Halloween (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: David Gordon Green 
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 106 mins

It’s hard to believe that John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween is now 40 years old, a film that has inspired countless horror films since its release and has become a staple in the genre. Whilst the equally countless sequels that have followed since have varied wildly in quality, none have been able to match Carpenter’s original. After Rob Zombie’s remakes failed to capture audiences, the franchise has been dormant for a while. This was until the unlikely duo of comedian Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green had an idea and wrote a script, choosing to ignore all of the sequels to Halloween and make a direct sequel to it.

The film follows 40 years after the original where Michael Myers is still imprisoned but Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, who is suffering from PTSD, has been preparing for Myers’ return. She lives in a heavily guarded and weaponised home but this has cost her the relationship with her daughter, which consequently trickles down to a strained relationship with her grandaughter. Of course, Myers escapes and Laurie has to protect her family whilst embarking on a showdown with the infamous villain.

Ever since this film was announced, the entire production has seemed promising and the fact that this has the seal of approval from John Carpenter himself, heightens this excitement. Carpenter returns to score as well and his simplistic, yet very memorable score has been used throughout the series and has become an icon in itself.

Halloween (2018) is an excellent entry in the franchise and it is clear that the filmmakers have understood what made the original work. It is a thoroughly entertaining and mostly satisfying sequel that is very much in the vein of Carpenter’s original. The central idea of exploring the psychology of Laurie and how the events of the original affected her is a genius move and there are some excellent interactions between her and her family that are authentic to reality. Jamie Lee Curtis is in brilliant form in the role that made her a star and Andi Matichak as her grandaughter puts in a barnstorming performance and is surely a rising talent. Judy Greer, who is pretty much always the weak point of any film she’s in, is not bad here as Laurie’s daughter, which is an improvement from normal.

There’s some well-orchestrated scares here too. Green manages to create an eery atmosphere, that are tension-filled and he doesn’t rely too much on jump scares. The kills are suitably gory, although not as grisly as the 18 certificate would suggest. The best sequence in the film is when a girl is babysitting an self-aware yet hilarious young child and coupled with some excellent dialogue, it serves as a great synthesis of comedy and horror. It interrogates the codes and conventions of the horror genre whilst being able to deliver an inventive kill. Both Virigina Gardner and Jibrail Nantambu deliver in spades in this sequence and I hope they are recognised for their work here with future films.

John Carpenter, also collaborating with his son, Cody, and his godson, Daniel Davies, have crafted an excellent score for this film. The score revisits many of the same themes as the original whilst there is some new material too, which is equally as memorable. Again, referring back to the babysitting sequence in the film, Carpenter inventively uses synths with an electric guitar that is just genius. A variation of this theme gets used later in the film as well to the same effect.

The film is not without fault though. There are slightly too many characters which don’t get developed enough and are only introduced for Myers to kill later on. It takes about twenty minutes for the film to find its feet as the beginning is a little hokey and it doesn’t make a very compelling case to revisit the material until Laurie comes into the picture. There is also a rather odd, jarring twist just before the film’s third act which I didn’t quite buy but in retrospect, it is needed as a plot device to advance the film.

However, when Halloween works, it’s absolutely brilliant and despite a couple of false steps, delivers on the promise of a true sequel to the original. This is one of the best horror films of the year and again, makes a strong case that McBride and Green are multi-talented and don’t just belong in the comedy genre. John Carpenter’s original Halloween is still the best in the franchise but this new film is a very strong and competent thrill ride that boasts some fantastic sequences and demonstrates an actual understanding of what made the original so great.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

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