Halloween (2018): The Shape Resurrected
Michael Myers is resurrected once again, this time by filmmaker David Gordon Green, with the aide of his screenwriting partners Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. The result is an affectionate love letter to the original that explores the effects of deep-seated trauma and the toll it takes on the family, all while delivering suspenseful slasher thrills. It doesn’t always find its footing, but it’s a better suited sequel in a franchise full of tired and generally uninspired follow ups.
Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers (Nick Castle), the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
In addition to de-canonizing any film after Carpenter’s original, one of the best aspects about 2018’s Halloween is that Laurie Strode is back in Haddonfield once again, and this time, she’s as prepared as Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister. Jaime Lee Curtis dives head first into the performance, really giving emotional weight to the character, who is much more than the trauma victim turned badass that the trailer describes. Her years spent waiting for Michael’s return have resulted in two failed marriages and the loss of custody of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who now has her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), that Laurie is also somewhat estranged from.
The film is at its strongest when it shows the family together, and its emphasis on the family dynamic as a theme helps to elevate it above hollow slasher fare. This really shines through in the restaurant scene, which finds Laurie coping with her trauma through heavy drinking, resulting in a hysterical panic attack that leaves the entire table shaken. And it also finds its footing in the last 20 minutes, after the cast has been whittled down to just the three strode women, who battle it out with Myers in a cathartic showdown.
You get the sense that this film was lovingly constructed from the admiration of Carpenter’s original, and Green stays unwaveringly true to this, so much so that specific shots from the 1978 film are included. This is particularly effective when used to invert the familiar, but at times, it can also feel a bit like pandering with its somewhat excessive nods that don’t feel entirely warranted.
The atmosphere Green cultivates is also affectionately cloned, but he brings his own sensibilities to the film’s visual vocabulary that adds a refreshing dynamic. Specifically, his use of close-ups, which evoke a sense of claustrophobia, and his long-take tracking shots, which bring us into The Shape’s perspective, are powerfully potent; however, his film could’ve benefited more from Myers hulking shadow imposed on the three central protagonists, as opposed to the innocent and unsuspecting citizens of Haddonfield.
The biggest downside here is a sub-plot involving Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who has taken over for Dr. Loomis after his death and has observed Myers for 30 years. His character arc plays a bit wonky, but he also throws in a much needed element of surprise. It’s delivered as though it comes out of left field, but it does make sense the more you think about it — it’s just a matter of how well it works for you.
Tonally, it’s a bit uneven, with comedic rants on topics like peanut butter and jelly banh mi sandwiches wedged in between the slaughter, but it totally embraces the silliness of the slasher genre. These moments of silly dialogue don’t always land, but they do give sharp contrast to Myer’s brutal butchering, most of which are tense, visually penetrating, and much more gory than was expected. Outside of the Strode women (who serve as final girls), the rest of Haddonfield’s characters are two-dimensional throwaways that mildly amuse before being sacrificed at the alter of slasher cinema.
Overall, the film gave me exactly what I was hoping for and even tucked in a few surprises as well. From the throwback title card font to the sometimes clever scene parallels and the updated (and somehow more menacing) score, the 40 year gap between films is bridged almost seamlessly. Green and company champion everything that make the original so great, while adding their own flavor to the mix.
It hasn’t felt quite like Halloween in a long time. Welcome home, Michael!
Rating: 4 human teeth outta 5.
What did you think? Did David Gordon Green and Danny McBride do Carpenter justice? Is it just another shoddy sequel? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well