FILM REVIEW: "Halloween" stays true to the slasher genre but does little else
Earlier this week I sat down and watched Halloween. THE Halloween. The original. The film that started it all. With those nudity and ketchup-blood-soaked first five minutes and, of course, the iconic Halloween theme that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
I had set myself the goal of watching all of the Halloween films in the week leading up to the newest offering. But, when confronted by over 14 hours of Michael Myers slashing up unsuspecting teens, I instead decided to play it safe and simply stuck to the original and H20: 20 Years Later. These two were more than enough to get me into the slasher film mindset.
Halloween (2018) starts with two podcasters (“We’re investigative journalists!”) visiting Myers in lockup. The podcast connection is a nice touch, as the soft-spoken, Serial-esque journalists pick up the Halloween story and bring it to the modern day audience. Through them, we are introduced to Myers (James Jude Courtney, finally returning to the role he played in the original film). We never clearly see his face, allowing Myers to maintain the terrifying, unfeeling demeanour that we have all come to know as "The Shape". One of the podcasters tries to break through this front by showing Myers his mask, which has managed to become even more terrifying and degraded over time. But there is no response. It’s a solid introduction to the film and character, effectively setting the tone for both newcomers and die-hard fans of the franchise.
The opening credits do a great job of satisfying nostalgic viewers, with the Halloween™ beat, bright orange titles, and lonesome pumpkin. As you may know, this Halloween is a continuation of the original and disregards the nine films in-between (thank goodness). Despite this, fans of the franchise will chuckle at the various call-backs and references. One such (spoiler-free) exchange features a friend of the lead, Laurie's granddaughter, asking in reference to Myers, "Isn't he her brother or something?" It’s promptly shut down as a silly rumour. But it’s a nice nod to the messy attempts at plot that started in Halloween II and refused to die in later films.
Director, David Gordon Green has done a great job ensuring that the film stays true to the 80’s slasher aesthetic. But it was Danny McBride’s work on the screenplay with Green and Jeff Fradley that caught me most off my guard. More of a comedic actor than a horror writer, McBride seems like a strange choice. But there are some great moments in the film that echo his folksy, confrontational style. All audience members have experienced that “oh hell no, get out of there idiot!” reaction when the killer appears on screen, but McBride’s characters aren’t afraid to say it either.
Myers’ body count definitely exceeds that of the original film. Although there were no dogs killed this time, so at least he exhibits some moral growth as well. He makes his way through the human cast using his trusty butcher’s knife and hands-on style of killing. But a lot of the kills seem to happen off-screen, and are unimaginative when compared to previous films. Except for one truly horrific kill that had the audience collectively gasp, that is.
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the franchise that introduced her to Hollywood and cemented her reputation as a “Scream Queen”. But, this time, she is prepared to meet the killer. Curtis does an excellent job of portraying a person living with PTSD, bracing herself for a repeat of the events she survived 40 years earlier. In this time, she has alienated herself from everyone and maintains strained relationships with her family. All because of her attempts to prepare them for when (and not if) Myers returns.
Ultimately, this is a slasher film. Is it an outstanding slasher film? No. It’s just your standard “spooky dude kills a bunch of people in gross ways” slasher film. There are some moments that will appeal to fans of the Halloween franchise but, overall, the scares are standard. There’s tension, but there’s also a lot of plot filler. There’s conflict, but it leads nowhere. There are comedic moments, but many of the jokes are lacklustre. One that comes to mind involves a character complaining about spilling peanut butter on his pants. It’s uninspired. And that’s Halloween (2018): it’s passable, but it’s nothing special.
Watch this if you’re a fan of the original film, or the slasher genre as a whole. But if you’re not one of those people then it’s safer to steer clear. Run away, dear viewer. Run away and don’t look back.
2.5 pumpkin heads out of 5