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Halloween (2018) Movie Review

Halloween (2018) movie poster Halloween (2018)

Theatrical Release: October 19, 2018 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David Gordon Green/ Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley (screenplay); John Carpenter, Debra Hill (characters)

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Judy Greer (Karen), Andi Matichak (Allyson), James Jude Courtney (The Shape), Nick Castle (The Shape), Haluk Bilginer (Dr. Sartain), Will Patton (Officer Frank Hawkins), Rhian Rees (Dana Haines), Toby Huss (Ray), Virginia Gardner (Vicky), Dylan Arnold (Cameron Elam), Miles Robbins (Dave), Drew Scheid (Oscar), Jibrail Natambu (Julian), Michael Harrity (Warden Kuneman), William Matthew Anderson (Guard Haskell), Diva Tyler (Caretaker), Brien Gregorie (Father), Vince Mattis (Son), Omar Dorsey (Sheriff Barker)

 

Dormant franchises are often revived in Hollywood. Star Trek. Star Wars. Planet of the Apes. Alien. Jurassic Park. So all those examples are science fiction. That genre's darker cousin, horror, tends to favor remakes. But it is no surprise that Universal Pictures, now in possession of distribution rights
to the franchise launched by what is regarded as one of the all-time great horror films, would hope for something bigger. After all, there's one night of the year on which this series is guaranteed to do big business. It's in the title.

The original Halloween was released in 1978. Having just turned 30, John Carpenter was doing his own thing and this independently produced low-budget thriller that he directed, co-wrote, and scored connected with audiences, helping to solidify the slasher as lucrative subgenre. Inevitably, it was followed by sequels, the first of which came in 1981 and brought back Carpenter, his producer/co-writer Debra Hill, and stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance. More sequels followed, with increasingly less of the original's personnel and fabric. Wes Craven's irony-heavy genre love letter Scream sort of renewed interest in the franchise in 1996, which seemed to lead to Curtis' return in 1998's Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The franchise flamed out with 2002's poorly-received Halloween: Resurrection, which paved the way for heavy metal musician Rob Zombie to take a stab at the material, which he did in a new Halloween released in 2007 and a new Halloween II in 2009.

Now, to mark the fortieth anniversary of the original, we get new film titled simply Halloween and this one seems to matter more than most. It is a sequel and one which seems fine with you knowing only the one that started it all. This new one's got some intriguing personnel too, starting with Curtis, reprising her signature role of Laurie Strode for the first time in nearly twenty years, and Carpenter, back as an executive producer and composer after 36 years away from the franchise. The writers include "Eastbound & Down" star Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, the latter of whom also directs. While horror buffs may bristle at the notion of McBride and Green, whose previous collaborations were the stoner comedies Pineapple Express and Your Highness, they and third writer Jeff Fradley (a fellow alumnus of HBO's "Vice Principals") approach the material like fans and try to do this universe justice instead of mining it for laughs.

Fitted with his old William Shatner mask and a gas station employee's coveralls, Michael Myers is back on his old bullshit in 2018's "Halloween."

The opening scene finds two British true crime podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) gaining access to see and talk to Haddonfield, Illinois' most infamous murderer, Michael Myers (Nick Castle, returning in the thankless role that is one of only four he's ever played on film and splitting physical duties with James Jude Courtney). He doesn't so much as look in their direction, let alone talk, even when one of them pulls out that ominous William Shatner mask that Myers wore when he killed five people on Halloween '78. Myers is about to be transferred to a new prison where he'll have an even less pleasant existence than he has now. Aware of the move is survivor Laurie Strode, whom the podcasters track down and, for the price of $3,000, briefly interview.

An exposition-heavy design reveals that Laurie has never gotten back on track to the normal existence she had in high school. She has a drinking problem, lost custody of her daughter, and remains consumed with the madman who ruined Halloween for her decades ago and nearly ended her life. Laurie's insecurities are on display in her interactions with her now adult daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and Karen's teenaged daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), a smart girl chosen to National Honor Society.

The bus transporting Myers to his new facility hits a snag and of course, that crazy silent killer is back on the loose again...and reunited with his old mask on Halloween 2018. No one in Haddonfield is safe, not even Laurie Strode, even though she's prayed for a chance to kill her longtime tormentor and even has built a secure bunker loaded with weapons hidden underneath her kitchen counter (the perfect place for nifty low-angle shots!).

As Myers returns to his old ways, three generations of Strode women try to stay alive, the youngest having been separated from her phone in a plot-friendly spat with her boyfriend at a costumed Halloween dance.

An aging Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) looks to protect Karen (Judy Greer), the grown-up daughter she lost custody of decades ago.

Anyone with fondness in their heart for the original Halloween has to be hoping that Green, McBride, and Fradley got this right. You needn't have seen any of the nine films in between the original and this one to know that this sequel would be easy to get wrong.
Most horror movies get bad reviews and stop drawing crowds by weekend number two. This one has more cache and promise than most horror movies, though. In fact, no other studio dared to open anything wide in the same weekend as this; the closest we get is The Hate U Give expanding from limited release in its third weekend.

Inspiring hope and hype from the moment it was announced and from the moment that first image of a white-haired Laurie Strode (bearing no resemblance to her final film appearance) was shared, this is expected to open like a Paranormal Activity sequel or a Conjuring universe entry. Like the Paranormal, Purge, and Insidious franchises, this counts Jason Blum as a producer. His Blumhouse Productions label appears to function as a kind of seal of approval for genre fans the way that A24 and Annapurna's names do for general cineastes.

After the iconic theme and opening title design give you chills, this new Halloween is not the landmark you'd like it to be. It's faithful to the original movie without being old-fashioned. It's relatively diverting while rarely being scary. The acting isn't great, but that's not what you're here for. There really are not a lot of places this can go with this title and these characters. We're inevitably headed to a Laurie Strode-Michael Myers showdown. That's alluring in theory, and Green does an admirable job of disguising the fact that the main attraction here pits a lumbering old psychopath against a stressed-out senior. You might assume the outcome is not in doubt as you consider who is more disposable to the franchise, but nothing narratively points to a sequel. It is the box office numbers that trickle out this weekend that will do that and establish this as a commercial dynamo.

Horror movies aren't made for reviews. The Nun got trashed and still is headed for $400 million worldwide. Hereditary got great reviews and a rare, disapproving D+ CinemaScore from moviegoers. Once in a while, you can enjoy both acclaim and strong attendance: Get Out, A Quiet Place, the original Conjuring, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project. More often, you're lucky to get one or the other and acclaim doesn't exactly pay the bills. For something this big and highly anticipated, Halloween is disappointingly middling, but the early reviews are have been favorable, the predominantly sight-unseen IMDb viewer rating currently stands at 8.0, and the apt timing and minimal competition will launch this to one the biggest horror movie openings of all time. Just don't get your hopes too high.

Related Reviews:
Halloween (1978)
2018 Horror: Mandy Hereditary A Quiet Place The First Purge
Directed by David Gordon Green: Stronger George Washington Our Brand Is Crisis
Jamie Lee Curtis: You Again | Will Patton: Remember the Titans Armageddon
Judy Greer: Jurassic World Jeff, Who Lives at Home Grandma
Blair Witch (2016) The Halloween Tree Halloweentown & Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge

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Reviewed October 18, 2018.



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