Arts & Life, Film & Television

‘Halloween’ is on par with the 1978 original film

Rarely is a movie so nearly perfect that it prompts multiple viewings within its opening weekend. The newest “Halloween” is such a movie.

Rather than restart the franchise, 2018’s “Halloween” adds to the story of the original film from 1978 – ignoring a series of increasingly dull sequels and a reboot that is the cinematic equivalent of slowly inserting needles into your eyes.

Through its return to a simple synth soundtrack and prolonged tension, this film’s prologue makes it clear that director David Gordon Green and his crew wanted to take the story of serial killer Michael Myers and sole survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) back to its roots, an achievement they make both narratively and aesthetically.

This film’s story picks up 40 years later after the original film directed by John Carpenter left off – Curtis returns as an older Strode who has a family and lives in gated seclusion, stockpiling an armory’s worth of weapons in anticipation of the killer’s return. The viewer is reintroduced to Myers behind bars, but it’s quickly revealed he won’t be there for long.

Though the two main characters are the film’s strongest, the rest of the cast bring resonant performances which make the humor click and the rampage tragic. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak, as Strode’s daughter and granddaughter, are also some standouts which viewers could appreciate. The trauma that Myers’ night of fatal rampage has left is felt in every stare, wince and outburst that each of the women convey.

Myers isn’t connected to Laurie because of convoluted family lineage or supernatural force, but simply because she happened to be Myers’ target and victim.

In following the original film’s lack of explanation, Myers’ encounters with any other human become even more terrifying — you don’t know who he will choose to brutally murder because you haven’t been given a reason for his wrath. Anyone can be a target.

The aforementioned trauma is at the center of the film’s story. Each generation of Strode offers a different approach to dealing with damage Myers left, giving the film a secondary conflict which adds emotional depth that helps you become invested in the characters and rewards multiple viewings.

But this emotional struggle has never been the selling point of “Halloween,” the carnage is, and this film delivers well at satisfying that desire. The kills are both rapid and drawn out, on-screen and off; those where you hear the action but don’t see it are as squirm-inducing as those where everything is on uncensored display.

Although tweaks are made to both the music and drawn out action scenes, Green and company  heavily borrow both elements from the original. The classic “Halloween” theme returns throughout this film, its repetitive nature being intentional  – the music, like Myers’ iconic deep breathing, is a precursor to doom.

Rather than a rapid succession of cuts common in modern horror films, Green uses long shots to emphasize fear and let the viewer sit with discomfort. When action finally happens, it’s more sudden — hitting harder. The setting appears as normal as one’s own neighborhood, once again making a viewer feel like this could happen anywhere at anytime.

Any familiarity here is deliberate and used to link this film with Carpenter’s original through look and sound, as well as send cues to the viewer that evil is near and ready to strike.

The only downtime in “Halloween” is a portion of the plot that revolves around two journalists who create a podcast about Myers’ first killings. The duo’s arc initially left me puzzled about their inclusion in the story, but upon a rewatch I found that their involvement fits in with the spirit of the original film – the targets are random and no one is safe.

Although Green’s “Halloween” serves as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original, one does not need to have seen the 1978 version to understand this movie. Any useful context from the original is given within the 104-minute runtime of Green’s installment. This new film works as a standalone and moves at a brisk pace, keeping the viewer entertained from start to finish.

Stars: 5/5

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