Halloween

Forty years ago, Michael Myers returned to the small town of Haddonfield 15 years after murdering his older sister Judith Myers, where he mercilessly killed five people on Halloween night. Only with a last-minute intervention from Dr. Loomis was The Shape stopped from claiming a potential last victim, in the form of Laurie Strode. After being shot six times, Myers fell out of window, presumed dead. But when Loomis checked said body, The Shape had disappeared into the night. Later that evening his murderous spree would continue, as he hunted Laurie Strode who was now revealed to be his sister. The Shape would fail yet again and would burn in the hospital alongside his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis. But the Shape would not stop there. He would return yet again to hunt his niece, Jaime Myers, and then Tommy Doyle. Eventually he would once again come face to face with Laurie Strode 20 years later, where he failed yet again and later then he would would eventually kill his rival sibling in the much-derided Halloween: Resurrection. The Shape would later be rebooted in Rob Zombie’s controversial Halloween and its sequel. But that was nine years ago. But what if the events of John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic never strayed from the original ending? What if The Shape was caught later that night, and Laurie Strode was forced to live out of the rest of her life in fear and paranoia that the Shape would once again escape Smith’s Grove Sanitorium and resume his reign of terror that he did 40 years ago? That is the question David Gordon Green seeks to answer to some mixed yet largely positive results.

Jaime Lee Curtis returns to her original iconic role as Laurie Strode, a woman who has lived 40 years from that fateful day preparing for The Shape’s inevitable return. In the interim, Strode herself has become a recluse living on the outskirts of town, and have a daughter named Karen whom she lost to Child Protective Services because of her paranoia, that grew up to look an awful like Judy Greer. Karen too eventually had a child named Allyson played by newcomer Andi Matachak, whom she has keeps on a short leash in regards to her grandmother. Meanwhile the town of Haddonfield has moved on from the events of 1978, now dubbed the Babysitter Murders (A nice nod to the original title treatment before the original 1978 film got its now iconic title). Most have forgotten that night, with nothing more than rumors and legends taking root in its place (Such as Michael and Laurie being siblings). Michael himself is still locked away at Smith’s Grove, when he’s visited by two podcasters attempting to figure out who Michael is and what drove him to commit those murders all those years ago. But even when confronted with his original mask, Michael is still as silent as he ever was since 1963.  And yet he escapes as he did 40 years ago on October 31st, to begin another slaughter spree as The Shape returns to Haddonfield.

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Right away it should be said Jaime Lee Curtis brings in a powerhouse performance unlike anything else she has dome with the franchise. This Laurie Strode is paralyzed by fear that the afformented Boogeyman will escape his prison to terrorize her again, and while she is eventually right about this event, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Laurie seemingly forgot to live her life at some point along the way. Alienating both her daughter and granddaughter, Laurie lives a lonely life. One that consist of daily shooting exercises, the checking of her security system, and plenty of alcohol. This isn’t the same scared teenager from 1978, but instead a woman fully prepared for the nightmare to come to her door, but only this time she has a shotgun waiting at point-blank range. Curtis gives Laurie a sense of brokenness, one that wants to end her problem once and for all, but also seemingly doesn’t really know how to move on from it even if she could. I enjoyed this subtext quite a bit (And the fact that this kind of metaphor hits smack dab in the middle of the #METOO era gives it a sense of timely recognition) but part of me was torn as to why this wasn’t explored more. On one hand there is the very real idea that exploring this subplot would have detracted from the overall film, especially once we get to the actual murders, on the other hand there isn’t a lot of reaction from the town and Laurie’s (non)interaction with it. Only our three generations of Strodes bear the brunt of exemplifying how traumatized Laurie is and yet it doesn’t feel enough considering how much Laurie has lost since the events of that fateful night 40 years ago. Certainly, a further exploration of this plot point might have been more prudent than the needless teenager subplot that has no real payoff or exploration.

None of this is to say that the rest of the cast is bad. If anything, like with Laurie’s underlying trauma, I would have enjoyed seeing more of the Strode family and their fallout. Greer plays Karen as someone is well past being sick of the bullshit, and while she gets a really badass moment to herself much later in the film, she feels largely there just to complain without us going that deep into why she is the way she is. Seeing her, and her daughter interact more with the town of Haddonfield and their reactions to Laurie’s increasing paranoia would have been a great look at the evolving nature of Haddonfield 40 years later. Will Patton brings an urgentness to his Deputy Hawkins as the original cop who captured Myers all those years ago, and is the only one besides Strode to see the inherent danger that Michael is once he’s set loose. But the biggest standout next to Curtis, is actually Jibrail Nantambu, a newcomer who plays Julian, one of the kids Allyson’s friend is babysitting. This kid steals the show, and is granted the absolute best lines in the whole movie. For the short five minutes he’s on screen this kid had my theater I stiches, and I absolutely would love the next Halloween film just to follow him for shits and giggles. Honest to God he’s the best kid I’ve seen in a horror movie ever (Also props to the only black character in this movie to understand that when shit goes down, you leave)

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And what about The Shape himself? Well after 40 years nothing has dulled his edge, even if he was stabbed both in the chest and eye and shot six times. If anything, Myers is more terrifying than ever as time has made him more unhinged than ever. Played by both the original stuntman, Nick Castle and newcomer James Jude Courtney, this Michael Myers is as dangerous as ever as he chokes, bashes, stabs, decapitates heads-and-turns-into-human Jack ‘O’ Lanterns, and in one stand out kill, literally curb stomps someone’s head into absolute mush like a pumpkin. If you’re a sucker for Slasher kills, this one will not disappoint in the slightest as it features the best kills of the series. But even when he’s not murdering his way through town, Myers is back to his stalking ways again. For the first time since the original this Michael Myers feels scary. He is The Shape incarnate and there is no stopping him. He kills without abandon or mercy or reason. In one of many standout sequences when The Shape returns to Haddonfield, Myers goes on a killing spree in a glorious single take sequence that is thrilling as it is horrifying. Another involves a series of motion detected lights as he hunts a drunkard, inching ever closer as the lights flicker on and off. David Gordon Green has successfully crafted a suspenseful slasher, one that could never hope to evoke the sense of dread that the original fulfills, but this succeeds in its own way as this crazy version of Myers has no qualms with literally destroying his victims’ piece by piece.

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In a delightful return of mystery, The Shape is mysterious again. One can assume they think they know why he escapes, but there is no explanation to it. Or to his random victims. There is no reason to why Myers does what he does, and it’s a welcome return to form. Hell, I’d wager that should a out of left field third act turn had not occurred, this Michael Myers may not ever have found Laurie Strode. He is no one to her (In another continuing thorough line of the #METOO metaphor) and he would have kept slaughtering his way throughout Haddonfield whether they encountered one another or not. And that’s what makes the Shape both great, and terrifying.

Returning to compose the score (And executive produce) is the Master of Horror himself; John Carpenter. And let it be said that I had the absolute pleasure to attend him in concert very recently and by all Hell it was glorious. The man is an absolute legend, and while most of our readers should know the love we have for the man (Have you seen the header image for our site?), seeing him live is electrifying and badass. And he brings it here. Here Carpenter essentially mixes his Lost Themes album with his Halloween score to create an absolutely badass soundtrack that has you tapping your feet. Now admittedly I listened to the score before I saw the new film (Both because I couldn’t resist and also because we got the film two weeks after its American release) and was slightly spoiled by certain events, but that never took away from my enjoyment of the film or the score. Adding a guitar to the main Halloween theme in Halloween Triumphant is a bold choice, that while unexpected, isn’t unwelcome. And while I kind of wish this particular motif was used for the actual theme instead of playing over the credits, I can’t deny how much I enjoyed this washing over me as the credits rolled. To be fair Carpenter is unusually light on bringing back certain motifs from the original score (The biggest offender is of course the main theme that gets several welcome remixes) other than The Shape Stalks, where here, he remixes it once again with a guitar and like the rest of the score you absolutely want to get down to. Other new themes like Prison Montage and The Shape Hunts Allyson add a bit of mystery and electric energy to a film already firing on all cylinders. I don’t know how many scores or even Halloween movies Carpenter has left in him, but if this potentially one of his last albums then it is a hell of a send off for both him, Laurie Strode, and The Shape.

To be blunt Halloween 2018 is the best Halloween sequel we’ve gotten in quite some time. It’ll take a couple of viewings to see how it stacks up against Season of the Witch (The second-best Halloween film, fight me), but I feel safe in saying it’s the second-best Halloween film featuring Michael Myers- bar none. And that’s not to say it doesn’t have problems. While the teenagers in the film feel real, and even likable to an extent, they still barely come above surface level caricatures, and their subplot if it can even be called that feel’s largely useless. The same can be said for Dr. Sartain (Played here by Haluk Beliginer), who essentially plays an inverse of Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis. While neat on paper his character is largely absent from the film, only really coming into play towards the end of Act 2, so that Act 3 can happen. I can understand that this particular moment will turn plenty of people away from the film as it comes out of nowhere, and while I had my issue with it, the finale more than made up for it in the best way possible. I don’t think its spoiler to say that there is in fact a showdown between Michael and Laurie, and how that plays out is in a lot of ways the opposite of how the original films finale plays. It’s riveting, its exciting, and without a doubt there are some cheer worthy moments that’ll have some audience members yelling in excitement. Everyone who makes it towards the end get their appropriate licks in, and the film is all the better for it.

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I’m not sure where the series can go from here. The horror fan in me says a sequel is without a doubt inevitable and that Michael Myers will return. I mean the last three weeks at the Box Office should be more than enough to prove that there will be a sequel, and that’s without mentioning the fact that Danny McBride and David Gordon Green had planned on making a sequel before this even released. And yet this is such a fitting end for both Laurie and Michael. There’s enough winks and nods to the other entries (Obligatory Season of the Witch callout, and more than enough healthy helpings of 81’s Halloween 2) and reversals from the original film, that were this the final Halloween film, it would be a more than satisfactory end. It’s a Hell of a time, and blast to watch…and yet the ending leaves me curious. It evokes both the original and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. I want to know, and yet my love of the original tells me that its better not to. In a perfect world, Michael Myers would have disappeared after that fateful night in 1978 never to be seen again. And then in subsequent years we would have gotten more Halloween films in the vein of what Carpenter originally intended: Anthology films a-la Season of the Witch. But everything tells me that we will see The Shape return again sooner rather than later (And if we’re really lucky maybe Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees won’t be too far behind). I can only hope the quality continues, and that we can only go from here. But for now, The Shape has come home, and I’m so goddamn glad he’s back.

 

 

P.S. Bring back Julian you cowards.

 

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