A return to form for the Shape and Strodes.
Forty years ago, a filmmaker, his girlfriend (who happened to be a stellar producer), and his group of friends set out to make a name for themselves. None of them knew how it would happen, and in 1978 that group of friends released Halloween. They did more than makes names for themselves however- they revitalized an entire genre. In the Shape’s shadow would come series like Friday the Thirteenth and Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact, the slasher became the go to horror experience for most of the eighties. Michael would follow suit, spitting out a total of 10 films which includes sequels, stand alones, and remakes, but nothing was ever like it was in 1978 again.
Halloween is a return to form of sorts, with marketing pushing home the fact that we’ve scrapped everything since the original. The hospital, the curse of thorn, Paul Rudd as Tommy Wallace- all of it. The only thing that ever happened was the night he came home and Laurie Strode has never been the same since. It sounds like just another reboot, but this actually acts as the foundation for the best offering of Myers madness since 1978.
There is a lot of love dripping out of this film, in fact the entire thing is arguably a love letter to the first film. Director, David Gordon Green, tips his hat in more ways than one can count to the original and these moments are done with such care. They never come off as cheap call outs as they’re crafted into the plot or buried in passable conversation. It’s one of the high points for a script which strangely stumbles often, but always manages to find it’s feet somehow.
Horror films rarely have stellar writing, but Halloween too often lulls you into the belief that it’s a smart movie only to burn everything down with some of the most cringe worthy moments of exposition. “I’m scared.”. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long.”. Almost every emotional moment or feeling needs to be called out in the most literal way possible. It brings the illusion to a halt, and made characters like Judy Greer’s Karen Strode really difficult to swallow. Structurally the film takes some very weird turns as well. The film builds up very well, but there are whole characters and scenes written into this film that seem too pointless to ignore. Some of this should and could have been fixed in the editing, and does stop this movie from being as special as it could have been.
However, the film always finds its feet. The score handled by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies is absolutely stellar work bringing a lot of new life to old favourties, while giving room for the new entries and sounds to leave a definite impression. It’s truly haunting stuff, and adds necessary dimension to a film that calls for it. Laurie Strodes emotional journey is the backbone of the film, and Jaime Lee Curtis gives us an intelligent and mesmerizing performance as the traumatized victim. She takes over the moment she touches the screen, which couldn’t even be said for Michael Myers! Equally as engaging is newcomer Andi Matichak who plays Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson. When the script gives her the room she really shows us that she’s got the chops, but those moments are too few. In retrospect it’s almost criminal when you consider the time wasted with other characters. The person that really steals the show here is Jibrail Nantambu who plays Julian, our 2018 Tommy Wallace. Aside from the third act every scene that Jibrail was in was standout, and the audience literally came alive the moment he opened his mouth. Write more characters like Julian, please and thank you.
Lastly, a note on this film’s cinematography which truly kicks some ass and is handled by Michael Simmonds. Some shots have no reason being in a horror film they’re so beautiful. The play with shadows here and what feels like elevated practicals keeps you grounded in a reality that looks and feels like your own. It’s genius, and plays very well with the warm tones present in a lot of the night photography.
Make no mistake, Halloween is good. It’s truly its own film while managing to be a tribute to the film that popularized the name and the slasher genre. Walking a fine line between the terror of the original and the brutality of Zombie’s films, Halloween feels like a little bit of the best of everything. It’s a fan service from fans, and a new story for an entirely new generation to call their own.
Sorry Jack, but Mikey’s back.
Sidenote: Wanted to take a moment and hail the one and only Debra Hill who passed away back in 2005. She was an insanely talented producer and wrote the original film with John. She is literally half of the reason we all keep coming back to this character and I’ll be damned if her name doesn’t show up in this article. A standing ovation to a legend.