Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney
Words – Daniel McMonagle
40 years since Michael Myers stalked the autumnal suburbs of Haddonfield, the masked maniac returns with style in a horror movie that sets out to recontextualize the franchise whilst retconning all of its previous sequels.
In choosing to ignore every sequel to the original 1978 movie, Director David Gordon Green, with writing partners Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, serve up a movie that balances moments of pure horror, gory kills and wry humour, all done in a lean 105 minutes. There are a few moments of questionable logic and simplistic characterisation from the supporting cast, but Jamie Lee Curtis’s triumphant return as Laurie Strode, the character that jump-started her career, is everything you’d hope it would be. Her character trajectory takes a Sarah Connor (of Terminator 2) turn, as she is reconfigured as a PTSD survivor / the ultimate badass grandma who will go to any length to ensure the safety of her family. Living in isolation and estranged from her daughter and granddaughter, Laurie is plagued by the terror of Michael Myers’s inevitable return.
What makes this sequel interesting is Laurie’s role as a matriarch. Her fraught relationship with her daughter and granddaughter – a theme rarely explored in horror – is genuinely touching. In addition, the idea of Michael Myers ultimately becoming Laurie’s prey subtly subverts the original movie, as the hunter becomes the hunted.
The best thing about this film is John Carpenter’s masterful reworking of the iconic, original score. There’s been a welcome resurgence in synthesiser-led scores in recent years (examples include Dredd, Drive, The Guest and Stranger Things) and Carpenter himself has made a successful comeback as a musician alongside his son Cody Carpenter and Godson Daniel A. Davies. With Halloween (2018), Carpenter proves that he is still the ultimate composer of horror themes.
The only thing that is missing from this sequel is Dean Cundey’s majestic cinematography. Despite the great use of lighting, the camera work seems a little hectic at times and there are some moments of confusion caused by the camera looming too close to actor’s faces. This may be intentional, but it doesn’t help establish a sense of place like the original film did. Having said that, there’s a fantastic moment when Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield at night and embarks on a killing spree that is achieved in one intense, effective tracking shot. Another notable moment involves Myers lurking in the darkness as a motion sensor light flickers on an off.
Gore fans will definitely get satisfaction from the gruesome deaths. We see heads being pummelled into walls or with a hammer, bodies impaled, and, in one unnerving sequence, Myers casually drops a handful of extracted teeth over the door of a ladies bathroom stall, to the horror of the character within.
The filmmakers know how to utilise the figure of Myers and the audience are given plenty of iconic moments. They wisely steer clear of the clichéd killer backstory trope, which is one of many problems with Rob Zombie’s interpretation of the character. There is a recurring motif in the new movie involving two hapless journalists and a bizarre Dr Loomis type of character (Dr Twoomis?) who attempt to get Myers to speak, which draws attention to precisely what makes him so frightening in the first place: the silence, the lack of motivation, the absence of some traumatic past that might ‘explain’ his psychosis. He is still the same brutal and impenetrable killing machine he was in the original film.
Halloween (2018) reignites our affection for the original film and paves the way for more female-fronted narratives in the horror genre (Jamie Lee Curtis recently boasted on Twitter that it is currently the biggest horror movie opening with a female lead). The title sequence, which features a deflated pumpkin slowly re-forming itself, tells us everything we need to know about this movie and what it aims to do. Halloween (2018) is a gnarly crowd-pleaser – a perfect choice of film to see on the 31st October.
See our retrospective feature on the original 1978 Halloween film here: