Halloween (2018): Fear Lives Forever

Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Nick Castle, Will Patton

It cannot be understated how dramatically John Carpenter’s Halloween changed cinema in 1978. It spawned a franchise, tons of knock-offs (some of which obtained their own franchises,) and basically provided a formula for the slasher genre that would be replicated for decades. The Halloween franchise itself has been inconsistent at best, with the first two films being pretty great, the sequels beyond being…not so great, and an admittedly decent Rob Zombie remake, though we all would like to forget Rob Zombie’s Halloween II ever happened. So it’s no surprise that the franchise was due for a reinvention of sorts, and when rumors of a new Halloween film rose, I and many others were nervous. Make no mistake, Halloween (2018) doesn’t reinvent the slasher genre or provide too many new elements to it, but it does deliver a good Halloween film that brings the convoluted mythos back to its basics.

Whereas Rob Zombie’s Halloween was a full-fledged remake, David Gordon Green’s version serves as a direct sequel that completely disregards the rest of the franchise except John Carpenter’s original. In this film, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as a much more battered down and paranoid Laurie Strode, understandably stricken with intense PTSD and trauma from the events of the 1978 film. She has prepared for 40 years for Michael Myers’ inevitable return, and when he escapes from prison, she is more than willing to go on a manhunt and put him to a permanent end. Her acting carries this film’s second act, which is at times painfully slow, and I only wish she had more screentime in between a plethora of new characters that the film focuses on, mostly involving Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter, and her granddaughter’s various friends. I realize it wouldn’t be a Halloween film without Michael Myers murdering teenagers, but the film uses these scenes like a crutch when it proves to be capable of tackling more mature themes of grief and survivor’s guilt. Other than one impressive tracking shot, David Gordon Green’s directing seems a little bit hamfisted here, as it juggles between drama, comedy and horror almost too a fault, before finally coming back around in the last thirty minutes and admittedly tying up loose ends.

Whereas the screenplay and directing as a whole are hit and miss, and the acting is pretty average other than Jamie Lee Curtis’es invigoratingly ferocious performance, I do have a soft spot for the technical merits of this film. While the film doesn’t quite nail the atmospheric strengths of Carpenter’s original, this film does provide a remixed and inspired soundtrack that perfectly invokes nostalgia and compliments its scenes. Even though some have complained this to be overly fan-serviced, I appreciated that I could tell that the people involved in this film really did make good on their promise of reigniting the franchise, both bringing old trends back again and putting in some modern twists, like one long, impressive tracking shot that has become a trend in 2010s film and television. The cinematography is on point, with my only complaint being that it does not quite live up to Carpenter’s use of color palette and scene texture, but that’s okay. Nobody really believed this was going to be as good as the original, and the filmmakers knew that, and I thank them for not being too overly ambitious stylistically.

All in all, despite its flaws, I did highly enjoy this Halloween iteration. I think it does a better job of delivering a traditional yet not completely iterative Halloween experience better than Rob Zombie’s remake, but I would mark the first two films higher than this one, despite II’s twist and legacy it spawned being erased from canon. This, along with films like IT last year, continue to prove that with today’s technology and directing talent, previous films can be brought back and given new life without necessarily being just a straight shot-for-shot remake of a decades-past work. I believe it’s worth seeing on the big screen if you’re a fan of the franchise, or if you haven’t seen the films, if you’re looking to go experience a good horror movie in a crowd. Despite pacing and directorial issues, it’s still a fun ride and perfect for the season!

Verdict: See in Theaters — Matinee

Disclaimer: I review movies based on a 5-tier scale: See in Theaters-Full Price, See in Theaters-Matinee, Rental, Wait for Streaming, and Skip It. If you disagree with this review, I encourage you to watch the film and as always, make up your own mind about it. Am I wrong? Am I spot on? Let me know in the comments below!