Halloween (2018) - Review

As a sequel to the 70s slasher classic, Halloween is a wonderful achievement, though it relies too much on the source material to be truly great.

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Remaking a horror classic is a fine line to walk. On one hand, there is temptation to play it safe, to give audiences more of what they love. The other hand involves experimentation, risk, and new storylines. The second option has not fared well in the spotlight the last decades, but the first has done just as much wrong. The 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a prime example, a film that didn’t do enough to justify its existence. The Halloween series is infamous for Elm Street-like sequels that take the villain and heroes into ludicrous territory, with the only goal being to make a quick buck. Halloween has already been back, several times, with a pseudo reboot in 1998 with H20 and a traditional remake by Rob Zombie in 2007. Most film series’ do not last this long, but film studios see something in this one that keeps them from throwing in the towel. For better or worse, there will be Halloween movies, and this reboot/sequel gives compelling reasons as to why there should be.

Much of what I enjoyed about Halloween was what it left unchanged from the original. A quick, tantalizing pace, memorable yet undersold lead performances, and a thrilling sense of aesthetics. In a sense, it got me back, and not only reminded me why the original is so great, but gave me new reasons to love it. This film is a technical sequel, cancelling all previous Halloween films, sequels, and reboots. It casts Laurie Strode and Michael Myers as forty years older, Strode’s children and grandchild now forced into her mess of a life. For the first hour, after Michael inevitably escapes, the film lets him loose. These are the great moments of the film, when the director places a simple, classic scenario (Michael out on Halloween) in front of a horror icon. Michael’s plight translates perfectly to the true crime, media-profile zeitgeist of the last five years: a naive duo of podcasters are some of the first to meet their end, in a wonderfully horrific and fist-clenching bathroom scene. It’s bloody, and pokes fun at the dangers of growing so close to dangerous people. The podcasters also serve as a clever way for Michael to reunite with his beloved mask, and their deaths at the hand of their own stupidity is a theme Halloween revels in, calling back to sex = death horror films like Friday the 13th and the original Halloween.

By the time Michael arrives at Laurie Strode’s (Curtis) house/bunker, tension is at a high. Halloween does an incredible job stoking the fire of suspense, holding the audience at arms length for as long as possible. Jump scares, smash cuts, and totally irredeemable teenage characters abound for the first hour of the film, imbuing it with an old school mood that had me looking around every corner for a silhouette. One uncut scene in particular has Michael randomly selecting several houses to enter, as kids run around the street and police are nowhere to be found. It is nostalgic to be sure, but for good reason; original Michael Myers actor Nick Castle returns for this one, and while the role could be played by anyone, knowing it’s the same man makes a real difference. Between his movements, stabs, vacant looks and questionable motives, Michael is the star of this film, right where he should be.

If Halloween has a downside, it is a decidedly subjective one. It is a fact that this film borrows more from the style of the original Halloween than any other film in the series, going so far as to rehash some of the original plot, despite its being a direct sequel. When Michael is out killing babysitters, one can’t help but be reminded of the original plot; but, it is still entertaining. Even with a conventional ending and tease that Michael may return, Halloween is still a good film. The script has a few hiccups with Jamie Lee Curtis’s cornier lines, but the technical aspects are all top notch. A staggering level of quality is on display in this film, yet I was left with the idea that a fan could see this and wish they had watched the original instead. Halloween (2018) has none of the goofiness or flat out bad tendencies of the sequels and Rob Zombie reboots, partially because it goes back to basics. It succeeds because it is simple, and limits itself to a near remake at the same time. Recent films like Hereditary and mother! do better with original material and will surely last longer,  but if all you want is a glorious return to 70s slasher filmmaking, Halloween is exactly that.