Sunday, 28 October 2018

Halloween (2018)

Halloween (2018) poster.jpgDirector: David Gordon Green
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu, Omar Dorsey

In 1978, a new light was cast upon the horror genre, which kicked off the slasher subgenre. While proto-slashers depicted men committing murderous deeds in far off motels or in seedy back alleys, John Carpenter brought the terror into a town any of us could live in, as he stalked down streets we could live in, and entered houses that could belong to any of us. He was a brutal presence that felt disturbingly real, characteristics which was diminished by needlessly convoluted sequels, but the radical new idea is to wipe the slate clean, and make a sequel to just the Carpenter original. It's a gamble that was met with controversy from the fanbase, but thankfully, it's completely works.

Forty years after surviving a brutal Halloween massacre, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has forever been changed by those events. Refusing to remain a victim, she has long prepared for her attacker, Michael Myers, to make his escape from the mental asylum which has housed him since that night. After an escape attempt sees Michael making his way back to Haddonfield, Laurie is ready for him.

What David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have brought to the table is a story about the aftermath of a slasher film. At the centre of it all lies an effective tale about the trauma left behind for the survivors, how enduring such horrific events has changed them, and affected their families. It's quite gripping to see how different Laurie is, in the same way we witnessed how the passage of time had affected Luke Skywalker just last year. They're not the same people we left decades ago, they've severely changed in ways we can't have imagined.

Unsurprisingly, Jamie Lee Curtis does nothing short of absolutely killing it in the role. The events have given Laurie severe PTSD, leaving her to prepare for Michael's eventual return, but have also strained her relationship with her daughter. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak do tremendous work as Karen and Allyson, daughter and granddaughter to Laurie, who've both been affected by inter-generational trauma. This is the first major role for Matichak, and it's certainly a strong first impression to make. She forms the heart and soul, as she wants nothing more than for her mother and grandmother to reconcile. The former is terrifically portrayed by Greer, who has been given more to do than the various spousal roles over the years have allowed her.

One moment sees a schoolmate of Allyson question what's so bad about Michael Myers' crime. With the franchises sequels being erased, Myers' bodycount has been reduced to five people, and the character expresses how minuscule it feels compared to the death toll which gets racked up in this day and age. But it doesn't feel minuscule for Laurie, who suffered through the horrific events and had to live with the aftermath. It's a tale about a woman taking back the narrative from her abuser, refusing to be subjugated, and it's a narrative that feels very timely for 2018.

At its heart, this is a horror film, and the crucial question is whether this film was scary or not. In this reviewers honest opinion, it absolutely delivered in this regard. Gordon Green wisely goes back to basics, making Michael a terrifying presence who could be stalking in any of our neighbourhoods, and this is exemplified really well thanks to tremendously crafted set pieces. A long take may be the most showy of moments, but the absolute highlight is an ingenious use of motion sensor lights, showing the tension that can occur from being light on ones feet.

As is the way with revisiting of past franchises, included are a number of affectionate nods to Carpenter's original, which intriguingly inverts memorable moments to highlight how Laurie has now become the hunter. It's a wonderful assortment of references that feels respectful and knowing, without feeling like somebody repeatedly nudging you, while asking if you got it. But the greatest sign of approval is John Carpenter's return to the series, signing on as executive producer, and delivering an exemplary score befitting of sitting alongside his tremendous previous work.

More than just a cash-in on a big name franchise, Halloween is a lovingly crafted follow-up which feels very timely, and will leave you unsettled. It also manages to be very funny, with the biggest laughs coming from young Jibrail Nantambu. What we've been granted is a sequel which feels worthy to follow such a genre classic.

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