In Theaters: Halloween

halloween-david-gordon-green

Halloween (2018)
Director: David Gordon Green
Written By: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley

Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis return to the big screen to square off again. 40 years after the original Halloween, fans still can’t get enough of The Shape. I was interested to see what a Halloween film looks like in 2018. The movie can be viewed through a number of different lenses. Let’s peak through them quickly.

It’s impossible for this movie not to be compared to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. How does it stack up to the original? It comes closer than most of the other sequels but it’s still miles short. That’s not really a knock though, most movies fall way short of Carpenter’s film. There is just something about it that cannot be equaled. It’s easily one of the 5 best horror films ever made. Holding the new version to that standard isn’t really fair.

What about the franchise as a whole? Where does it stand among the other films? This is a much more fair way of looking at the movie. It’s one of the better entries in the franchise. I would easily put this as the third or fourth best Halloween film.

The important question though, the one we should be concerning ourselves with, is: Is it a good movie? The simple answer is yes, Halloween is a good movie. It has some problems but there are far more things to like about it than to dislike.

Most of the problems that I had with the film were screenplay related. I’m torn about the direction that they chose to take Laurie Strode. I understand why they did what they did and I have no doubt that it is a realistic route for someone who’s suffered the trauma that she has to go, it just didn’t feel like Laurie to me. She has spent 40 years training and preparing for Michael to return but also, in a sense, hiding. She has a terrible relationship with her daughter and son-in-law and a shaky one with her granddaughter. Early in the film it is revealed that she lost custody of her daughter because of her survivalist lifestyle and paranoia. Given this characterization, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Michael had actually killed Laurie in 1978, at least the Laurie that we knew and loved. Again, I’m not saying that it’s unrealistic or even that it’s a bad choice, it just never quite worked for me.

The single biggest misstep in the story is Dr. Sartain. He’s this movie’s Loomis, in fact Laurie calls him “the new Loomis” at one point. There is nothing wrong with the character. It’s explained that he was a student of Loomis and he became Michael’s doctor after Loomis died. It’s the perfect way to work a new doctor into the story. The only other option would have been to cast someone else as Loomis and that would have felt completely wrong (although I did enjoy Malcolm McDowell as the character in the Rob Zombie movies). The problem is that the entire climax of the story doesn’t happen if not for him. It all hinges on a choice that he makes. Fate is a huge part of the mythology of not only the first film but the franchise as a whole, it’s mentioned in this film as well. To have anything other than fate bring Michael and Laurie together in the end feels completely hollow.

Since the Rob Zombie films have come up, let’s talk about this version of Michael. He seems to have a lot more in common with the version found in Zombie’s movies than The Shape from the original. He’s not quite the behemoth that Tyler Mane was but he’s noticeable bigger. In 1978 Michael Myers was 21, which means he would be 61 years old today. Somehow in that time he managed to grow about 6 inches and become much stronger. Neither of these make much sense to me. Most people shrink a little as they get older. Maybe he could be stronger at 61 than he was at 21 but it doesn’t seem likely. I understand that the idea was to make Michael brutal but it really stood out to me. Outside of that, James Jude Courtney is probably the best Michael Myers since Nick Castle (who also played Michael in this film). The movements were perfect, the head tilt was great and he nailed the way that Michael sits up after being knocked down. He was a great choice to play the role. The size thing wouldn’t have been an issue for me if they hadn’t given the character so much more strength.

Those are the complaints about the movie. What did they get right? Everything else. The pacing is perfect. The runtime is 106 minutes but it moves quickly and feels much shorter than that. In fact, it felt too short. I was surprised when I looked at my watch when it ended.

There has been a lot of talk about David Gordon Green and Danny McBride being involved with the project. It’s clear that they love the series. There are nods to the other films throughout. None of them feel forced, just little Easter eggs worked into the story that fans will appreciate. If you don’t know the other films, you’ll never even know they were being referenced.

David Gordon Green does a great job directing this film. There are some incredible shots. He uses light and the white of Michael’s mask in the dark to great effect. I wasn’t worried about that, Green is a good filmmaker and I was confident that he would be able to pull this off. It’s the best made Halloween film since the original. I would even go so far as to say that this is probably the first Halloween movie that actually feels like it takes place on Halloween.

It’s impossible to overstate how great this cast is. Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing. I may not have liked the direction they took her character but she played it perfectly. Judy Greer is always great. She is a bit underused in this role though. I would have liked to have seen more of her, although most movies would benefit from having more Judy Greer in them. I’m not familiar with Andi Matichak, I believe this is the first thing that I have seen her in, but she shined in her role as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson. As a matter of fact, all of the actors playing teenagers in this film were great. Drew Scheid in particular. He brought a nice bit of comic relief and really played the lovesick loser well. For comic relief though, the real winner here is Jibrail Nantambu. This kid steals the movie in my opinion. He’s only in a few scenes but he makes an impression. My guess is that this movie is going to clean up at the box office and we are going to have a sequel in a couple of years, secretly I hope it follows the adventures of young Julian cause that kid is dynamite.

The return of Jamie Lee Curtis wasn’t the only thing that people were excited about. John Carpenter also returned to create the score, along with his son Cody and Daniel Davies. The three of them have been making incredible music together for the last few years and this score is phenomenal. In my opinion this is the best score that Carpenter has ever done. It won’t because it’s a horror movie, but I think that it deserves Oscar recognition. As much as I would love to see another John Carpenter film, I really believe that he is at the top of his game musically right now and I want to hear as much of it as possible.

Halloween, and slasher movies in general, have often been at the center of the discussion on  how the genre treats it’s female characters. I’m not sure that it was entirely intentional but there is a real #MeToo vibe throughout this film. Laurie has spent the last 40 years being haunted by the night that she was victimized by a man. She has also spent the last 40 years waiting to confront that man. This is most clear in the final 20 minutes of the film when Laurie stops trying to hide from Michael and begins hunting him. She literally comes out of the darkness to confront her abuser face to face and in doing so she is able to regain some of the things that he took from her.

I just spent the evening watching Michael Myers and Laurie Strode on the big screen and Busta Rhymes was nowhere to be seen. That’s incredible. This isn’t a perfect movie but it’s a really good movie that has put new life into a classic franchise. There is no downside to that. Michael Myers is back and he’s scary again.

 


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