Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Halloween (2018) review

    This is the third time the Halloween series has been rebooted and the second time with Jaime Lee Curtis coming back to take on the role of Laurie Strode. The first time when Halloween H20, which, honestly, I kind of like better. The ending to that film was ruined by the execrable Halloween: Resurrection but said more or less everything that needed to be said. That's going to be an unpopular opinion on this film, that it's good but not great but I really loved H20. Michael died there so we don't need to write "another" death scene for him. We're also skipping over Rob Zombie's remake of the franchise because he really wanted to understand Michael Myers' psychology and the answer is--you can't.
Good to see he found another pair of overalls.

    Still, I went to see it in the theaters as soon as I could make time. I wasn't about to miss the return of the slasher movie to cinemas since the genre fell out of favor. While some attempts to return it to the big screen (like Hatchet and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon) have been made--bluntly, the genre never recovered after Scream and the later Cabin in the Woods. I say this as a huge fan of the genre. So, how was it? Pretty good.

    Jaime Lee Curtis remains the Queen of Scream Queens, a title she rightfully inherited from her mother the Kingdom of Scareville's founder, Janet Leigh. At age 59, Jaime is still spy enough to be killing slashers in self-defense and does her best to doll down herself as a crazy old lady despite the fact she still looks gorgeous when not playing a crazy survivalist lady in this film. Indeed, as a picture shows later in this article, they really had to work hard on her old lady face makeup.

    There was no way I was not going to see this movie, especially since it also starred my favorite Archer and Arrested Development star Judy Greer. Judy has a somewhat thankless role as the daughter of Laurie Strode who has done her best to forget every survivalist lesson her mother taught her. She has to play the "normal" one in the family and only gets to make use of the decade of training her mother gave her in preparation to be a Final Woman at the very end. Which is a shame because I think Judy could have been a great horror icon herself if she'd gone that route instead of romantic comedy best friend.

Special Effects Failure: Old Lady Makeup only applies to face.
    Andi Matichak plays the role of the third generation of the Strode family, a young woman who is attending her Halloween dance with her boyfriend and gets the even more thankless task of being in the shadow of two well-beloved icons. I actually give her props for being extremely good in her limited role, however, but I do think the film could have done every bit as well with just its main stars.

    The premise is Michael Myers was captured by Doctor Loomis and a Deputy moments after the events of Halloween, wiping out all the other sequels from continuity. Apparently, being five times in the back was enough to slow down even the Shape. He's spent the subsequent forty years locked away in a mental institution and it's hard to get over the fact he's supposed to be the most terrifying man in the world when he's sixty-two and "only" has killed five people. It's even commented on in-movie that since the 1970s, spree killers more "successful" than Michael Myers are a common part of life.

I feel like Judy missed being a Scream Queen herself.
    Laurie Strode has been warped by her experiences in the original movie with the two of her two best friends and stalking by Michael Myers. She raised her daughter in what is implied to have been an abusive (or at least unhealthy) environment that resulted in her being taken away at age twelve. She's paranoid about Michael escaping at any time and has turned her house into a fun house of death for the (what she believes to be inevitable) rematch with the Shape.

    Unfortunately, the Babysitter Murders have become a topic of podcasters and pop psychology. A pair of would-be journalists have somehow managed to get their hands on Michael's mask and try to get him to respond before he's transferred to a maximum security federal prison. They try to get Laurie's story but only end up offending her. Laurie's granddaughter, Allyson, wants to reconnect her mother, Karen, with her granddaughter but this is thwarted by far too much history that neither daughter or granddaughter understand.

Allyson is pretty but not terribly interesting.
    The movie is entertaining throughout but, unfortunately, just isn't all that scary. We know Jaime Lee Curtis is going to make it out of this movie (or has lived a mostly full life). We also suspect the other members of the family will do the same. As such, the only victims we fear for are people served one after the other to the all-consuming gods of Slasherdom. The ending is especially disappointing as the Shape really deserved a more dramatic final scene. Not even the promise of more sequels can delight.

    Weirdly, the best part of the movie not involving Jaime Lee Curtis is the segment with Virginia Gardner as Vicky, Allyson's best friend and designated Victim 3# or 4#. She's a likable protagonist and ticks many of the boxes which would normally go to the Final Girl. I actually wanted to see her survive as her primary reaction to seeing a child endangered by Michael Myers is to try to get him to safety. It makes her automatically more sympathetic and interesting than Allyson, whose primary concern is her boyfriend and his best friend both want to kiss hot women at inappropriate times. I also saw a certain character's betrayal coming from a mile away despite the attempt to set them up as someone to be trusted.

"You're not my brother! No Halloween candy for you!"
     One element I do like about the movie is it's fairly clear Michael Myers picks out his victims randomly. He's not interested in hunting down hot teenage girls exclusively like so many of his imitators did. This isn't a sexual thing. He kills adult women, young men, adult men, children, and spares others indiscriminately. There's no rhyme or reason and he does it because he feels like it--that's all the reason he needs, really. I will give Nick Castle, a seventy-year-old-man, kudos for coming back as Michael, though. Yes, obviously he had a stunt double for some scenes but I think that's entirely understandable.

    In conclusion, Halloween (2018) is a good movie. It's a fun movie and it's a love letter to slasher films, particularly its own franchise. It's not an especially great version of the film, though, which was perhaps impossible since there have been many remakes of the franchise and reboots. They could have gone further with the meta-humor or they could have removed it entirely. Getting rid of the idea Laurie is Michael's sister makes Michael more random in his attacks but then you have to wonder how he ended up in her backyard. Was it just random chance? Very possibly if this movie is to be believed. In the end, the Shape will always be the archetypal psycho-killer and almost (but not quite) indestructible.


1 comment:

  1. Just saw this, and I gotta say I agree with all of your points.
    I had a theory right at the beginning that I think panned out, but was interested on your take since you didn't mention it. I think Allyson is being set up to be the next Shape. My evidence is subtle and kind of weak and entirely relied on the fact that the second Halloween movie makes Jamie Lee Curtis to be Michael's sister, but in an interview I just read, they decided they weren't related for this movie. So, originally, I thought the evil could be inherited. My other evidence was how Allyson didn't really react, other than surprised, at the death of that one kid that tried to kiss her. In that scene, she doesn't react until she sees Michael Myers. Then she's the first to grab the knife in the end scene and she doesn't let it go as they zoom in and focus on it in the very final scene. It's subtle as subtle can be, but implies she's picked up the mantle. When this theory first came to my mind, I expected her to pick up the mask but the knife is just as good.