At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Halloween “2018”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees, Toby Huss, Omar Dorsey, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu/ Runtime: 106 minutes

For years dear reader I feel that it is not unreasonable to compare the Halloween franchise to a home on unsteady ground. Indeed, despite being built on one of the most steady foundations possible, this is a home that has not been treated well in its 40 year-existence as various tenants have come and gone, but while living there, often without the consultation of the original builders, they have chosen to alter this home to the point of unrecognizability. Yet those who love this home unconditionally have always said that tearing it down is unnecessary. Instead we argue that all it’ll take is a worthy tenant to come in and take advantage of the structure’s solid, still-remaining bones and thus spruce the home up to its former glory.

Thankfully Halloween lovers our patience has at long last paid off. I say that because along with co-writer Danny McBride and producers John Carpenter and Jason Blum, a man named David Gordon Green has stepped up to the plate and just knocked it out of the park. Indeed what he has created with this film is truly wonderful in that not only do we get a wonderful tribute to the story that started it all, but we are also getting a post-modern reflection of the events of that night back in 1978 that manages to perfectly subverts all the best things that horror fans have come to know and love about the legacy of the infamous killer that is Michael Myers.

The plot is as follows: Set 40 years after the 1978 original in the suburb of Haddonfield, Illinois, the new Halloween, thank God, erases all previous sequels from the continuity in order to tell a story about the infinite impact of trauma and the scars it leaves behind. Nowhere is this more evident than with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who, since the terrifying events of that one night, has devoted her life to preparing for Michael’s eventual return…despite sacrificing the chance to have her family in her life in the process. Of course, Laurie is entirely right in her way of thinking, and it isn’t long before a chain of events results in Michael, with nothing but murder on his mind, as par the course, making his way to his hometown, reclaiming his classic mask in the process, yet again. This time however, Michael isn’t the only one ready to throw down on Halloween and thus the stage is set for a throw-down between the iconic killer and the one victim who not only got away, but who is now ready to stop him no matter what the cost….

Now although it’s not technically a reboot or a remake, in fact it’s a direct sequel to the first movie, the new Halloween does still have to try and avoid the dangerous hurdles of both for a multitude of reasons. Yet part of what makes the experience of watching this film so wonderful however is how it takes what we know are potential weaknesses and makes them strengths instead. The key one of these being that, at the film’s core, this has the same high-concept setup as the original Halloween, yet not once does it feel stale, more like going back to basics (after all, it was the original’s simplicity that really helped make it so terrifying). Also while there are specific references and homages throughout the film, so definitely keep your eyes peeled, they’re never played straight-up. Instead the film is always energized by these little twists and they ultimately just serve to add new context and consideration to the film.

Yet I feel one of the most important things that this film does that most if not all of its predecessors did NOT do is that this film manages to bring back the heavy and horrifying atmosphere that John Carpenter manifested four decades ago right down to the new incredible and just plain fear-inducing soundtrack that Carpenter himself actually recorded. Now David Gordon Green may not be an experienced horror director, but his skills as an artist in regards to genre and sequence construction is what enables him to create real magic here. Indeed his Halloween, to be fair, is not as terrifying as the master’s, seems impossible at this point, BUT it is still both tremendously scary and a real crowd-pleaser in that Green knows with all the confidence in the world that he can ratchet the tension and scare factor to 10 if he wanted to; that being said though, he also knows what us horror fans really want and plays to those sensibilities really really well.

Now David Gordon Green may be this film’s brain, but Jamie Lee Curtis has always been the beating heart of the Halloween franchise, and it’s her truly impassioned performance that manages to make this film into something truly special. To be fair I know this isn’t her first big return to the role of Laurie Strode, having been in both Halloween: H20 and Halloween: Resurrection. However what this serves as is a shot at redemption given the dismal quality of one of those titles and the mehhh quality of the other. Suffice it to say though that when she is given much better material to work with, such as in this, she is absolutely phenomenal. Indeed Laurie is a truly sympathetic character, in no small part due to while Michael didn’t successfully murder her 40 years ago, there’s no questioning that he killed something inside of her. Yet we see that this isn’t a protagonist who is going to lean on that pain. Instead she chooses to let it strengthen her and give her the power and conviction to fight back. Indeed it’s truly wonderful work from a wonderful actress and to say that it was extremely entertaining to watch her stay a few steps ahead of her would-be killer and turn the tables on him would be both a huge disservice to her performance while also not giving nearly enough credit that it rightfully deserves.

All in all the Halloween franchise on the whole isn’t without a few bright spots, but as a fan I cannot deny there have been more disappointments than successes. Thankfully this new movie is proof that there can still be life in the old bird yet as this is one smart, scary, well-timed, and immensely entertaining ride on the darkest night of the year. Indeed I think Dr. Loomis said it best in the very first Halloween all those years ago: “He came home.” Welcome back Michael we’ve missed you. On a scale of 1-5 I give Halloween “2018” a solid 4 out of 5.