Describing Halloween (2018) is far more complicated than the actual movie is. It is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic with which it shares the same title. It ignores the 7 other sequels including the 2007 Rob Zombie reboot of the same name as well its sequel. If you’re keeping score at home, this means that there are now 11 Halloween movies, 3 actually named Halloween and only 1, the original, that needs to be seen before this latest installment. While that may sound messy and confusing, this film is actually anything but. It feels content leaning backward comfortably on the sturdy frame of the original via a plethora of callbacks and homages. It does this at the expense — though not entirely — of forging ahead to carve new ground as sequels are required to do. This unique blend of reboot and sequel (somewhat reminiscent of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2) is managed well enough by director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride that the audience can enjoy moments of nostalgia while still getting a renewed horror film experience.
As a whole, the plot unfolds as expected. 40 years after the original Halloween murders, Michael Myers escapes and terrorizes his old neighborhood once again. With that in mind, the filmmakers rely on what initially made Michael Myers and Halloween (‘78) iconic and embrace those. There is a sense of dread that arises from eschewing jump scares in favor of drawn-out moments of tension. A true feeling of horror that comes from letting the audience see the terror that’s about to unfold on the screen while the characters being hunted remain oblivious. It’s not a coincidence that the two best-filmed scenes in the movie (the long take from the trailer and the motion sensors scene) are the ones that most wholly embrace these concepts.
Halloween is not without its flaws though. While Jamie Lee Curtis is very good in this victim-turned-prepper take on Laurie Strode that will undoubtedly be compared to Sarah Connor in T2, the rest of the cast is in limbo. They are stuck somewhere between existing only to be killed or to give us nuggets of info to move the plot along. Worse, some characters are given weight to the story but are dropped midway through with no real explanation as to why. Essentially, everyone besides Laurie and Michael Myers is expendable. Pockets of humor pop up along the way which sometimes works to great effect, but often times unnecessarily breaks the buildup of tension. And as a film that wants the audience to think that Laurie and Michael are ensnared in some horrific psycho-symbiotic relationship fueling each other’s existence and meaning, the ending doesn’t evoke a breathe-easy feeling of catharsis that you want for both Laurie and yourself.
The standout of this film is unquestionably the score. John Carpenter has masterfully updated his iconic theme in a way that maintains the simple eeriness of the piano and synth combo but adds a layer of guttural pulses and guitar wails that feel as big and imposing as The Shape himself. Listening to the score, you can virtually FEEL the way the movie plays out without ever seeing anything on the screen. A true sign of greatness for any piece of movie music.
Halloween (2018) does not break any new ground and it is totally comfortable with that fact. It honors its roots while resetting the franchise and taking a few small steps in a new, positive direction. It’s clear that David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jamie Lee Curtis all embraced the film and relished the opportunity to finally do the original justice. While not perfect, it is a fun, solid horror film with the simplicity of its predecessor and an updated touch of modern filmmaking.