Halloween (2018) A SPOILER FREE Review (for a change)
a guest review by Spencer Hackett
If you’d have told me I’d have been excited to see a new Halloween film a few years ago I’d have called you a liar. If you told me I’d be really excited about a new Halloween film made by the guys that made Pineapple Express, I’d probably have discounted anything you ever said or would say. But that’s exactly what has happened. So eagerly I got to the cinema as soon as I could to watch David Gordon Green’s rebooted, sequel thing that annoyingly has just been called Halloween (side note, can this stop, it was bad enough with games like Doom and God Of War, I don’t need it in cinema’s aswell). I’d avoided trailers and most reviews, other than seeing that mostly people had liked it, making sure my enjoyment wasn’t spoiled in any way. Anyway, to cut to the chase, it’s good, pretty damn good in fact. I know for some people that’ll be enough, but for anyone who wants a proper review, keep reading. This time I promise that there won’t be spoilers other than some character names and the scantest of plot details that I’ll need to even vaguely write this, but nothing that you won’t find from just popping on IMDB for two seconds.
I’ll start off with the fact I love the original, but that love came slowly. It was one of my least favourite slashers to begin with, lacking the camp, gory fun of Friday the 13th or the sheer terror of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. However that’s changed and I’ve learned to love it and it’s now probably one of my favourite films ever. I quite liked 2 as well and 3, although that’s ones not relevant to this conversation. I also do like Rob Zombies original remake, even if it doesn’t strike me as the most in keeping with Halloween lore and the eerie creepiness of the original. I know defending that has probably just lost me some credibility, but stick with me. If you found Zombie’s film ruined the mystique of Myers then you’re in luck. This is Halloween as Carpenter-esque as you can get without the master behind the lens.
Without spoiling the plot at all, this is mainly because this film treats Myers as the boogeyman he was in the original, an unstoppable killing machine that just looks awesome, whether he’s imposingly stood over a victim or ominously loitering in the background of shots. This film nails that mix of terror and excitement the best slasher villains have, and it’s all the better for it. Myers is a lot more brutal here than the original, mainly due to the obvious increase in budget, but this isn’t a gore flick, and you’ll be disappointed if that’s what you’ve come for. Myers is still more effective as just being freakily evil and emotionless, like that original incarnation. Myers is played by two actors here, James Jude Courtney for the heavy lifting, and Nick Castle, one of the many original Myers actors from the first film (he’s the one that is in most of the original). Just giving a shout out to the mask design for this as well, it looks worn without looking tacky, and really does capture the sense of the original design.
Plot wise we have two scenarios playing out, Michael versus the occupants of Haddonfield, and Michael versus Laurie Strode, played by a returning Jamie Lee Curtis (who’s clearly loving being in this, she gives the performance of her career in my opinion). Both work in their own right, I just wish they married up better. For once a horror film has teenagers that A. are actually likeable, and B. Reminded me of actual teenagers, which is amazing. Also we get a fantastic performance from a kid (Jibrail Nantambu) who literally steals the film out from under everyone to be my favourite character in any film this year,. Put this kid in more films, he’s ace. But sometimes these scenes feel so isolated from Laurie’s story, the clear central narrative, that they feel almost perfunctory. I don’t think they hurt the film in anyway, and it really helps the pacing as it means you get a kill every few minutes, I just feel that at some point they had more weight. This may have something to do with the roughly half an hour cut out for pacing reasons. That being said what characters we do get are really interesting, Allyson played by newcomer Andi Matichak is great and I hope she gets the scream queen status Curits gained for the original. I just wish it all tied together more, but then I’d have little to complain about at all.
On the technical side the films very well done. Green has an eye for set pieces and how to shoot them, including a lovely extended steady cam shot that has really stuck in my mind. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds clearly loves flashing police lights, but overall does well to keep a very dark film clear, something that cant be said for some big budget films I’ve seen recently. Seriously if you want to shoot in the dark that’s fine, but just make sure we can actually see what’s going on. Fortunately we don’t have that issue here. What we do have are lots of nice homages to not only the original, but a lot of the sequels as well, which is a really nice touch for fans. I’m sure you already know that Carpenter returned to score this film, along with band mates Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies. It cannot be over stated how much this helps the film feel just like Halloween should. It was a joy to hear the iconic theme in an auditorium, along with many other familiar motifs. I rushed to order the soundtrack as soon as I got home from the screening, so that’s a sign that it’s ace.
Overall I think what we have here is a great, passionately made fan film. Don’t let that sound like a bad thing, this is a film made by fans of the original for fans of the original. I will advice anyone who wants to see this who hasn’t seen the original to watch it before hand. The new film makes little accommodation if you haven’t seen the original, and you’re just missing out anyway. But if you have seen it and were worried this was going to disappoint, don’t. It’s by no means perfect, I do think the film stumbles over its two plots, but my God does it pull them back together. I’ll end by saying that I’ve been disappointed by lots of horror film climax’s recently, that they feel like the worst part of the film. That’s not the case here, it’s one of the best horror finales I’ve seen in ages, for easily one of my favourite films of the year.