Halloween 2018

Three succinct and telling words.

It feels right.

It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) had to find her best and strongest self, and take on the seemingly indestructible Michael Myers.  In that time, she’s prepared, installing herself in a well-equipped, secure home (think apocalypse-preppers).  She’s now estranged from her family, including her grown daughter Karen (Judy Greer), twice divorced and agoraphobic.  When podcast team/investigative reporters Dana Haines and Aaron Korey (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall; respectively) visit Michael Myers at the Smith’s Grove Hospital – looking to get the anniversary scoop from Michael directly – it sets into motion the Laurie/Michael showdown Laurie’s been expecting for the past 40 years – all of it on Halloween night.

With an endless array of fabulous inside jokes – clearly meant for the hardcore Halloween fan-base, I found call-outs to the original Halloween (of course), Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch and even a wink to the climax of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.  Why, there was even a similar bathroom stall sequence – calling out to a scene in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.

Halloween 2018

And I just now noticed on the film’s IMDb page, that P.J. Soles (the original’s Lynda) “totally” appears as a high school teacher.  Fabulous!

But the film goes beyond the nostalgia which most will expect, and creates an interesting character study via a now-aged Laurie Strode and that is the film’s dynamic central focus.

The snappy editing is perfectly paired with the snappy dialogue.  It all looks and sounds fantastic – with the “$3,000” payment/exchange being a perfect example of both.  There’s plenty of humor – and even in such a serious film, it always works.  You’ll like these characters.  You’ll like their back and forth – notably the babysitter/ward relationship between secondary characters Vicky (Virginia Gardner) and Julian (Jibrail Nantambu).

Visually, the film looks fantastic.  There’s plenty of atmosphere – and nowhere is that more frightening than in the foggy “prison-bus” sequence – where you’ll flash back to the opening moments of the original.  There’s nothing creepier than a bunch of white-robed mental patients wandering aimlessly on a hazy rural road.

Make-up effects and gore are top-notch.  And while it’s always been a big deal that the original was basically bloodless, the kills in this one are definitely gross-out, but never go over-the-top by lingering on the gore, thus keeping in line with the original’s more suggestive methods.  Not that gore-hounds will be disappointed, of course.

There is a turn of events – which won’t be discussed in detail here – which was a bit of a stumble somewhere in the second act.  It’s an interesting twist, but I felt as if it came out of nowhere.  Even a slight clue-in – earlier in the story – would have done wonders to make this plot turn more effective and less conspicuous.

Jamie Lee Curtis is in top form as a very prepared and very bad-ass Laurie Strode.  Seeing her inhabit this character again makes me want to borrow and remix a quote from Dr. Loomis in the original, “She came home.”

While I am indeed a fan of H20, the return of this timeline’s Laurie feels more true to the character we first came to love in 1978.  Curtis brings a fearlessness to Laurie this time around.  And it makes sense that the original’s wallflower Laurie, would retreat into herself (physically and mentally) in the face of all she’s endured.

I loved the choice for Laurie to have an almost business-like reaction to the news of Michael’s escape.  She realizes that the time has come and does nothing to hide her concern for her family’s well-being.  The almost embarrassing matter-of-factness she shows in every scene – loudly proclaiming that “this is gonna happen”, and then later letting Laurie offer up – in attitude alone – a bittersweet “I told you so” – made me fall in love with Curtis anew.  Curtis and the filmmakers bring to life a very real extension of who we would expect Laurie to be – and it’s brilliant.

Nick Castle returns as Michael Myers (along with James Jude Courtney) to don the Shatner mask.  No one ever quite mastered the gait and attitude of the original Myers in the many sequels or re-imaginings, so having Castle back on the horse… yes, it felt right.  And seeing Michael really think before acting – in so many scenes – was simply glorious.

The score from John Carpenter (who also executive produced here) and his son Cody Carpenter, along with Daniel A. Davies – never overuses the iconic theme.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly present in many new forms, but overall, the new score is its very own wonderful beast.  And let me just say this – I’m picking up a physical copy of the soundtrack just as soon as I can.  Is there any better recommendation than that?

It’s not really a complaint, per se – more of an observation, but… despite the presence of ample “boo” moments to keep you on edge, and some delicious suspense – the new film doesn’t reach the heights (depths?) of absolute terror which the original film embodied.

Perhaps it’s my personal experience of 40 years of Halloween sequels, knock-off slasher films and enough horror cliches to fill up an entire sanitarium, but this installment (while powerful) couldn’t dig up the more primal “fight or flight” feeling I experienced when I first screened the original.  But of course – I was only 13 years old.  It’s all about perspective, folks.

Then again – there were a couple of moments in this new film, where I found myself teetering on the edge of my seat, so…

As most of you know, the entire universe – all of the sequels, including 1981’s direct continuation, Halloween II – no longer exist in this world.  I was apprehensive when I first learned of this course, but after seeing the new film – I can’t imagine a better alternate path.  Say it with me now – it felt right.

I went into this with very level-headed expectations.  Sure, I was excited, but the palpable excitement was laced with caution.  There will no doubt be naysayers about this new installment, but I can hardly imagine any true fans of the original, not taking to this new tale.

I’ve never feigned some sort of strength or the ability to squelch emotions when falling into any particular movie-world.  I’m a notorious softee, so perhaps you can take this next bit of information with a grain of salt.

The moment the opening credits started, and that iconic title design graced the screen – I began to cry.  It’s an impressive and smart update of the original’s credit sequence.  As I sat there – for goodness sake – actually crying during a Halloween movie – internally I hoped that this initial and intense emotion I was feeling, would not be let down by the rest of the film.  It’s a mirror reaction to my emotions when seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens – revisiting beloved characters and situations after a decades-long absence – how could you not get choked up?  Just confirms that although I may be jaded, I’m not totally dead inside.

I’m happy (and frankly relieved) to say that the filmmakers managed to give me everything I wanted (needed) out of a continuation of this story.

And seeing in the opening credits, the name of the late Debra Hill – warmed my heart.

I’ve never had the opportunity to officially review a film in the Halloween franchise.  And so it gives me great pleasure to do so now, and to offer up this smiling jack-o-lantern of a write-up complete with a sparkling 4.5-star score.

Whether you have the long history with this franchise as I do, or if you’re a newbie to the vast world of Michael Myers and company – there’s ample enjoyment to be had here.  I do recommend that you sit down for a quick re-watch of the 1978 original – or if you’ve never seen said original, certainly do so before taking this one in.  It’ll only make for a richer screening experience.

This new Halloween is a love letter to the legions of fans.  It’s a perfect balance of authentically continuing a story and the lives of familiar and beloved characters (thus making for a solid film in its own right) – taking us on a new and interesting journey, while being keenly cognizant of where it all began.

When examining the rest of the franchise’s films, I would say that Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers has always been my second favorite – right behind the Carpenter original.

That being said, I will go on record here and happily proclaim this:  Halloween 2018 is second only to the original.

It’s a nostalgic film.  It’s a fun film.  It’s a smart film.  It’s a great film.

It feels right.

Yes.  The new Halloween got it right.  It’s now playing in theatres everywhere.

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