Review

Halloween (2018)

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Nick Castle

Running time: 105 minutes

Rating: 18

3-stars

Forty years after the night he came home, silent, masked murderer Michael Myers returns…again. But, this time round, someone’s been waiting for him, and she’s ready to bring him down for good. 

If you were writhing violently at the prospect of yet another Halloween instalment, then you certainly wouldn’t be doing it alone.

It seems like we’ve really been round the houses of Haddonfield (and back again) over the years. From the moment Michael Myers gave a fresh-faced Jamie Lee Curtis (and hordes of hungry horror fans alike) an almighty scare – we’re all entitled to one good one, remember – on Halloween night in 1978, the blueprint for the modern morality-tale-cum-slasher was well and truly etched, paving a bloody path stained with sequels, remakes, cheap imitations, and even a neatly packaged Austin Powers gag in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver.

Now, four decades on from that gloriously fateful night, Babysitting is once again set to plummet down the list of popular graduate schemes as 2018’s Halloween marks Myers’ return to his old stabbing ground to go toe to toe with infamous final girl Laurie once more. Only this time, he has two more generations of Strode to contend with – cue daughter Karen (Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Matichak).

Mike – here played by James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle (Castle portrayed him in the original) – and Laurie aren’t the only familiar faces back in the mix, however. Series creator, John Carpenter, also returns as Executive Producer, composer, creative consultant, and all-round great guy. Trepidation may have been the feeling among waves of viewers after the film’s announcement, but if anyone was going to make this all work – both on-screen and off – it was most certainly these folks.

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And Halloween lays clear its message early doors. With one merciless fell swoop of dialogue – “No. He was not her brother. That’s something people made up” – that’s also a dagger to the heart of ‘Fake News’ fans everywhere, Halloween swiftly, and unapologetically, wipes the franchise slate clean of all the narrative baggage nine subsequent sequels and remakes has given us.

Simplicity is very much the name of the game here. Coming to us as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s best-in-class original, director David Gordon Green – and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride – adopt a similarly effective stripped-back narrative approach and deliver a satisfying, if never quite as memorable, return trip down the (memory) lanes of Haddonfield.

A mixed bag of varying quality – horror’s version of a Quality Street tin, if you will – Halloween makes a stuttering start to proceedings by thinking it can run before its even learned how to slowly stalk. After languishing for far too long in a sluggish first half that uncomfortably juggles a saggy sub-plot involving a pair of crime podcasters with wafer thin characterisation of Haddonfield’s teenage population – the majority bred purely as Myers knife fodder – Green’s film gets it act together once it brushes off the expositional dross and eventually returns his menacing baddie home.

A series of wonderfully crafted ‘single-shot’ tracking scenes to the chimes of Carpenter’s original haunting score claw Halloween back from cheap Loomis knock-offs and uninspired psychological musings, and thrusts us gloriously back to 1978 as we follow Michael trudging around on familiar soil: in and out of shadows, peering through windows, and meandering between washing line bedding (is hanging washing out in October actually a thing, then!?).

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But, neat audio-visual antics aside, what keeps Halloween’s heart beating is its promise of a thrilling climatic showdown between Myers and one Laurie Strode. A far cry from the naïve, virginal babysitter of yesteryear, Strode is now older, wiser, moodier, and, most importantly, prepared. Her life has been hit with both barrels – the same barrels she’d happily load into a shotgun and blast Myers with – and her secluded, rural home has become an arsenal with windows: one rife with rifles, padlocks, secret hiding places, and boobytrapped to the level of a Kevin McAllister house at Christmas time.

Playing on the series’ entire premise of an unstoppable force meets an impenetrable fortress, Halloween presents Strode and Myers as one and the same; interchangeable beings whose lives are bound to, and defined by, one another. They are both hunter and hunted, and Green’s clever inversion of scenes from Carpenter’s original permeate throughout the film’s final act to hammer home this very point – and put smiles on the faces of a few horror aficionados while it’s at it. As final reels go, it’s up there with the most effective and enjoyably satisfying this year.

Curtis is having a blast here too. Tearing up the screen with her layered depiction of a weathered Laurie, she combines a Sarah Conner-esque strength with a brilliantly understated fragility that living forty years in fear has inevitably burdened her with. Her performance is both hyperbolised and astute, and easily the best in a bunch of largely bland supporting band members. If the series is to be well and truly re-ignited, please, please let there be more Curtis.

Fittingly for Hallows ‘eve, Halloween proves to be full to the brim with both tricks and treats.

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