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Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer in Halloween 2018. Image: Ryan Green - © Universal Pictures

Halloween review: 2018 reimagining carves out its own killer identity

27 October 2018 Daniel Pateman

As cyclical as the season itself, the latest Halloween movie has come home to stalk the multiplexes once more. Perhaps less expected is the fact that this eleventh entry in the series is as thoroughly gripping as it is, given the franchise’s seesawing level of quality. Channeling the relentless suspense of the first film in combination with the gore of its sequels, Halloween (2018) offers affectionate homage to the original while adding depth to its themes and characters, carving out its own identity.

Ryan Green - © Universal PicturesThis repurposed Halloween undertakes necessary but merciless fictional revisionism. It unburdens itself from the narrative baggage of the previous seven sequels, as well as Rob Zombie’s remake and follow-up in order to establish a more direct lineage with the original film. It acknowledges as much in its credits sequence, which unabashedly mirrors John Carpenter’s own with its glowering pumpkin and iconic orange “Halloween” typeface, depicting the reverse time-lapse of a decayed pumpkin to suggest a literal return to form.

Ryan Green - © Universal PicturesDirector David Gordon Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley have created a completely new filmic timeline, re-writing the history of events between the Halloween of 1978 and the opening sequence of Halloween 2018. We begin with a visit to a mute Michael Myers (aka The Shape), who has been incarcerated at Smith's Grove Sanitarium for forty years, where two journalists are attempting to glean his motive for the ‘Babysitter Murders’. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the sole survivor of that night, lives in isolation suffering from post-traumatic stress, fortifying her home and practicing her sharp-shooting skills. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) is now married with her own child, but is scarred by her mother’s obsessional neuroses about “the boogeyman”. Unsurprisingly, Michael escapes when he is transferred to a maximum security prison and returns to Haddonfield to cause bloody mayhem. But this time, Laurie is armed and waiting.

Ryan Green - © Universal PicturesHalloween (2018) uses the structure of the first film as a springboard to explore new ideas, echoing the original film but moving beyond simple imitation. For fans of the original, this proves a nostalgic treat. Moving at a brisk pace, the film maintains its suspense while simultaneously tipping its hat to iconic scenes. Driving through the woods at night, a boy laments missing dance class to go hunting with his father. On discovering the crashed sanitarium bus, its inmates wandering ghost-like over the road, his dad leaves his son alone to look for help. Wringing tension from material so familiar to the genre is quite a feat, but this taut sequence raises a few fresh yelps despite echoing moments from the original film, in particular Michael’s escape from the sanatorium, his theft of Dr. Loomis’s car and the death of Nancy Kyes’ character.

Playing Laurie as an extension of her overprotective, alcoholic character in Halloween: H20, Jamie Lee Curtis is headstrong and utterly resolute here. But she also brings an unexpected levity to certain scenes: breaking into her daughter’s house to highlight her woeful home security or spying on her granddaughter at school. The latter example shows not only her overzealous familial concern but also her development as a character. While the original film has Laurie being watched and terrorised by Michael, she takes his place in these reconstituted shots. Having regained her agency, she becomes the hunter while he is now the hunted. This is later reiterated when, in a tussle with Michael, Laurie tumbles from the balcony. When we look over the railing, she has already vanished, mirroring Michael’s escape at the end of Halloween. Laurie is shown to have become single-minded in her murderous resolve, just like Michael.

Halloween (2018) manages to be suspenseful, entertaining, and unexpectedly creepy. In severing itself from the Michael Myers mythology, so heavily built up over the series’ many sequels and re-imaginings, his ‘otherness’ and lack of humanity are reinstated. Here he embodies a diffuse sense of life’s random horrors; moving like an automaton through suburban streets and violently dispatching people without reason. Particularly in its final shot, which we won’t reveal here, the film posits that evil might be a sort of contagion passed on through trauma. If this is true, then expect to see Michael back in cinemas, in one form or another, very soon.
 
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