Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Night He Came Home Again. In 2018: Halloween (2018)

Halloween (2018)
Rating: ****
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak 

Black cats and goblins and broomsticks and ghosts.
Covens of witches with all of their hopes. 
You may think they scare me. You're probably right. 
But nothing's more frightening than a disappointing horror sequel hype!

And praise the gods, that's not the case here!

Taking place in an alternate continuity from John Carpenter's Halloween, Halloween (2018) (really wished they came up with a much more creative title, folks) starts forty years after the infamous Haddonfield murders of ’78 with The Shape, aka Michael Myers, apparently got shoved back to Smith's Grove Sanitarium after getting recaptured by responding police the night he came home. He remained mostly unresponsive to any kind of advances since and it appears he's not gonna change this situation until, that is, a pair of British true crime podcasters researching the Haddonfield murders visits him and tries coaxing him into talking by showing him his signature mask. Of course, like the silent maniacal trooper he is, Michael chose not to talk so our duo of journalists decided to, instead, bribe an interview with the one that got away, Laurie Strode.

Suffering from PTSD from the night Michael murdered her friends, Laurie is now a twice-divorced recluse, living in a gated backwoods home rigged with traps and heavy security systems, as well as enough gun supply fit for a small platoon. The interview, though, didn't go too well as Laurie fails to see the sense of understanding a pointless crime and eventually asks the interviewers to leave before heading out to meet up with her granddaughter Alyson, the only one in her family who's patient enough to reach out to her.

Later that evening happens to be the night Smith's Grove is making a prison transfer, with Michael being one of the loonies being moved. Laurie, knowing this, watches nearby in her truck, trying her darnest to face him in person so she could finally move on, but her frustrations got the best of her and it's soon all too late to do anything when the bus eventually leaves with The Shape.
And as you would expect, the bus crashes somewhere en route to the awaiting asylum, with Michael being the perpetrator and is now killing his way back to Haddonfield, Illinois to continue his murder spree. Strode gets a whip of this news so she desperately tries to convince her daughter (and Alyson's mother) Karen to move her family in to the backwoods-house-cum-panic-room for their protection, only for her panic to be talked down as another case of hysteria. For now. 

It isn't too long before the boogeyman is back in town and once Halloween night falls, we get an impressively executed massacre including a kill-filled tracking shot of our boogeyman working his way through two houses and one babysitter murder that's actually kinda horrifying considering how fun the characters were before Mr. Myers crashes in and sticks his knife in places that'll bleed. When Michael starts killing off Alyson's friends and nearly gets the Strode's beloved granddaughter, the town's good ole' deputy has no choice but to team up with Myer's current doctor and, in a way, Laurie to hunt the masked menace down before more innocent lives are taken this Halloween night, which meant more bloodshed and a slightly pointless twist until it's all but our three Strode women going toe-to-toe against our hulking slasher. 

As a sequel, Halloween (2018) does a sound job keeping up with the tone of the original, paying a good amount of nostalgia and homage while respecting it enough to push the story slightly forward from your standard slasher concept of a killer loose and murdering people by breaking some of the tropes and throw a few gambling curve ball at us. At times, this work when the story focuses on certain elements such as this film's own take on Laurie Strode as a slasher villain prepper with one or two screws loose and, of course, Michael Myer's stabby rampage into and through Haddonfield where anyone can be his victim, but there are some parts of the film that definitely didn't, or at least needed a few tweaks for them to work.

For one, seeing that this film puts a decent amount of attention from Michael's and Laurie's sides of the story, the set-up between Laurie and her estrangement from her daughter Karen just felt rushed, often lacking enough depth to make it engaging enough to warrant the emotional baggage the movie was aiming for during the climax. Equally, I find the parts concerning Strode's granddaughter Alyson and her gaggle of teen friends to be just "there", as while their scenes are nothing bad and, at times, even adorable and heartbreaking, I can't help but feel they could have been incorporated into prepper Strode's plight to rescue as many as she could from The Shape a lot better. Instead, a chunk of them were ruthlessly slaughtered off in fairly gruesome fashions, making them simple throwaway lambs for the slaughter, albeit I do find it curious that the most death-deserving of them gets to walk away unpunished

And then there's that one twist  that involves Myer's current psychologist that frankly baffles me in its inclusion within the story. Again, not that this was a bad turn of events, but this twist came and went randomly at the third of the movie and it adds little to nothing to the story apart from shock value and additional casualties to the madness that is our boogeyman. I get it that this was to show how some people find the concept of evil intriguing enough to go through many lengths to study it, but I really think this should have been dabbled on in a less shlocky way.

Halloween (2018) also noticeable lacks the slow-burn creepiness of the original, something I personally believe could have also worked with the movie's direction of breaking the norms but, nevertheless, it does make up for it by making Michael pretty terrifying here. With the story being a direct sequel of the original and disregarding all other sequels and remakes throughout the years, we're basically back to square one with The Shape and we are given no clear motive as to why he is killing in the first place, bringing the character back to his more mysterious roots complete with unnerving silence and unflinching high tolenrance for pain. Add the fact that he's doing more killing and less creeping in this sequel and the murders he is committing are far more violent than the first movie's (half of them being some of the best uses of offscreen carnage), he's practically less a masked-man-with-a-knife here and more "murder 'incarnate'".

And of course, we cannot have a throwback-esque Halloween sequel without talking about Jamie Lee Curtis' return as a more badass Laurie Strode with a morbid and extreme yet soon-to-be justified sense of closure. Her tough-as-nails performance as a developed final girl character fits perfectly with director David Gordon Green's stab on the idea of role reversals and unconventional growth, as not only does Laurie's training and preparation to hunt the hunter meant longing vengeance against the thing that ruined her life, but also somewhat resembling her taking the mantle of the original's Ahab character Dr. Loomis, Michael's original psychologist who swore to destroy The Shape upon his escape, knowing what he is capable of. Their fears are justified, even more now seeing Myers is killing in double digits, so when it came down to the climactic showdown between her and the boogeyman once again, it's nothing short but awesome with one iconic scene from the original film that involved Michael being recreated here with Laurie in his place that had me cheekily grinning from ear to ear.

Packed with a strong soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, stylish shots and enough throwback and homages to the rest of the franchise which surprisingly includes Rob Zombie's hyper-violent 2007 remake (and its sequel) and the cult fave in-name sequel Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982), I'm quite happy to say that Halloween (2018) warrants the viewing of any true slasher fan and deserves its praises. Even if you're yet to see the original (though I strongly recommend you do to get the feels of this sequel), Halloween (2018) is a solid enough story of bloody mayhem and gunpowder vengeance that heartily relies on a good balance of scares, laughs and thrills on a steady run to keep a genuine horror fan happy. With treats outnumbering awful tricks, this is one triumphant return of a classic horror figure and one of the best Halloween movies in this day and age that one shouldn't miss!

A number of people in a transfer bus killed in crash
1 male dies from crash wounds
1 boy beaten, had his neck snapped
1 male found dead from crash wounds
1 male found with his neck snapped
1 male bludgeoned to death with a mallet
1 male seen with his jaw ripped open
1 male beaten to death against walls and bathroom doors
1 female strangled
1 female brained to death with a hammer
1 female knifed through the neck
1 female slashed and stabbed to death with a knife
1 male found pinned to the wall with a knife through the neck
1 male pulled into gate spikes, head impaled
1 male had his head stomped
1 male found with a throat cut and a pen knife stabbed into his head
1 male found decapitated, head carved
1 male strangled to death with a chain
Total: 17+

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