I just got back from seeing David Gordon Green’s Halloween. While the cinematic ink was still fresh on my psyche I felt the urge to sit down and write my thoughts. No spoilers, just so you know. – J. Hubner
Much like buying an old home with a colorful history and a lived-in feel, David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride took over the keys to John Carpenter’s much loved Halloween. The 1978 film that not only legitimized a whole new genre of horror film that up to that point had only had its surface scratched, but Carpenter also showed what an independent film could truly do at the cinema.
Now, like buying a new home with lots of history, Green and McBride went into that house of horror that is Halloween and gutted it from ceiling to foundation and brought it back to its humble beginnings. Like pulling up decades upon decades of flooring; from faded carpet to yellowed vinyl to wood laminant down to the home’s original, beautiful natural wood boards. Stripped of years of fads, convoluted styles, and awkward decisions, the floors have been sanded, re-varnished, and given new life to breathe and show that sometimes simpler is better.
The synopsis is pretty simple: Michael Myers, after being in the same prison for 40 years, is being transferred to a new facility to spend his remaining days. He hasn’t spoken a single word the entire time of his captivity, though his new doctor says he can speak, he just chooses not to. His current doc worked under Michael’s first psychologist, Dr. Loomis. He took over for him when he passed away.
The glimpses we see of Michael Myers are somehow far more frightening since we see him as nothing but an aging man with a balding, gray head and a graying beard. You only see the back of him, shackled to a slab of concrete getting fresh air at the prison. But having him as this tall, nondescript figure makes him far more scary than all the years of the hulking, giant behemoth he was portrayed as. He could be the guy at the store eyeing apples, or the guy that’s changing your oil at the garage.
Now, Laurie Strode. Laurie has been living the last 40 years preparing for Michael’s return so she can finish what was started in Haddonfield on that fateful Halloween night. She lives in a home made to be a fortress; a house transformed into a weapon. She’s an expert marksman, can fight like nobody’s business, and even trained her daughter to fight as well. Living her life on the edge and in fear, Laurie sacrificed relationships, marriages, and even her daughter. She lost custody of her when she was only 12-years old.
Of course things go awry. Michael escapes, manages to get his mask back, and make his way to Haddonfield for a reunion 40 years to the day he first met Laurie Strode. This time, Laurie’s no 17-year old babysitter fighting for her life. This time, she’s ready for the Shape.
You’re asking yourself, should I really see this? If you ever loved John Carpenter’s Halloween then yes you should. Now, I’m not talking about the two decades of sequels, reboots, and Rob Zombie’s heavy-handed attempt at a remake. I’m talking about John Carpenter’s Halloween from 1978. If you loved Carpenter’s original then do yourself a favor and see Halloween 2018. It’s both a homage and a carefully-crafted continuation of the first film.
Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant as the emotionally-wounded Laurie Strode. There’s elements of PTSD and survivor guilt that run through her. You see her stoic and pissed, and you see her crumble in quiet moments. The filmmakers don’t turn her into some sort of super soldier or trained hitwoman. What they do is turn her into a survivor; someone that cares deeply for her daughter and granddaugther, but is willing to strain those relationships if it means keeping them alive. Curtis is absolutely amazing here.
Michael Myers is brought back down to our level here. He’s not the hulking bodybuilder of years past. Instead he’s the embodiment of pure evil in the form of a guy that looks like your uncle Frank. Or the dude working the cash register at the dime store. Without hesitation and without remorse he kills whatever is in front of him. There are some truly disturbing deaths in this film. They aren’t dwelled upon. They are matter-of-fact and precise. They are vicious. Motivation is not a question. Loomis knew what Michael Myers truly was, and in his own voice he states “The body must be burned.”
The last thing I will mention is the soundtrack. John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies work up a masterful score to accompany this next chapter in the Strode/Myers battle royale. They revisit familiar modes and motifs, but also give them a modern twist. Carpenter has been releasing new music with his son and Godson since 2015s Lost Themes, so it’s not a surprise that the score would be amazing. What is amazing is taking such an iconic theme and giving it new, invigorated life. This is an essential piece of film music for anyone who currently owns soundtracks to The Fog, Assault On Precinct 13, and Escape From New York; as well as the original Halloween score. In fact, it’s spinning right now.
David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, along with the rest of the crew that helped make this bloody love letter to a 40-year old indie flick, have succeeded with Halloween 2018. They’ve stripped away years of Michael Myers folklore, crazy plot twists, familial connections, and even supernatural storylines thrown at us in some decent(and some godawful) Halloween sequels. They haven’t given the fans a remake, but a continuation of the day he came home.
All the cinematic baggage has been lifted and we are left with a gritty, harrowing, and incredibly entertaining film that takes us back to the leaf-strewn streets of Haddonfield for one more look at Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is must for any horror fan.