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Halloween (Movie Review)

Halloween (Movie Review)
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Read Chris Bumbray's take right HERE!

PLOT: Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield 40 years after his initial reign of terror. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been waiting for this ill-fated Halloween night her entire life. Let the showdown begin!

REVIEW: For rabid horror fans, HALLOWEEN isn’t just a film franchise, it’s an institution. John Carpenter’s original was not only a testament to ingenious, no-budget, less-is-more filmmaking, but coming on the heels of BLACK CHRISTMAS, it also revitalized, if not popularized, the slasher film template by setting a new standard. A standard that, as we’ve seen in the intervening four decades, been critically and commercially inimitable, with sequels and prequels that simply cannot live up to the quality Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill so skillfully, foundationally laid. As much as we all love the HALLOWEEN sequels around here, none have either been given the A-list pedigree, or reflected the heartfelt solemnity of David Gordon Green’s new direct sequel, HALLOWEEN (2018), which opens everywhere this Friday (October 19th). Indeed, Gordon Green has not only turned in the finest made HALLOWEEN sequel ever attempted, but, despite lacking the level of terror induced in the original, rightly shifts the focus back to the character we care most about (Laurie Strode) in an examination of a life suffering not from the threat of a physical boogeyman, but the psychological phantom of PTSD. A bit tricky, but in the end, HALLOWEEN is most certainly the treat we all hoped it’d be!

The movie gets going on the night before Michael Myers' 40th anniversary of escaping from Smith’s Grove. A pair of sensationalistic podcasters, Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), is intent on squeezing a word or two out of the stoically silent Shape (Nick Castle) by flashing the maniacal murder’s trademarked mask in front of his eyes. No such luck. Instead, the podcasters plan to interview Laurie Strode (Curtis) to get her side of the story, but they find her equally despondent. In fact, since surviving the mortifying event that took place on Halloween night, 1978, Laurie has become a paranoid doomsday prepper of sorts, solely eyeing the return of her baleful assailant so she can finally kill him for good. Laurie’s house has been outfitted in paramilitary fashion, a stockpile of weapons at her side to protect herself and her family. This includes her resentful and semi-estranged daughter Karen (the always lovely Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). You can probably guess what drives the action next. Myers escapes from a prison bus and makes his way back to Haddonfield, where a double-handful of unsuspecting victims are quietly stalked and slaughtered.

The main reason why HALOWEEN is so superb is that how respectfully treated the characters are. Major to minor players alike are given not just credible back-stories or intelligently motivated actions that come off convincingly, they’re largely made likeable while doing it. So often in horror sequels, HALLOWEEN included, we actually begin to root for Michael Myers due to how woefully flat or even detestable the characters are. Here, Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride preternaturally understand, and rightly capture, what is needed to make the horrific aspects of the story matter. There’s simply an escalation of consequence in HALLOWEEN 2018, because we actually care what happens to the people, which is glaringly omitted from most of its preceding franchise chapters. Chief among these hugely compelling cast of characters is of course Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie, who not only gives one of the best performances of her career, but in so doing proves that she, not Michael or even young Jamie, will forever be the heart and soul of the HALLOWEEN canon. The inner-strength summoned from battling her own psychological demons for 40 years, PTSD in particular, afford her the courage to face her kindred boogeyman in the anticipated present. It’s an appreciable dynamic!

What also works in its favor, albeit to a slightly lesser degree, is the Halloween-time atmosphere and requisite death-toll evilly exacted by Myers along the way. Not only do we get a good baker's dozen of delicious death-strokes, many with their own accented flavor, but the way in which Myers casually commingles down the lane with scores of young trick-or-treaters is an exhilerating feeling for fans of the franchise. Like the original, Gordon Green wisely shoots from a distance, voyeuristically leering at Myers through windows and doorways as he careens through quiet suburban abodes in the moments before a murderous mutilation. He slyly nods to the original by using the same familiar closet doors, stairway railings, house interiors we've become so familiar with over the years. And not just the original, a coy doffing of the lid is given to each franchise entry, be it the silver shamrock costume for SEASON OF THE WITCH or the gore-sodden gas station from THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. The use of silence in spots is also inspired, a la the original, but so too is the iconic musical score Carpenter once claimed was the scariest part of the original. Here Carpenter updates his own score along with his son Cody and Dan Davies (the Kinks’ Dave Davies’ son), playing to both the familiar, but also enhancing the sinister soundscapes with slightly altered instrumentation. Just as the movie does overall, the score takes something familiar and gives it an upgraded facelift.

What worked less for me is the way in which the movie smugly bypasses the 10 forerunning sequels and prequels that has propped the franchise up for decades, including Hill’s own baby, HALLOWEEN II. This is sure to fly in the face of the salivating fans of not just the original, but of the many iterations and offshoots that have kept the mythic lore of Myers alive and well for such a long time. Yes those movies are inferior, but they’re what have largely kept Myers in the collective consciousness of moviegoers for 40 years. Even when fun is made of Laurie’s relationship to Michael and mention made of salacious rumors of revenge and curses, they don’t come off as wittily shoehorned homage to the various sequels, they come off as superiorly dismissive, as if to say those movies do not belong in our company. Now, I understand how vital it is to make this Laurie’s story, but this isn’t the first sequel she’s appeared in, and anyone as familiar with those sequels as we are, are bound to find it a little odd that these occurrences are totally glossed over in favor of a brand new narrative. H20 I get, but the others? It’s ultimately excusable because the script is so deftly penned here and the overall result so satisfying, but the lack of connective tissue struck me as a bit hard to overlook.

All in all, given the A-list production, the well written screenplay, the hugely compelling characters, the palpable autumnal ambience, a career best performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, and a dozen or so delectable death scenes, HALLOWEEN 2018 is the best franchise entry yet.

Source: AITH

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