Cinematic Releases: Halloween (2018) - Reviewed

The original Halloween is an undisputed classic that remains one of the most lucrative independent films ever made. But I don't think anyone will argue that every sequel that followed seemed hellbent on sodomizing this timeless legacy for the sake of quick cash. As a result, this is a franchise that has no fewer than three timelines: First, you have the Thorn timeline, which includes Parts 1 and 2, disregards the unrelated Season of the Witch, and picks up with Parts 4 through 6 (known as the Thorn Trilogy). Second, you have the Laurie-centric timeline, which contains the first two films, Halloween: 20 Years Later and Halloween: Resurrection. Now, with this recalibration of the series, we just have the original Halloween, and this new one... which also happens to be called Halloween. I suppose calling it Halloween II would've been confusing because we already have two Halloween II's, but calling it Halloween when we already have two Halloween's is okay, right? Oh yeah, did I mention that there is a remake with its own sequel, too? Hollywood makes a lot of sense...

All timeline business aside, the intention of David Gordon Green's continuation of this story is to return to the underlying themes that John Carpenter originally created. The idea of Michael Myers as a force of nature -- an incarnation of pure evil -- doesn't need a ton of exposition. Thankfully, the writers of this script know this very well because they, like us, have learned from history. It was the sequels trying to over-explain Michael -- filling in his backstory with laughable plot twists and familial blood lust -- that succeeded only in diluting the elemental power of Carpenter's terrifying vision. It got to the point where Michael Myers became a toy for children, and when that happens, you know he's not scary anymore. 

I could not be happier to report that this is no longer the case. From the very beginning of this new Halloween, Michael Myers is cloaked in the same air of mystery and menace that made him so indelible to audiences back in 1978, and has kept him alive through four decades, two retcons, and Busta Rhymes. Having him played by Nick Castle, the same man who donned the William Shatner mask in the original film, is a nice touch. He's re-introduced in a beautifully shot and edited cold open  that frames Michael as a motionless specter in a courtyard that uncannily resembles a chessboard, and then we're treated to an opening credit sequence that tickles our nostalgia in just the right away. For the first time since 1981, we finally feel like we're watching a real Halloween movie. Although I must ask, is there any reason why the pumpkin had to be CGI?

The credits and the film that follows are all the more impactful because the music is composed by none other than John Carpenter himself (along with his son Cody, and Daniel A. Davies). This score is phenomenal. Its regeneration of the classic themes combined with new motifs and Carpenter's trademark synth style is auditory nirvana. You'll undoubtedly hear naysayers screaming that this is shameless fan service, and these are likely the same people who will insist that a 61 year old Michael Myers shouldn't be able to take this much punishment. To those people, I say: You happen to know any 21 year olds who survived six gunshots? Your argument is invalid.

Besides, once Jamie Lee Curtis shows up, all is forgiven. She gives a remarkably sympathetic and psychologically complex performance that finally digs into the trauma someone like Laurie Strode would be living with after surviving such a horrific night. In H20, her baggage was an excuse for the director to assault the audience with false flags and repetitive jump scares. It gave us a fun ride, but it didn't give us anything else. In Halloween 2018, Laurie Strode is a real woman working through a mountain of shit. She's scared to the bone. She's also sick and tired of being a victim and living in a perpetual state of paranoia that's lost her two marriages and a relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer). 

On top of that, we get a brilliant cast of supporting characters who actually have entertaining conversations with each other. It's almost like David Gordon Green and his co-writer Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) wanted to make sure we actually care about these people. It may seem like a dumb thing to point out, but it's truly remarkable how many slasher films ignore this basic principle, to the point where its execution here feels like a master class. There's a throwaway scene where two cops discuss what's in their lunch boxes, and I could've listened to those dudes bicker for hours. Typical slasher movies introduce a collection of archetypes and line them up as pigs for slaughter. The body count of these movies becomes part of the entertainment, and we laugh at the outlandish exhibition of violence, but when you actually give a damn about the people, suddenly the stakes are higher, you get emotionally invested, and you achieve the ultimate goal of every horror film: Pure, adrenaline-fueled, white-knuckle tension.

Once Michael Myers puts the mask back on and unleashes himself into the crowded streets of Haddonfield, Halloween 2018 is relentlessly tense, full of atmospheric cinematography and kills that hit you like a pile driver. It deposits a rock of dread in your gut that doesn't go away, at least until one particular moment involving the film's weakest link. Laurie calls him "the new Loomis," but I call him Dr. Plot Device. His presence and actions take you out of the movie at the precise moment when it inflicts the most damage, but fortunately it's a short-lived fumble that gives away to a final act that's worthy of applause. Lots of it.

This is not the best Halloween film ever made. No one expected it to be. But is, without question, the best Halloween sequel ever made. It pays tribute to the original movie that we all fell in love with, has some gorgeous visuals up its sleeve, and even throws in a healthy dose of homage to many of the sequels by incorporating various details such as the Silver Shamrock masks from Season of the Witch. More than just a sequel, it's a love letter for the fans who have kept this series alive even after numerous fair weather friends and critics declared it dead. But evil never dies.

-- Blake O. Kleiner