I’m gonna go ahead and preface this review by saying that I’m a huge fan of the “Halloween” franchise. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m blind to all the bad moments of the movies. I definitely recognize there are some seriously bad movies in the series, but I do tend to have a weird appreciation even for the worst ones. So that being said, let’s look at the latest entry in the “Halloween” franchise.
In “Halloween” the film picks up forty years after the ending of the original movie. This movie ignores every single movie released after the first “Halloween” even “Halloween 2.” So after the events of the original film Michael Myers is locked up in Smith’s Grove where he has remained for the last forty years. However, on the anniversary of his killings Michael is transferred to a new facility where he’s supposed to be locked up for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, a bus accident causes Michael to be unleashed on Haddonfield again.
“Halloween” is a balancing act between homages and fanservice and breaking new ground. The film is not afraid to give gigantic glaring nods to previous films that may go over the heads of new fans, but will be instantly recognizable to veterans of the series. One of the most obvious ones is Dr. Sartain (played by Haluk Bilginer) who is clearly a stand-in for Dr. Loomis. At the beginning of the movie there’s a moment where you hear Dr. Sartain speaking before you see him and I thought it was a recording of Dr. Loomis. From his speech to his mannerisms, it’s clear that he’s supposed to be a direct parallel to Dr. Loomis.
And I focus on this character so much because he’s an excellent representation of what this new “Halloween” movie is like. In just about every way Dr. Sartain is designed to remind you of the old thing. He’s supposed to draw out those feelings of nostalgia and give you that sense of fanservice. However, there are layers to Dr. Sartain that evolve him in different ways that the original films never did for Dr. Loomis. And this bit of misdirection is ever present in the movie. When you think it’s giving you fanservice, it’s actually presenting you with a new take on something that feels quite familiar.
Speaking of familiar things, we absolutely have to talk about Jamie Lee Curtis in this movie. Jamie has had the unique opportunity of revisiting the Laurie Strode character at different points in here life. We got the young Laurie in “Halloween”, the well put together Laurie in “H20”, and then the death of Laurie in “Halloween: Resurrection” which featured Laurie at her lowest point. In many ways, the Laurie in this “Halloween” has a lot in common with the Laurie of “Resurrection.” However, where that Laurie was treated as a stereotypical mental patient, the Laurie in “Halloween” 2018 is treated with much more nuisance and is a unique examination of what it truly means to be a final girl.
Jamie Lee Curtis turns in an incredible performance as a Laurie Strode who has become traumatized by the events of 1978. She lives with the pain and survivors guilt every day. She doesn’t try to hide the mental scars she has and in the film has a couple of heart wrenching breakdowns. As fans, it’s easy to see why Laurie would be worried about Michael returning, but the film also does a remarkable job of framing her paranoia in a way that you could understand why her family would dismiss her concerns as the actions of a troubled woman. This is easily the most thorough examination of the Laurie Strode character and her performance gives the perfect exclamation point to the history of the final girl from the ’70s and ’80s.
And while the homages and characterization are all wonderful touches to this movies, one of the biggest challenges they face is how they handle Michael Myers. One of the coolest aspects of the first “Halloween” is how the Shape just exists in the background or seemingly appears and disappears throughout the movie. Few of the sequels have managed to capture his mystique, but this one comes close.
What I found unique about this movie is that it doesn’t just redo the type of scares that John Carpenter presented in the original. Instead it presents them in a similar fashion, but then builds upon them. Whereas the original hid Michael and made him a mysterious figure, this one gives us a glimpse into his machinations. The movie does an amazing job of setting up shots where you can almost see Michael plotting out his movements or recognizing his moments of opportunity. There are both tracking shots of Michael and stationary shots where we get to see him carrying out his deeds. It is its own unique horrifying experience as you feel like you’re being dragged along with Michael as he commits his murderous acts.
Also worth mentioning is that this movie can be funny as hell sometimes. Danny McBride wrote the script along with David Gordon Green and both have had experience with comedy, so it’s no surprise that their comedic tendencies bleed into the final product. It doesn’t turn into slapstick and characters like Michael and Laurie don’t suddenly crackwise, but they do find appropriate ways to inject their sense of humor. For example, I guarantee the character of Julian will be a new fan favorite because of this.
“Halloween” does a lot to pay homage to the original “Halloween”, but it doesn’t ever feel like it’s just redoing things that have come before it. Whenever you do start to get that feeling the film manages to find a way to undermine your expectations. And in the instances where it does delve into fanservice, it’s done tastefully and a way that leaves you wanting to cheer. Without a doubt in my mind “Halloween” is the best sequel the franchise has ever gotten and you need to see it as soon as you can.