October 18, 2018 Halloween (Movie Review)
Out of all the iconic Horror franchises to be revisited over the years, the Halloween movies have the most confusing continuity by a mile and, after the first, have generally been received with little acclaim. Rather than trying to work out 40 years of sequels, pseudo-sequels, and reimaginings, Director and Co-Writer David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express 2008, Manglehorn 2014) opted to disregard everything but the original masterpiece, and the results are much better than most fans dared hope.
Set for release in theaters on Friday, October 19, 2018 through Universal Pictures, Halloween picks up 40 years after the events of the first film, when infamous slasher Michael Myers was shot off a balcony. In the wake of his night of terror, original protagonist Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis: Trading Places 1983, True Lies 1994) has been left a strong but broken woman suffering from severe PTSD and paranoia. She had two failed marriages, a strained relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, and is aloof from society.
Michael is kept at a prison for the criminally insane, which is where the film starts as two British investigative journalists go there to entice the mute killer into speaking by showing him his old mask. He does not take the bait, of course, and here is the first indication that the filmmakers know what they are doing. These ‘journalists’ come off as sensationalism-chasing bloggers who feel like they would be the stars in less capable hands, but they do not last long and serve as a stepping stone for Michael to get back to form.
The other main characters are Laurie’s family: her daughter Karen (Judy Greer: Jurassic World 2015, Ant-Man 2015), her husband Ray (Toby Huss:Cowboys & Aliens 2011, Havenhurst 2016), and their daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak: Orange is the New Black series, Evol 2017). They are a typical Midwest family, but Karen is not keen on having Laurie in their lives. Allyson is more sympathetic to her grandmother but understands her mother’s position too, as Laurie is clearly a dysfunctional person despite her intentions. The family dynamic works well because it’s not overplayed and is believable. After all, it has been 40 years and Laurie still seems to think of nothing else but Michael returning. It all seems crazy until he makes his escape from a prison bus during a transfer.
Everything about the story feels like the natural progression of events and characters. Laurie has seemingly trained her entire life from that night for Michael’s return, and is adept in firearms and survival tactics. Her trauma has reduced her to a person with a single-track mind, not unlike Michael himself – his goal has always been to finish what he started on Halloween night in 1978. Even though we are never inside his head, we know that’s all he’s been thinking about these past 40 years. They are two sides of the same coin, and the build to their long-awaited confrontation is fraught with tension; it really could not have been handled much better.
Greer and Matichak also turn in good performances and their characters are well-written. Karen was taken from Laurie when she was twelve amidst her mother’s intense focus on weapons and survival training, so, while underneath she has some appreciation for her upbringing, she is openly resentful of her lost childhood and has little patience for her mother. Allyson is more pragmatic about it. She knows her mother does not want her associating with Laurie, which she tries to adhere to but she also knows her grandmother loves them and is not dangerous. She is young but not overly naive, and does not come off as annoying or foolish the way many teen Horror characters do. The three ladies are the characters that hold the story together and they all do a fantastic job.
Another natural progression is how Laurie and Michael have aged. Of course, 40 years will do that, but there is something about Laurie being a grandmother and Michael being a 60-year-old man now that adds an element of vulnerability to them. For Michael, it is especially interesting because aging isn’t the sort of thing we’re used to seeing in Horror villains. Though he still has seemingly superhuman strength and constitution, we know his age can only work against him, and Laurie likewise. We never see Michael’s face, but we see him from behind maskless, and his white hair and wrinkled skin is a startling thing to see and humanizes him in a way no personality implant could.
Overall, Halloween is an excellent film and is arguably the best of modern Horror sequels. This is the result of strong performances and quality writing that respect the source material. It has none of the pretense that has plagued other sequels – not trying to be new and hip, and the filmmakers do not try to put their own personal twist on anything. It is a great example of how a Horror franchise can be continued decades later without missing a beat and surpass expectations. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Halloween 4.5 out of 5 stars.