Halloween (2018) is the eleventh film in the titular holiday horror franchise that began with the original John Carpenter film release in October 1978. Known as one of the most successful independent films ever made and one of the most successful horror film franchises, the original scared audiences with its feeling of dread, ominous foreshadowing and a surprisingly low body count. In the last forty years the franchise has seen sequels, reboots and remakes that were a varying degree of success. Gone is the low body count, it has no place in the literal, shock and gore of today. Halloween 2018 has a huge body count and it also asks you to forget that nine movies that were made between the original and this sequel that picks up forty years after the terrifying night in 1978.
Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode, no longer a teenage babysitter, but a 60 year old grandmother. Laurie was so traumatized by the events of Halloween in Hoddenfield, Illinois that she has become an angry, paranoid, terrified survivalist, complete with a remote gated house with a security system that would rival the Kardashians. She knows that the boogey man, Michael Myers will someday come back for her. She has never adjusted to “normalcy” after being stalked by a serial killer.
As a kid, I saw Halloween during its original release and it completely terrified me. I saw shapes and imagined serial killers everywhere; behind curtains, in closets, in the driveway, standing by a tree. Of course I'm much older now, and have seen hundreds of films since then. Still, I was surprised when a few days after seeing Halloween (2018) I had brief chills and imagined visions that reminded me of the experience forty years ago. The plot involves Podcast producers (who record audio very inauthentically) visiting Michael Myers at an asylum for the criminally insane. They are doing research for a popular serial murder movie podcast. When Michael’s devoted doctor arranges a transfer to another facility, something happens and Michael is loose again, just in time for Halloween.
Laurie, not unexpectedly has a strained relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Green) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Laurie taught Karen to fire a gun at eight years and Karen is tired of her mother’s obsession with Michael Myers and the horror he created in Laurie’s past. Allyson tries a little harder to understand and accept her grandmother, but Laurie’s booze guzzling, angry, whacky, paranoid behavior makes it difficult for anyone to love her.
Curtis is the glue that keeps the film together, even in the middle of the film when Michael, gleefully, randomly kills people willy-nilly. Picking up a hammer here, a kitchen knife there, Michael’s second act murders happen so often and quickly it feels like a montage or opera. Some of these murders are graphically depicted and it occasionally feels gratuitous, especially considering the effective restraint of the original. It is if he has been a dog locked in a cage that is suddenly free, zipping about in all directions excited and teaming with bloodlust. These scenes aren’t nearly as scary at scenes that show Michael, lurking, glaring and then suddenly disappearing-where is he now? But times have changed and these kills bring the film into the shock and awe era.
The last third of the film is particularly thrilling, and includes the obligatory scene between the great nemeses, Michael and Laurie. In a nod to women empowerment, Laurie is soundly and competently aided by her scrappy daughter and granddaughter. There has been much talk of the film’s nod to the #Metoo movement and also its supposedly realistic look at PTSD and the damage trauma does to someone’s life. Curtis is such a gifted actress that she manages to be believable no matter how loopy the writers’ idea of trauma victim’s behavior and psychology is presented. What does work well, are the occasional homages to the original film, which I have seen so many times, I can recall it shot by shot. For example, when someone mentions the events of 40 years ago, they call it the baby sitter murders. This was actually one of the titles John Carpenter threw around before calling it “Halloween.” I also like the dangling wire hanger (unlike Joan Crawford) and the disappearance of a certain character after falling off a balcony. Wait, I'm now talking too much.
Halloween has broken several records including 1. The second best box office opening weekend in October History. 2. The biggest horror film opening with a female protagonist and 3. The biggest opening weekend with a female lead over 55years old. Curtis who is down to earth and very much looks her 60 years old (eschewing surgery to look younger) is cool. I listened to a podcast interview with her and her life off-screen is very interesting and humble. Curtis is also smart. This film only had a $10 million budget, and she purposely took a small salary against a big back end deal for a percentage of the profits. If the film continues its current ticket selling track she could earn easily $5-$10 million. This is a considerable pay raise from her $8,000 salary for Halloween (1978).
Although this film isn’t nearly as taught, and focused as the first film, which seems almost poetic compared to this loud collage, it is a respectable return to the franchise. It has some solid scares and chills. Nothing will ever be Halloween 1978, though it has been often imitated and you can never see it again for the first time, but you can see this film and enjoy it as a new experience. Carpenter’s iconic score often reimagined in more exciting scenes is back and eerily evocative. Go Laurie!