve wracking. The people in charge of this film understood this.
            Halloween (2018) is more violent than the original, but it still relies on tension and suspense. What works even better is that this time you KNOW what Michael is capable of. One scene in particular had me on the edge of my seat wondering if the film would “go there.” I won’t tell you what it is, but you’ll know it when you see it. There’s a couple of particularly gruesome kills, and the lack of gore throughout the film makes those kills more effective.

            You probably know the set-up for this, Michael Meyers escapes from prison and stalks Laurie Strode. It’s not particularly original, but that doesn’t really matter because of what the film does with it. While Halloween falls prey to a handful of slasher clichés, I found them forgivable because the original invented them, and for the most part it avoids them. Characters are not stupid. When Michael escapes, the local Sheriff’s deputy treats it as the serious situation that is it, and he has no interest in trying to take Michael into custody. He knows killing Michael is the only solution.

            Jamie Lee Curtis deserves a lot of praise for her role in this. She’s not the helpless teenager she was in the original, she’s been preparing for Michael’s return for 40 years, having become a crack shot and something of a doomsday prepper. She’s more than capable of taking care of herself. At the same time, it’s evident that she’s also scared out of her mind. Michael’s original rampage has taken its toll on Laurie. She’s twice divorced, estranged from her family, and utterly paranoid. And while she’s proven correct about Michael, she’s not portrayed as being 100% in the right. She clearly suffers from severe PTSD, anxiety, and is mentally unwell. It’s not a mean portrayal of mental illness, it's realistic and sympathetic. It reminded me a lot of Linda Hamilton’s performance in Terminator 2. Yes, Sarah Connor is right about the impending robot apocalypse, but she’s also clearly a danger to others and not fit to be a mother.

            John Carpenter’s score hits a lot of the same beats as the original, with some updates for the modern world. In fact, that’s a lot of what this film feels like. Halloween updated for modern audiences. There are Easter eggs and callbacks to the original, but the film doesn’t focus or wallow in them. There’s a higher body count, and the kills are more gruesome than the original, but it doesn’t go overboard on the gore. Most importantly, Halloween doesn’t rely on jump scares. Yes, there’s a handful, but I mean only a handful. I counted about 3. I realize jump scares are unavoidable in horror movies, but I prefer films that don’t rely on them. For me personally, horror films that rely more on tension, suspense and atmosphere are the ones that stick with me. Halloween is great, if you’re a fan of the originals, or just horror movies, go see it.

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