As a fan of horror, and growing up in the 80s, I got to see a lot of fantastic horror movies. In 1978, John Carpenter captures what it meant to be afraid. When that piano strikes, and the title card that reads “Halloween” appears, the hair on your arms starts to rise. There is an electricity to it; a fear, a knowing of what is to come. That is all the work of John Carpenter. I know that remakes, especially in the world of horror, are often frowned upon, as is sequel after sequel. They fail to recapture that same lightning in the bottle and we, as fans, feel cheated. I had the same feelings about “Halloween (2018).” Unlike the other monster on the block, “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Carpenter’s original “Halloween” does hold up to the scrutiny of time.
What does this mean for this new “Halloween (2018)” movie? Before I answer, I feel the need to rewind. We come to expect a lot from our chosen genre. We rely on the makers we come to know, like Eli Roth, to pen something new. So when people like Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Vice Principals) and David Gordon Green (Vice Principals, Our Brand is Crisis) are listed as writer and director, we start to worry. People into torture p*rn and gorefest didn’t mind the godawful reboots of Rob Zombie. They didn’t even cringe at that unwatchable sequel he did where it seemed like someone gave him a challenge on how many insipid and pointless scenes he could fit his wife into. But even Zombie had proved himself. Now we have a couple guys from the world of comedy coming onto our playground.
I write narrative fiction and screenplays when I’m not crafting these articles, little lists, or going to conventions to tell you what to see and what to avoid. With that said, you may find it difficult to understand just how closely comedy and horror mimic each other. When we write either of those genres, we follow the same sort of story and character arcs. Instead of scares, you get a belly laugh, for instance. Just look back to the faces of the theater where one is a smile and the other a frown. There is a reason for that. Tragedy and pain are closely related to laughter. When you’re sad and alone laughter is sometimes the only thing that can bring you out of the darkness. This one fact is why I wasn’t terribly worried about this new film.
When I first wrote about this movie, there was not a whole lot of information. After seeing it, I can confirm several things that will help set your mind in the right place to see it. The main thing to know is that the film takes place 40 years after the first film. They didn’t touch a lot on what happened to Michael after he murdered his sister. Meaning, we’re not sure if the chain events we originally saw happened. We are reaffirmed that he murdered five people. This places us smack dad in the first film. After all, he only murdered his sister in the opening scene. This means that this erases all the bad sequels, including Rob Zombie’s, from the slate as it becomes a direct sequel. Laurie Strode is not Michael’s sister and she has become a paranoid doomsday prepper who does nothing but wait for Michael Myers to reappear.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I can that this is a good thing. If the first movie never happened, I would have been over the moon with this one. It gives enough background information, in a way that is perfect and seamless, that it can stand on its own. This is going to be high praise, especially from me, but this is easily what I deem a “new classic.” It effectively brings back the classic slasher film. It is not over the top gory. The scares are perfectly done and so very old school. It mixed great framing with a fantastic color scheme that made it feel cold and dark even in the daylight. At times it was nail-biting, terrifying, and very funny. And yes, we’re back to the funny and horror comparison. This has a message, of course, because when you diffuse tension with humor, the next scare is bigger because it’s unexpected. The musical score is extremely limited and this brings you deeper into the story and what’s happening on screen.
Needless to say, you become invested in each character, and in horror, that’s rare. What that means for you, as the person seeing the movie, is that if/when something bad happens to that character, you feel it more. We get to these same emotional points in romantic comedies. We route for the underdog but when the underdog fails we feel a genuine loss and root for them all that much harder. The same thing applies here. In a movie like “Saw,” I didn’t care one bit about the characters. When I cared about was how Jigsaw was going to test them. While this works 99% of the time it’s not the reason why people go to the movies. “Halloween (2018) is why people go to the movies. I’m happy to say that they didn’t rely on garbage tactics to get cheap jump scares. Everything happened for a reason and was timed perfectly.
Michael Myers has spent the past 40 years in an asylum. He’s not comatose but rather chooses to not talk. It’s the eve of his transfer from a cushy treatment center to a hellhole and he escapes. Unfortunately for Michael, Laurie is ready for him. She’s spent the same amount of time preparing for him as he has plotted to get to her. For Laurie, she has lost herself in the entire thing and that has left her a shell of a person with a family that doesn’t understand and who has practically abandoned her. From here, we are taken on a roller coaster of emotions from laughter to suspense to fear. At the movie’s core is a testament to female strength and empowerment; a message that speaks true to the world at large. When the movie was over I experienced something I hadn’t experienced in a horror movie before: uproarious applause. I’ve witnessed at the end of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Star Trek, but never a horror movie. I liked the feeling.
For those who have never seen the original (shame on you) there is plenty to keep you busy and enthralled with the action. For those of us who love the original, these guys paid homage – in great lengths – to what John Carpenter built. For those of you who think that Rob Zombie’s films are better (for shame) then, well, I think you’ll be greatly disappointed. This plays tribute and expands on the original film. It matches the tone and theme perfectly. It gives us a solid footing if they decide they can make another one. If they do, I hope they use the same creative team. There is a man who, by name, you may not have heard of: Nick Castle. Castle was the original Michael Myers, billed as “The Shape.” He’s back now to reprise his role. What some don’t know is that he also directed one of my favorite science fiction movies of all time, “The Last Starfighter,” and also wrote “Escape from New York” and the screenplay for “Hook.” I appreciate this man for a large portion of my childhood and it is fantastic to see that he’s back to slide and dice babysitters.
If you’re having any misgivings of seeing this film out of some “loyalty” to the original, I can tell you, stop right now. Go see it and you will not regret it. That is, unless of course, you think Rob Zombie’s are awesome.