Review: Halloween (2018)

Jamie Lee Curtis is ready for Michael in this mesmerising 40 year follow up to Carpenter’s landmark slasher.

Horror has spawned many an icon but Michael Myers is one of its most omnipotent. Since stalking Jamie Lee Curtis’ teenage babysitter Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s seminal slasher Halloween, ‘The Shape’ has gone on to leave a lingering mark on cinema. Across 6 films and the Rob Zombie remake (and its sequel), Michael has risen again and again to wreak death upon the town of Haddonfield, often in pursuit of Laurie (herself a horror legend). Now, 40 years later, Halloween arrives to remind you why you ought to believe in the bogeyman.

From director David Gordon Green, Halloween is a sequel to the original 1978 film, which ignores the decades of lore and even the core series plot point of Michael being Laurie’s brother (an idea originally introduced in the 1981 sequel Halloween II). Wiping the slate this clean could well have infuriated long-standing fans but any risks pay off in droves, as Halloween is a remarkable achievement. Doing with refinement what recent franchises (Terminator, Predator, Star Trek) have struggled to do, this film returns to the template set by Carpenter’s original film, paying tribute to the greatest hits, while taking the story to fresh places.

Halloween is The Force Awakens of horror and like that film, it is perhaps destined to draw more scrutiny due to the weight of expectation but I think this is an absolute treat (and no trick) for fans and newcomers alike. It echoes the original in a number of ways and is filled with Easter eggs and references to the series but at the same time feels like an exciting and replenished continuation. Just as Carpenter’s film birthed the slasher sub-genre boom, one wonders if this will bring that very genre back to the mainstream cinema schedules.

The seemingly simple story of Michael escaping and returning home comes to tell a far more timely tale of a woman confronting her monster and the film has some devastatingly powerful comments on PTSD and the perceptions of mental health. Jamie Lee Curtis is awards worthy in her incredible return as Laurie and, like 1998’s Halloween H20, the film focuses on her lifelong aftermath of that fateful night but this film goes further and deeper, realistically delving into the mind of a victim, showing how horrible acts can change who we are, how we cope and thusly what we become. This is a redemptive story and one featuring shattering moments between the strength, we see Laurie at her most badass and her most vulnerable and Curtis is absolutely phenomenal in every single way.

Alongside her is a string of interesting characters that chime very well with the times in which we live and amidst this strong cast (including Judy Greer and fresh talent Andi Matichak as Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter respectively) there just might be some future megastars (see a scene-stealingly funny young Jibrail Nantambu). Then, there is Michael…

Expertly using the 40-year gap to stoke the fires of Michael’s perplexingly evil core and in the process unnervingly reflecting on the darkness of our morbid obsessions (see one rather daring twist late on, which could polarise) with the unexplainable. This story replenishes the nightmarish killer (portrayed by both James Jude Courtney, and by original Michael Myers actor Nick Castle) to his old self and re-introduces him to a new generation. From the detail of the aged mask to the muffled breaths and surprisingly gnarly stalk and slash, Michael is back and his ultimate showdown with Laurie could not have been better realised. She was waiting for him, so were we and the results do not disappoint.

The camerawork is excellent, with some superb lighting, style and atmosphere emerging from the voyeuristic scenes and the climax, in particular, is so well assembled, as it twists the tropes on their head and leaves things on a perfect ending. David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley’s passion show in every aspect of the final film and a large part of why everything works is because you get the clear indication that everybody on board was determined to pay the utmost respect and tell the best story possible and that is precisely what has happened.

John Carpenter worked on the film as executive producer and creative consultant and his presence is felt but it is his return to film scoring, alongside Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, which is most welcome of all. Their soundtrack is one of the best of 2018, capturing the essence of the original but also the advancement of this film’s narrative. The music is chills-inducing, alarming and exhilarating and the soundtrack is a must buy for any fan of movie scores.

Halloween, like Blade Runner 2049, manages that near impossible feat of following an ominous open ending and delivering a film that continues the plot but not at the expense of the mystique and power of what came before it. From the opening sanitarium sequence to the fitting finale, this is a blast and it confirms the long-held belief that horror legends never really die. Especially when they have a team behind them so adoring of their craft.

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