Review: ‘Halloween’ (2018) Explores Slasher Trauma

Halloween | David Gordon Green | October 19th, 2018

The newest Halloween film, which basically pretends that the other 10 films don’t exist, comes out 20 years after the LAST time they tried this. In 1998’s Halloween: H20, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to her role as Laurie Strode. She faced Michael Myers 20 years after the original 1978 Halloween. The attempt was made to bring back these characters, and the movie was OK at best. It was a strangely sleek and well-lit Halloween film that had lost its grittiness and grime. 

In the early 2000’s, Rob Zombie decided to put his own spin on the franchise, directing a full reboot and follow-up sequel. Zombie’s films were not sleek at all. If anything, they were too brutal, nonsensical, and nasty. There wasn’t a character to like, and worst of all, the character of Laurie didn’t feel similar to Curtis’ portrayal. Then last year, it was announced that stoner comedy/indie director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Vice Principals, Joe, Prince Avalanche) was going to helm the film, along with Danny McBride and recent collaborator Jeff Fradley co-writing. The internet spoke a collective “Huh?” 

McBride and Green, known primarily for their comedic directing and acting skills, seem like an out-of-left-field choice to bring back a horror behemoth like Michael Myers. They soon announced that this Halloween wouldn’t be a reboot. It would be a direct sequel to the original 1978 movie, negating and disregarding all other sequels. Being that this wasn’t the first re-do of the franchise, I remained slightly optimistic. I’m glad I did because the Halloween of 2018 actually surprised me.

Does it re-invent the genre? Not at all. What it does have is a tense atmosphere, actual characters, and a great score by John Carpenter. Green and McBride’s writing strangely works here. There is some genuinely funny dialogue between characters, and it makes them feel more like people instead of nameless Michael Myers victims. Set 40 years after the original, Jamie Lee Curtis once again plays Laurie Strode, but she’s been training for another encounter with Michael ever since 1978. She is now a hermit-like doomsday prepper, living in solitude after losing custody of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) some 30 years ago. 

The traumatic Halloween night of 1978 damaged Laurie beyond repair, leaving her paranoid and colder. She’s slowly trying to make amends and repair her strained relationship with her estranged and now-grown daughter Karen. She seems to have a more relaxed relationship with her teenage granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who’s determined to help her grandmother. While all of this is happening, the infamous killer Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) is still being treated at Smith’s Grove before a move to a maximum security prison. In the lead-up to the transfer, two British cold-case podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) come to interview Michael before he’s locked away for good.

They, along with Michael’s new psychologist Dr. Sartain (Ben-Hur and Rosewater‘s Haluk Bilginer) – the new Loomis, want to understand Michael and eventually get him to speak. Their morbid curiosity later leads to some eventual misery, as you would expect. When Michael is transferred on Halloween Eve (of course), the prison bus crashes and he escapes. Hearing the news, Laurie goes into panic mode and tries to hunt Michael down while also trying to keep her own family safe, as Michael is coming back to Haddonfield for her.

It’s probably not surprising to hear, but there are plenty of horror cliches in this newer version of Halloween. The slasher genre has been mostly out of ideas for a while now and this new Halloween is no different, but David Gordon Green’s direction and script lift the film into passable, even sometimes great, territory. There are a few very tense scenes that show Green’s ability to play with lighting and create a moody and genuinely creepy atmosphere. There also a few impressive long shots that call back to the original film and follow some of Michael’s kills.

Halloween 2018 still - Laurie Strode facing down Michael

Jamie Lee Curtis gives a “just fine” performance here. She plays Laurie as a badass who could also fall apart at any moment. She’s tough but extremely vulnerable at the same time, which makes for genuinely scary moments between her and Michael when they do face off. She has good chemistry with her co-stars, and her granddaughter Allyson is a welcome new character, who thankfully isn’t brought in to take over for Jamie Lee Curtis. Laurie’s son-in-law Ray (Halt and Catch Fire‘s Toby Huss), brings some comic relief, along with some of Allyson’s high school friends (including Mudbound‘s Dylan Arnold & Blockers‘ Miles Robbins). It doesn’t have your typical horror movie conversations though. A lot of it actually feels improvised, giving a lot of scenes a looser feel.

That being said, the first half of the film is more interesting than the second, which is unfortunate. It’s still enjoyable as a Halloween film, but the plot shift in the latter half might be a bit too ridiculous for some. For fans of the Halloween franchise though, this should be a familiar yet fairly satisfying ride. Michael Myers is still a force that keeps on coming and regains a bit of the “boogeyman” status that was lacking in the previous installments. 

It feels like a proper sequel to the original while still being its own thing. During our press screening, there were a few moments that had viewers cheering while screaming at the same time. The film might pretend that the previous 10 Halloween movies didn’t happen, but as a viewer, their memories might be difficult to erase. If the previous films in the franchise didn’t exist, this movie would truly be an event. Unfortunately, the backlog of other films curbs a bit of the excitement here. Anyone who’s only seen the original might actually enjoy this one a lot more. It’s a movie with a lot of subtle fan service, but it’s also funny, entertaining, and stylish. 

The humorous and horror elements are what makes the movie work so well. The contrast is actually not distracting or tonally off at all. It actually succeeds at being both, which is a success in itself. If you go into Halloween expecting more than a good slasher, you’re probably going to be disappointed. As a fan though, this could have been much much worse. The new Halloween isn’t a revelation, but it succeeds just enough at being what it needs to be – a decent horror movie with iconic characters returning to what they do best.

Rating: 6.8/10