Halloween (2018) is a Visceral Reimagining of Carpenter’s Classic — Spoiler Review

James Jude Courtney in Halloween (Copyright: Universal)

John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978) was one of the first movies I watched growing up that truly scared me. While there were many imitators and sequels that followed Carpenter’s masterclass of horror, none quite captured that lightning in a bottle magic of the seminal slasher flick. David Gordon Green’s offering, a “re-quel,” if you will, brings the Myers mythos back to the basics. The result is a fun film that’s slightly uneven in its execution.

The Plot

Set forty years after the first film and eschewing all sequels, this is a direct sequel to the 1978 original. The night before Halloween, Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney & Nick Castle) is being transferred from one facility to another (because…well…horror film?). Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a hermit and a survivalist, who sacrificed her relationship with her daughter and granddaughter to ensure that she could protect them from Michael when he inevitably returns. Everyone writes her off as crazy, until the bus transporting Michael crashes, releasing him into Haddonfield just in time for a spirited holiday killing spree.

The Good

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (Copyright: Universal)

There’s a lot to like about this film. Seeing Michael Myers terrorize on the big screen again is a real treat. He’s back in full form, and he’s got a lot of pent-up aggression from the forty years spent in the slammer. The kills in this film are brutal, bringing to mind Rob Zombie’s unfortunate re-imagining from 2007. The difference here, is David Gordon Green uses the violence as punctuation, not as the main event. It’s visceral, but only when it needs to be.

Not only is Michael more violent, the costuming department is on point. The Myers mask, which has gone through multiple incarnations ranging from “meh” to “eeeeew,” is glorious here. The Academy rarely gives any kudos to films of this nature, but given that makeup artist Chris Nelson, the man who designed the new mask, has won an Oscar before, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. It truly helps make Myers scary again.

Jamie Lee Curtis also shines as Laurie Strode, returning to the role that kickstarted her illustrious career. Once a powerhouse, always a powerhouse. Curtis is believable and raw as this new incarnation of Laurie, bringing a gravitas to a role that could have easily been a caricature. Her scenes all revolve around the same beats, but she never plays it the same way twice. She always brings something new to the table.

Almost all of the new cast of teens and kids are fantastic (more on the ones that aren’t later), bringing charisma to characters that don’t get much development. Andi Matichak, a generally unknown name before now, plays Allyson, the granddaughter of Laurie Strode, well, bringing to mind Curtis’s performance from the original. Miles Robbins shines in his role as Dave, who would normally be a token stoner, but whom Robbins endows with an immense likability. Virginia Gardner portrays babysitter Vicky with an assuredness many actresses yearn to have. Then, of course, you have nine-year-old Jibrail Nantambu as the scene stealing Julian, Vicky’s young charge. Everything the kid says is a laugh, and he almost runs away with the movie.

While the film doesn’t quite nail the atmosphere piece, there are a few scenes that can be nerve shredding. An early sequence involving two podcasters in a gas station restroom (featured heavily in the trailers), cranks up the tension before ending in a brutal fashion designed to make audience’s stomachs drop. The showdown between Michael and Laurie at the end of the film is the right way to do a third act. It gets especially fun when Laurie turns the tables on Michael, and has a nod to the original that was massively approved by both audiences witnessed by this writer.

The Bad

Haluk Bilginer in Halloween (Copyright: Universal)

As previously stated, there are some less than desirable elements. The filmmakers make a few baffling choices that seem to only serve the purpose of driving the plot forward in inorganic ways. One such plot device is Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold). Cameron serves no real purpose in the film, and is given laughable dialogue. It seems like the screenwriters wanted to do something interesting with him, but never reached a consensus as to what. In one scene, he angrily throws Allyson’s phone into a punch bowl, leaving her with no communication with her family. Do they use that later? Not really.

Another plot point that is frustratingly short-sighted is the set up toward the showdown between Michael and Laurie. Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), whom Laurie literally calls “the new Loomis,” in a moment that seems to come from nowhere, kills the sheriff and escorts Michael (and Allyson) out to Laurie’s farm to see what makes his patient tick. Seriously. There are some things that seem sinister about this man from the start, but the brutal murder of the sheriff is not set up well at all. This is one of the most contrived plot devices of any movie in recent memory, solidified by the filmmakers’ decision to have Myers kill Sartain upon arrival at the Strode house. How does Sartain know where Laurie lives? The film doesn’t bother explaining, or following through on any of the ideas presented during these scenes.

Perhaps the most disappointing scene is the babysitter scene, which was one of the hallmarks of the marketing campaign. A great set-up with three of the best characters in the movie (Vicky, Dave, and Julian) quickly just…ends. Later, we see two of the three dead and gore-covered, and the third? He’s just gone, out of the movie entirely. This writer firmly believes that a home invasion spin-off with these three characters fending off an invasion from The Shape would have been a massively entertaining film. (For more of my thoughts on this, visit my essay on Miles Robbins’ performance.)

The Vibe, Man…

The overall vibe of this film is just fun. It’s not groundbreaking, but it does take some risks. It sticks to the basic mythology, but it adds some new layers to it. Would Michael have hunted Laurie if left to his own devices? Green decides to leave the answer to that question ambiguous, though it’s strongly suggested that Laurie gives Michael more thought than Michael gives her, a seeming nod to current events relating to the #MeToo movement. The film doesn’t disappoint during the final showdown teased in the promotional materials. It stumbles from time to time getting there, but it gets there all the same.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween is not a masterpiece, but it is the best sequel to the original masterpiece yet. Despite its flaws, the film is effective. The haphazard plot doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of watching cinema’s most infamous boogey man haunt the screen once more. It also leaves the door open for a sequel (which is already in the works). I, for one, am eager to see what else Green and company have up their sleeves.

Halloween is currently in theaters.

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Sam Lenz

Sam Lenz

A film critic with a taste for genre fare, living in Sioux Falls, SD. If you love movies, we’ll get along just fine.