A new Halloween movie is finally upon us, and it was well worth the nine-year wait, as director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley have delivered one of the best horror sequels ever made, in a timely story of unresolved trauma and the return of The Bogeyman.
I’ve watched Halloween 2018 three times as of this writing, and I enjoyed it more with each viewing, and so after a few weeks of thinking about it, it’s time to dive in to my full review. In this case, the following does contain quite a few spoilers, because, honestly, you’ve had almost a month to see the film. (If you’re reading this for my recommendation as to whether you should see the film, just know that I highly recommend you go see it right now. …And then come back here and read the following review).
Let’s start with the score, the most visceral link between this new film and director/composer John Carpenter’s 1978 original Halloween. Carpenter’s new score for the 2018 film not only brings updated versions of the classic themes we all know and love, but also channels all of the best parts of other classic Carpenter soundtracks. By the time Daniel Davies’ electric guitar first screams in the film, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
The first thing we hear over the studio logos is a dark, intensely foreboding intro. The revisited themes are all familiar but now have a new, relentlessly driving urgency, hurtling viewers toward an epic, inevitable climax.
My favorite track from the 2018 soundtrack, “Prison Montage” creates an atmosphere of complete dread for what’s about to happen, while on screen shots of Michael boarding the bus transporting the patients of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium are intercut with Laurie Strode seeing The Shape for presumably the first time in 40 years from a distance. And there’s the haunting voice of Dr. Loomis (voiced by Colin Mahan), not the voice of Donald Pleasence that we remember, but a more weary and hollow, distorted recording of the Loomis we once knew, absolutely resigned to the fact that “It has to die.”
From the opening credits to Laurie Strode’s eventual reunion with Michael Myers, the film does an amazing job of subverting our horror-ingrained Halloween-obsessed expectations while at the same time paying significant homage to the very tropes that the original Halloween created 40 years ago.
And how can fans not love all of the Easter eggs, so many loving references to the entire Halloween franchise?
P.J. Soles, who starred in Halloween ’78 as Lynda, has a classy off screen cameo as the voice of young Allyson Strode’s unseen high school teacher, and the devil costume worn by Oscar, played by Drew Scheid, is a callback to the she-devil costume memorably worn by Samantha, played by Tamara Glynn, in Halloween 5.
And Laurie Strode’s bedroom, where much of the finale takes place, is itself an exact recreation of the Doyle house bedroom where the first film ends.
We knew from the trailers that the Silver Shamrock masks from Halloween III would make an appearance, and it was indeed amazingly surreal to see, this being the first time that Season of the Witch has been acknowledged in any way since “Mrs. Blankenship” was featured in 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers (Curse writer Daniel Farrands told me that “Mrs Blakenship” is “Minnie Blankenship” in this interview).
And of course Allyson’s asshole boyfriend Cameron Elam, played by Dylan Arnold, is the son of longtime Haddonfield asshole Lonnie Elam, who bullied poor Tommy Doyle in the first film and was last seen getting scared away from the Myers House by Dr. Loomis.
Those are just a few of the many shout-outs to past Halloween movies that are featured all throughout Halloween 2018, which only enhance the film’s re-watchability.
And speaking of doctors, let’s talk about Dr. Sartain, played by Haluk Bilginer, who we told you would be a new Loomis-like character following Nick Castle’s Q&A in February. I’d still say that Laurie is really the “new Loomis”, but Sartain serves as sort of an abbreviated, extreme version of what these new filmmakers see as likely happening to Dr. Loomis, at least to some level. Loomis was admittedly obsessed with Michael after just 15 years with him, and Sartain is certainly obsessed with him after (presumably) close to 40 years with him.
And while Sartain’s twist is definitely the biggest WTF moment of the film, even that in itself is a bit of an Easter egg too, isn’t it? Halloween is easily the crown jewel of all modern horror franchises, but it has a long history of WTF moments throughout the last four decades, some that have been eventually embraced over the years (Halloween III), and others not so much (The Man in Black), but Sartain’s WTF moment is not really that huge when compared to all of the others. And you have to admit, you did not see that coming. (We were all expecting Ben Tramer Version 2.0, right?)
On repeat viewings, you’ll notice more of how Sartain allows, almost urges, journalists Aaron and Dana to provoke his most notorious patient, and on the eve of his transfer to a new facility where the doctor does not want to think about Michael being. And there’s the odd coincidence that the transfer takes place on the night before Halloween. And you will rightly wonder just how much of what transpires next was part of Sartain’s plans all along.
This is my favorite portrayal of the Laurie Strode character ever put on screen. In a career-defining performance that more than anything honors the legacy of one of the greatest survivors in movie history, Jamie Lee Curtis has never been better. This is a heartbreaking portrait of a woman who has never fully developed into a whole person because of the horrific events that happened to her on Halloween night in 1978. And when it starts happening again, 40 years later, her worst fears, and at the same time a chance at rewriting her own narrative’s ending, are realized.
As Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson, Andi Matichak is very much the modern version of what Laurie was in 1978, instantly likable in her everyday manner, understandably questionable of both sides of her mother and grandmother’s strained relationship, looking beyond the today that her friends live in to try to find her place in a larger picture, very much on the verge of adulthood.
And The Shape? James Jude Courtney’s portrayal does exactly what he told me he did (read our interview here), channeling the space created by Nick Castle in 1978, inhabited by Dick Warlock in 1981 and all the other actors since, to tap into the essence of the simple, focused, violent existence, rather than humanity, of Michael Myers. It’s all there, from the head tilt to the walk, and when fused with Nick Castle’s recorded breathing and cameos behind the mask, it makes for a damn perfect portrayal of The Shape.
Michael has never been deadlier, creatively brutal enough to evoke memories of Rob Zombie-directed kills, and yet silently cunning, the trickster that creatively displayed the dead bodies of Laurie’s friends for her to find in 1978, who enjoys terrorizing his victims as much if not more than actually murdering them. And he’s back to being a random source of tragedy, the kind of tragedy that we see hitting random people every day on the nightly news in real life in 2018.
The subtle yet ever-present social commentary threaded throughout the film is another tribute to Carpenter, but also a testament to the decades old truth that horror always reflects the current fears of the audience.
The new mask, an aged update on the original, created by a team led by Christopher Nelson (read our interview here), Vincent Van Dyke, and Justin Mabry, is haunting, soulful, and creepy as hell.
Over the years, I’m sure the biggest criticism about this film will be that it is essentially a remake of Halloween H20 , which it is, though I’d say it is much more a third version of Halloween II, and in a franchise that has already done this disregarding of previous chapters, it’s yet another choose-your-own-adventure option to take following the first film. No matter where you place it in official canon, it’s undeniable that Halloween 2018 is one of the best sequels in the franchise, and I’d say one of the best sequels, period.
A totally entertaining tribute that honors 40 years of Halloween, Michael Myers is back, and Haddonfield has never felt more like home.
Halloween 2018 is currently in theaters.
I think the new film will ignore everything after Part 1. Laurie is the new Loomis, claiming for 40 years He’s coming back. Then He does.
— Halloween Daily News (@HalloweenDaily) September 17, 2017
For more Halloween news, follow @HalloweenDaily.