“Halloween” (dir. David Gordon Green) stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak, picking up 40 years after masked killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) killed several people in the town of Haddonfield, Ill. The last person standing on that night, Laurie Strode (Curtis), is an old, weathered woman who has spent all of this time training herself for the day she sees Michael again. Now, on Halloween night, Laurie must protect her daughter and granddaughter while getting her revenge on Michael Myers. The first “Halloween” film, also released 40 years ago, launched the craze surrounding the slasher film. The concept of teens being chased and murdered by an unkillable freak of nature spawned several sequels and rip-offs, often never living up to the excitement of the first “Halloween.” It is one of my favorite horror films, so my anticipation for the 2018 “Halloween” was through the roof. With all of the mediocre to awful sequels being erased from continuity, this film seemed to have its own specific take on how the characters from the original have grown or fallen during the past 40 years. While the film suffers from lack of a consistent tone and a terrible focus on some characters, “Halloween” is certainly capable of showing you a bloody good time.
The most remarkable thing about this film is Curtis returning as Laurie Strode. Laurie has been traumatized by the events of the first “Halloween” to the point where she has transformed her house into a fortress. She has several locks, hidden rooms and a rack of weapons. I think this direction of Laurie’s character is brilliant because she is no longer a damsel in distress. She is as much of a hunter as Michael. She knows every detail about his whereabouts and prays that he will escape his asylum for the soul purpose of killing him. Curtis is as good as she has ever been here, delivering dialogue with the history of her character’s pain and horror painted on her face. Director David Gordon Green transformed Laurie into a badass killing machine, and Curtis falls into this role perfectly.
There is also an interesting idea surrounding family lineage throughout the film, with fleshed out relationships between Laurie and her daughter, Karen (Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Matichak). The three are rarely on the same page, Laurie being seen as out of her mind, Karen trying to keep her family safe and Allyson wanting to see her grandmother. Their plotlines all intersect at one point, leading to crowd-pleasing moments sprinkled throughout the final act.
This leads me to what everyone is going to see this movie for: the kills and scares. The kills in “Halloween” are graphic and brutal. Everything you have seen before from these movies is enhanced with greater realism. The sound design and effects have definitely been given more thought to than the other franchise sequels. Michael is an unstoppable force, as per usual, but one thing I really enjoyed about this film is that Michael is a true villain. Most of the other sequels use Michael to take out the awful people in the film so, in a way, the audience is rooting for Michael to kill all of the characters. The Michael in this film is someone you don’t want anywhere near the main characters. Certain characters are definitely only introduced to be killed, but the core three mentioned earlier are the ones viewers fear for the most. As for actual scares, this film doesn’t really have them. Everything is either a predictable jump scare or a brutal kill. It certainly isn’t anything audiences have never seen before.
Leading into my negatives with “Halloween.” The tone of this film is all over the place. Screenwriters Green and Danny McBride have a strong comedic presence in Hollywood. Green directed the very funny “Pineapple Express” with co-writer McBride starring. Their choice to rely on comedy so much in “Halloween,” especially in tense situations, is very distracting and releases a lot of the tension from an otherwise gripping scene. Specifically, two kills towards the end of the second act feature characters that don’t act in ways that feel real in the moment. They act as if evil isn’t staring them in the face and crack jokes, which doesn’t feel accurate and took me out of the moment. This also happens in tense and action-packed scenes where Green decides to cut to something funny that is completely unrelated. It is very jarring and had me throwing my hands in the air in confusion while watching the film.
This film also suffers from severe focus issues. The heart of this movie lies within the conflict between Laurie and Michael and how this conflict is affecting Laurie’s life. However, Green makes choices to focus on characters who serve little to nothing to the plot. For example, Allyson’s boyfriend, Cameron, (Dylan Arnold) is introduced early in the film and has about two extended scenes that don’t work and are instantly forgettable. The cop, Hawkins (Will Patton), and doctor, Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), are also in the film for an extended period of time, but aren’t given much content to work with. If the film played up the conflict between Laurie, Michael, Karen and Allyson earlier in the film, the first and second acts wouldn’t drag as much as they did. Instead, Green tries to use way too many characters in this film, often dancing around the most interesting content.
The conclusion to “Halloween” is one of the most riveting and satisfying sequences I have seen all year. It pays off all of the major plotlines setup through the excellent performance by Curtis and her character’s relationships. The kills are brutal and gory, and several moments in the ending had my audience cheering. I went into this film really wanting to love it, but I came out liking it just enough to recommend it. It is a shame that the film is almost on the level of generic until it reaches the third act. However, it is a “Halloween” film, after all, so you shouldn’t go in expecting a well fleshed-out narrative. I think most already have their mind’s made up about going to see the film or not. If 80s-esque slashers are your cup of tea, absolutely go see it.