Halloween (2018)

Review #1,629

Director:  David Gordon Green
Cast:  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Plot:  Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

Genre:  Horror / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for People's Choice Award - Midnight Madness (Toronto)
Runtime:  106 mins
Rating:  M18 (passed clean) for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
Distributor:  United International Pictures

“Happy Halloween, Michael.”

In David Gordon Green, an established and prolific American indie filmmaker of George Washington (2000), Prince Avalanche (2013) and Stronger (2017), the ‘Halloween’ franchise has finally found an assured director who has the wherewithal to deliver what could possibly be this year’s finest horror movie.  And indeed, this is 2018’s must-see horror film, a standout work on its own terms, though it is how it interplays with John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic that truly sets it alight.

Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returns as the elderly Laurie Strode, 40 years after that haunting Halloween night when the infamous horror villain Michael Myers went on his killing spree in which she narrowly escaped from.  Laurie, a grandmother now, is no softie—she had been training herself and her daughter (now a mother to a teenage girl) to be prepared to face evil head-on again.  Ripley would be proud!

In the spirit of Carpenter’s film, 2018’s Halloween retains the famous musical cue which is used sporadically here with chilling effect, and sees some key scenes play out with a similar rhythm and style as the iconic classic.  However, Green’s approach doesn’t appear to be slavishly derivative; rather, it deepens the mythology of these two films through homage, which when combined should form the franchise’s official ‘canon’ (Curtis has repeatedly said in interviews that all the sequels and remakes that transpired between 1978 and 2018 should be thrown aside).

Curtis’ performance is excellent, giving the film the necessary gravitas to allow for darker humour to flourish.  It is quite remarkable to see how seemingly ‘comical’ scenes are balanced with sustained tension—one particular example comes from a teenage boy’s encounter with Michael on a private property with motion light sensors.

Carpenter’s film, while genuinely scary because of its heavy atmosphere of dread, is rather tame in terms of violence and gore, and Green’s strategy here is to rake up the body count with a potent dose of slasher violence.  Because the movie is solidly-constructed and there is some commitment to characterisation even for fringe characters, many of the killings hurt.  But I must say the most satisfying aspect of Halloween comes from the character arcs of Laurie, her daughter and granddaughter, culminating in an extraordinary climax.

Verdict:  A standout horror film on its own terms that not just plays into the spirit of the 1978 original, but delivers in both sustained tension and satisfying character arcs.  





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