Review: Halloween (2018)

Halloween18

After being locked away for forty years, Michael Myers is being transferred to a new hospital. But when the bus crashes, he escapes and begins another Halloween night of horror….however Laurie Strode, who survived an encounter with Michael forty years earlier has been preparing for this night….

Since John Carpenter’s Halloween came out in 1978, it has become a classic of the horror genre and rightly so. It’s a stripped down, lean horror thriller that is scary and ratchets up the tension to a thrilling ending. It’s a film that also launched a series of films that took the same premise (a date on the calendar) and then slaughtered a group of teens on that day. Friday The 13th being the most famous perhaps. What those films, the so-called slasher films perhaps misunderstood about Halloween’s success is that you need good characters for the audience to root for. A number of films that followed in Halloween’s wake were more interested in the killings and the admittedly often gory effects used, rather than interesting characters. It’s why audiences began rooting for the killer. Why root for the characters to survive, when you simply don’t care what happens to them. Carpenter’s Halloween always sides with Laurie and the others, with Michael considered a relentless, unstoppable evil killer.

But what also came in Halloween’s wake were a number of sequels to it. The first did involve Carpenter, but he didn’t direct it. It continued the story, but added the wrinkle that Laurie and Micheal were sister and brother. It was an unnecessary addition. At the end of that film, it appeared Michael was dead.

Of course, when part 4 came around, not for nothing was it called, The Return Of Michael Myers. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, a great film itself, disappointed many by not bringing Myers back. Carpenter had planned on making each Halloween film about something different, not connected to the previous one. The box office disappointment of Season Of The Witch meant that when a fourth film was made, Myers would be back.

However, while Myers was back, Laurie wasn’t. what we got instead were in Parts 4 and 5, was a story based around Jamie, Laurie’s daughter being targeted by Michael. I wasn’t a fan of 4, or 5 and the less said about The Curse Of Michael Myers the better, although in a bizarre way, I did think there was a tenuous link to Season Of The Witch in there.

Something had to give and a fresh approach was needed. For the 20th anniversary, we got the terrific Halloween H20: 20 Years Later brought Laurie back. It had nods to the trauma she suffered years before and made Michael scary once more. But the follow-up film, Resurrection was awful, killing Laurie at the beginning then just descending into nonsense after that.

After Rob Zombie remade the original then gave us a god-awful Part II, a film I hate so much it would be in my list of the worst films I’ve ever seen at the cinema, it went quiet for awhile.

But now, in 2018, with the perhaps surprising creative team of Danny McBride and David Gordon Green driving it, we get another film called Halloween, but this is billed as a direct sequel to the original film, ignoring all the sequels in between. In some ways, this is a risk, as it has been so long since the original, can you make a film that follows the original and in some ways undoes a lot of the damage some of the sequels have caused, in part to Michael himself.

In the original film, Myers as a force of nature, part supernatural to a degree, an evil killer who enjoyed scaring his victims as killing them. Take the death of Annie. While Michael has opportunities to kill her before he does, when he does strike it is an effective scare moment.

However, in the sequels Michael becomes more like Jason from the Friday The 13th films, both in how he kills (assorted weapons) but also being a more cliched killer to a degree. He’d lost his scare factor.

Here though, the scare factor is back in a big way. The relentless force of nature is back with a bloody vengeance. There’s a terrific one-take shot following Micheal going from one kill to another that shows that relentlessness. The kills are bloody and vicious, but never gratuitous and over relying on gore. The Shape is truly back to his best.

But so is Laurie and she is ready for him. Still haunted and traumatised by the events in 1978, she has been preparing for Micheal to escape in all that time, becoming a reclusive survivalist. The trauma ruined her personal life, wrecking her relationship with her daughter, Karen. Karen, in turn, tries to protect her own daughter, Allyson from Laurie. She recalls her childhood, of learning to shoot and build traps in case Michael were to come back and tries to shield Allyson from that. Allyson, in turn, has her own relationship with Laurie. The three women presented her have a great, if difficult relationship in the film, one that is very well developed throughout, leading to them all having to confront Michael in the last act.

Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie and she is tremendous in the film. This is no longer Laurie the lucky survivor, but woman ready to fight and kill her demon if/when it ever comes for her. But her trauma is always there in the background and Curtis does a tremendous job of bringing that out at moments. But as we see in the last act, she’s not afraid to take Michael on, in a brutal, bloody encounter.

Andi Matichak plays Allyson and her character too isn’t as cliched as you may expect. She stands up to her jerk of a boyfriend, and at the end, like the other Strode women, when it comes to confronting Michael, isn’t scared to get into the fight.

But for me, it’s Judy Greer as Karen who nearly steals the film. Karen wants a normal life for her family and wants, in part to forget her own childhood. As a result, while she loves her mother, she doesn’t Laurie to do to Allyson what she went through. But in the last act as she has to return to her childhood home, while she is reluctant, she knows she will have to confront the evil that shaped her relationship with her mother. She also gets my favourite moment in the film. Never has the word, ‘gotcha’ made me want to punch the air more!

Nick Castle returns to play Michael/The Shape in a small number of scenes, sharing the role with James Jude Courtney. Between them, as said, they have made Michael scary and intimidating again.

The supporting cast are good too, with Will Patton playing a Officer Hawkins, who was there in 1978 when Myers caught. Rhian Rees and Jefferson play podcast journalists looking into the events of 1978. There’s also a new Doctor in the mix, Dr. Sartain played by Haluk Bilginer.

The film well directed by David Gordon Green, taking his time to set the story up before unleashing the carnage and horror. He also creates some good scary moments, and the film has a tremendous climax as Laurie confronts Michael. He also includes knowing call backs to the original film, which are a nice touch.

The film has three credited screenwriters, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. And for the most part, it’s a well written film, but there are a couple of missteps here. The subplot involving Dr. Sartain didn’t work for me. Also, the podcasters, I felt were only there to bring the audience up to speed with events of the past 40 years and, as the trailer shows, you felt they were only there to add to the body count.

But these are minor issues. The film looks great, thanks to cinematographer Michael Simmonds. The score is by John Carpenter, along with Cody Carpenter and Daniel A, Davies and is a good one indeed, the iconic theme still impressive in this updated version. John Carpenter serves as an executive producer to the film too, and while I’m not sure how much influence he had over the finished film, but even without his name on the film, I do think this film captures the spirit of the original very well indeed, certainly more than any of the sequels have (although I still think Halloween H20 is close).

This film was made by the company Blumhouse, who have made a number of strong number of horror films over the years, but this is one of their finest efforts.

Carpenter says that he thinks this will be the final Halloween film. If that is the case, then the series ends on a tremendous high. It’s tense, scary, relentless and bloody good.

But something tells me, we haven’t seen the last of The Bogeyman yet, and based on this film, I wouldn’t mind that at all.

Highly recommended.

Rating: ****

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