Halloween Review (Film, 2018)
It’s been 40 years since Michael Myers escaped from a mental hospital for a killing spree on Halloween night. Laurie Strode, the young woman who survived, has spent every day since then preparing for his return to Haddonfield. She sacrificed her money, her social life, and even her family to set up a defensive fortress deep in the woods stocked with every kind of artillery and security feature you can imagine. No one else believes that Myers could ever return, but no one else actually witnessed with Myers is capable of. It’s the night before Halloween and Myers is going to be transferred from one facility to another. Never give Michael Myers an out; he never misses an out.
Halloween, the unfortunately titled sequel and reboot of the Halloween series, is a direct sequel to Halloween (1978). The rest of the film series has been discarded for a fresh start, allegedly. In reality, other than abandoning the reveal that Laurie is Michael’s sister, the film could have kept most of the series in canon for the plot it developed. David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel before finally committing to the actual horror and tone of the Halloween series.
This isn’t an exaggeration. The plot hinges on Laurie Strode being estranged from her daughter; the existing series explained that by having Laurie fake her death as part of a plan to kill Michael Myers. Instead of sticking with what worked well enough, they crafted a bizarre backstory that Laurie Strode is actually an unfit mother for training her daughter in survival techniques. Mind you, she clearly feeds the kid, keeps her in a comfortable house, and keeps her clean, but there’s guns locked away properly in the basement and a shooting range out back so she’s a bad mom? Sure. I guess. Maybe?
Further, the town all knows about Michael and Laurie, something that would make more sense if the attacks on Halloween night weren’t an isolated incident forty years ago. Haddonfield is small town America. We’re really supposed to believe that everyone just thinks Laurie is a loon and exaggerating when there’s literally a new character they invented who also claims to be there the night of the murders? Who also lives in constant fear but isn’t treated like a pariah? And that no one else she grew up with is still living in Haddonfield in their parents’ houses with their own kids and grandkids? The film is filled with missed opportunities like this that would have taken far less effort than constantly having scenes that debunk everything from the other films.
There’s a generational conflict at the core of Halloween that only would have been strengthened if more people could defend Laurie. Laurie’s daughter Karen and most of the adults in the town totally disregard Laurie. They are fully aware that she witnessed a horrible crime, but they feel that she is playing the victim and choosing to live in the past rather than recover. Laurie knows that she is broken and nothing short of knowing Michael Myers can never attack again will heal her; she also knows that Michael can never be healed because there is nothing there to heal. Karen’s generation is the more personable side of modern psychiatry and therapy. Everyone can benefit from being honest with themselves and every problem can be solved with an open dialogue. Laurie is old school: some people can’t be helped, and if they’re dangerous, they should just be put down. It’s an ethical conflict centered around a mysterious figure who has not made a logical decision since he was a six year old kid who randomly decided to pick up a butcher knife and stab his sister to death.
Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson, falls somewhere in between. She loves her grandmother. She knows what Michael did means he is implicitly a danger to himself and others, but also knows that he is locked up and being treated by professionals. Allyson tries to get her mother and grandmother to have a relationship, but her mother has cut Laurie out of her life as a toxic person and tries to stop Allyson from seeing her at all. Laurie point blank tells Allyson that nothing will ever make her mother happy about their relationship, while Allyson still commits to trying to keep the family as a more united force against the evil of the world.
You know what other films established a shared universe of the world fighting against the Strode family? The rest of the Halloween series. You really want to tell me that everything had to be scrapped except for the original (which itself was retconned by the new Halloween with inaccurate details—don’t tell me it’s a direct sequel and then gaslight me with characters who were never there to do the things we clearly saw other people do in the original) when there’s literally a film in the series about how Haddonfield hides an evil cult that preys on the Strode family for its ceremonies? Talk about an unsolvable generational conflict.
Every conflict in the film comes from control and perspective on how the human mind works. A pair of professional podcasters try to manipulate their way into a series that examines that Haddonfield murders from the perspective of the villain and the survivor. Michael’s new doctor insists on accompanying Michael on the hospital transfer so he can actually observe his behavior outside of a cell. Allyson’s friends all try to weaponize her family’s conflict against her for their own gain. Karen is obsessed with what other people will think of her and her family because of Laurie. And Laurie lives her life in waiting for a chance at revenge. Everything that goes wrong in Halloween is caused by an unwillingness to compromise on one’s personal beliefs over how we should treat people who experience traumatic events—villain and victim alike.
Once Halloween stops trying to rewrite history, it turns into a solid slasher film. Michael is still The Boogeyman, a silent unstoppable force who will use anything he can, including his own hands, to murder any adult or teenager who gets in his way. The best change to the series is actually accounting for modern slasher expectations. There is a much higher body count here than you would expect from the Halloween series.
Director David Gordon Green flips the camera for most of the scares, focusing on the victim’s rather than Michael’s perspectives. Anonymous kills track Michael like in the original film, but anyone with a name and a story we learn has their view take precedent. It’s an interesting dynamic that keeps the film unpredictable.
Jamie Lee Curtis proves again why she is one of the most acclaimed scream queens of all time. Her Laurie Strode helped set the standard (with Marilyn Burns in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) for what a final girl does in a horror film. Curtis has the chance to make the biggest changes ever to this iconic character.
Her Laurie is now a recovering alcoholic, a total social pariah who systematically had everyone she ever cared for ripped out of her life by a society that does not offer adequate support to victims of severe trauma. She is stronger and weaker than she’s ever been, more prepared for the Boogeyman but less prepared to handle the simple tasks of day to day life. It’s a bravura performance that will hopefully be remembered as one of the greatest in all of horror. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance is all the reason any horror fan would need to go see this film in theaters.
Halloween, when it stops focusing so heavily on the past, actually transforms into a great slasher film. It’s quite remarkable that Michael’s standard attacks can still create such terror in a cinematic landscape better defined by low concept psychopaths destroying lives in elaborate Rube Goldberg-like devices that make no sense. Halloween is a throwback that still manages to feel modern and fresh for a new generation to discover the true evil of Michael Myers. I imagine someone who has never seen the original film and its sequels would have a far better time than I did watching this, and I still managed to enjoy myself despite the conflicting narrative.
Halloween is currently playing in theaters.
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