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Halloween (2018)

Early on in David Gordon Green’s new Halloween, three teenagers are talking about the murders committed by Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) 40 years before. One of them pipes up that in a modern context it’s really not that big of a deal that someone stabbed five people to death in one night. With everything else going on in the world now why would that be scary? And in a grander scheme it’s not. Unless you are the one being stalked by Michael which is what Allyson (Andi Matichak) says her grandmother, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), had to endure that night.

Green and his screenwriters, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, use that conversation as a jumping off point and mission statement; “What’s so scary about a guy with a knife, you say? How about THIS?” and deliver the best Halloween movie since the 1978 original. It’s not a reinvention, it’s a continuation and this Halloween jettisons all of the convoluted mythology the sequels layered on to the story and strip it down to the core. Michael Myers is Evil with a capital E, and he is loose again in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night.

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Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney)

The filmmakers not only dump the mythology, they dump every other sequel from the timeline as well. This isn’t a reboot precisely, more of a “What if…” and I wish more established franchises would take chances like this with their installments. In this version of the story, Michael was captured after falling from the balcony when Dr. Loomis shot him at the end of the first movie. He has been locked up at Smith Grove Sanitarium ever since and hasn’t spoken a word in all that time.

Meanwhile, Laurie Strode has become a PTSD suffering survivalist obsessed and convinced that Michael Myers will eventually return. This obsession has ruined marriages and strained her relationship with her only daughter, Karen (Judy Greer. When news of Michael’s escape becomes public Laurie snaps in to action with a mixture of fierce determination and relief; this is what she has been waiting for and she is not going to let the chance to kill Michael once and for all get away from her again.

Other than the Strode family most of the other characters are mere brushstrokes and for the movie it works fine. Will Patton co-stars as a local Sheriff’s deputy trying to hunt the killer with the help of Myer’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Allyson’s friends are introduced with enough personality to make us like them before putting them in the path of Michael, heightening the fear every time he is on screen. The scenes of stalking are interrupted with comedic moments that sit uneasily with the carnage around them. I understand they needed moments of levity but there are moments that while funny, come close to knocking the movie off track. This is a minor issue for me but your opinion

may differ as to how jarring the tone shifts are for you.

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Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)

As for the Boogeyman himself, Michael is relentless here and a force to be feared. There is no hesitation in his actions, no hurry, and no mercy. Despite being 61 now – James Jude Courtney is the same age which is a nice touch – age hasn’t slowed him down at all. Halloween is a gory, intense, no holds barred horror movie and it earns its R rating. The kills are not fun to watch, the look of shock and agony on the victims’ is palpable. The mask is damaged with time which lends a countenance of undead monster to Michael’s look. For me the Halloween series has always avoided the trap that many other slasher franchises fall in to where the villain becomes the “hero”. The reason you are watching Freddy or Jason is to see them kill annoying characters in increasingly bizarre and inventive ways.  Michael Myers has never been an anti-hero and even in his worst outings the character has held true even as the story grew more convoluted trying to explain Michael. This movie doesn’t. There is no explanation for why Michael kills or why he seems irresistibly drawn to Laurie. Tellingly, the credits don’t even list the character as “Michael Myers” but only as his original moniker, “The Shape”.

The long awaited reunion of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers that ends the movie doesn’t disappoint and caps a terrific sequel in exhilarating fashion. This is Jamie Lee Curtis’ movie, and she steps in to the shoes of Laurie Strode again without missing a step. Laurie is smart, driven, ready, and terrified all at the same time. It’s a great performance and the rest of the cast step up to her level. This new Halloween gets the tone and feeling of the original perfect. Some of that is in no small part due to a new score from John Carpenter, his son, Cody, and godson Daniel Davies. The music builds on what Carpenter did originally by adding some new motifs but keeping that otherworldly synth score that Carpenter fans know so well. It is another highlight in a movie that has no shortage of highlights.

Whether you are a die hard fan of John Carpenter’s original or coming to the franchise fresh there is something to offer for every horror fan with this sequel. Newcomers will get a tense and bloody horror thriller with a compelling heroine worth rooting for. Long time fans get all that in a continuation with the emotional depth the classic deserves, along with subtle and clever allusions to the seminal original. It’s not perfect. Aside from the misplaced humor the script really has to labor to get all the players in place for the final showdown but when Michael or Laurie are on screen everything else fades to the background under the sheer intensity.

Lock your doors. Turn on the lights. Pray for daylight. Because the original Boogeyman is back.

Happy Halloween.

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The Shape stalks again.

 

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