TIFF 2018: HALLOWEEN Review – The Shape is Back!
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andy Matichak
Written by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley
Directed by David Gordon Green
They did it. They actually did it. I’m sitting outside the Elgin Theater with the largest grin on my face. After years of waiting for a Halloween sequel that felt like it did justice to John Carpenter’s original masterpiece of slasher horror, David Gordon Green has brought us a vision of terror that gives fans what they’ve been craving.
Forty years after surviving the infamous Babysitter Killings, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is a broken woman, living in self-imposed isolation with enough armaments to start a small war. Her life is devoted to one thing and one thing only: preparing for the inevitable day that Michael Myers escapes custody. And on October 30th, her demented wish comes true, plunging Haddonfield into chaos and putting her daughter (Greer) and granddaughter (Matichak) at risk.
The film opens with the same font and presentation as the original, only this time the jack-o’-lantern begins as a rotten pile of mush that reverses back into cohesion, an early hint that what is about to unfold is a resurrection from a franchise that dwindled into mediocrity. The new theme from Carpenter, his son Cody, and frequent collaborator Daniel Davies, pulsates with the same 5/4 rhythm but updated for a new generation, as is the rest of the score.
We begin with Michael’s story, where we see a duo of investigative journalists (read: podcasters) go to the Smiths Grove Sanitarium where he’s been held ever since the original events. Dr. Loomis has died and Michael’s caretaker is Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who finds his subject fascinating to the point that Nietzsche quote “…if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” is quite prescient. The duo unsuccessfully tries to interview Michael before he is transferred to a new institution, one where he will spend his remaining days. Failing that, they then seek out Laurie too hear her side, although they are far more aggressive towards her than they are towards Michael. This theme runs throughout the first half of the movie, with her community and family ignoring her “always be prepared” mentally, a mistake they clearly realize and suffer from once the blood begins to flow.
Curtis, Greer, and Matichak all shine as the Strode clan. Curtis owns her dysfunctional character with strength and conviction, unafraid to show the emotional and psychological damage her choice of life has imparted. Greer, while not as present as Curtis or Matichak, still has a vital role to play and she does so wonderfully. Matichak, essentially playing a new Laurie, goes through her own character development that feels entirely authentic. The rest of the cast does perfectly well and both Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney breathe vicious and terrifying life into Michael. While he’s not in the movie for long, young Jibrail Nantambu steals the show as Julian, a young boy being babysat.
Packed with gore, although never overly done, Michael’s kills are vicious and cruel. It’s said in the film prior to his escape that Michael is responsible for five deaths. Before he puts on his mask, that number is eclipsed with gleeful abandon. The body count in this film will rival any Friday the 13th entry, so don’t worry whether or not the blood will flow.
Paced very similarly to the original, there are peaks and valleys that allow the shock of deaths to linger before we move on to the next helpless victim. It’s also a chance for the story and characters to develop, which it does quite smoothly. Questions that might arise almost all have good answers, so plot holes are kept to a minimum. And for as intense as it is, Halloween is surprisingly emotional and touching at moments while fiercely hilarious at others. Remember, this is a movie written and directed by those who have a strong relationship with comedy, so they know how to employ it wisely here in ways that don’t feel forced.
Now, I will say that the film isn’t really all that scary. There’s a segment in the third act – which is incredibly strong – where Laurie is on the prowl for Michael and it’s a nail-biting scene but that’s the only part where I felt actual fear and wanted to cover my eyes. Throughout the rest of the film, it’s all predictable but never in a way that feels disappointing. However, it should be noted that this is quite possibly the scariest Michael Myers has ever been.
Halloween pays loving and respectful homage to the 1978 original while making a very bold and decisive claim for its own existence. This is the real deal and it is every horror fan’s dream come true.