‘Halloween’ (2018): back to the basics

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more. 

By Brandon Semler

“Halloween” (2018) wisely reverts to much of the subtlety and tension-building of the original, and serves as a perfectly competent and enjoyable slasher (with plenty of callbacks).  Plus, we get to see a ready-to-fight Laurie Strode wielding a shotgun like Rambo.

Did we need the film? Probably not. But it’s the best installment since Carpenter’s original masterpiece, which you can read my thoughts on here

The film revolves around Laurie, who maintains a rocky relationship with family due to her trauma and obsession around the events that took place 40 years ago. Michael Myers — triggered by some dramatic podcasters who took his mask — escapes while being transported, and stopping him becomes a family affair for the Strodes.

Director David Gordon Green is probably the best director the franchise has sported since Carpenter. When the humor doesn’t completely trip up the momentum (we’ll get to that), Green manages some truly tense and gritty sequences, namely a scene that takes place in a gas station bathroom (another reminder not to No. 2 in a public space), and the long, inevitable finale.

Some of Green’s tricks behind the camera really pay off. He pulls a stunning tracking shot in the middle of the film as Michael begins his neighborly trick-or-treating that shadows him from one violent escapade to another. The camera’s general handling of Michael is careful and mysterious throughout. Green’s notable shift in momentum in the finale is also a highlight* in the franchise’s long history.

While much of the horror was handled with precision, the humor killed off too much of the scary. While the funny scenes are objectively funny, they stomp out the tension in several scenes, and remind the audience they are in a popcorn movie, not walking the streets of Haddonfield. Blumhouse Productions is known for humor in their horror (“Get Out,” “Happy Death Day”), but in this context, dread is a better fit.

Jamie Lee Curtis delivers an effective performance as Laurie, now defined by paranoia and a whole lot of kickass. The film was well-acted from top to bottom with a notable performance from newcomer Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson.

As enjoyable as the film was, its score is its strongest asset. John Carpenter returned to kick out the jams, delivering familiar themes, biting synths and chilling piano. It can be enjoyed with or without the film.

“Halloween” (2018) is best served with a popcorn and a crowd. Status: Recommend for Fans (of slasher films, horror and fans of the “Halloween” franchise)

Spoiler notes

* Green’s decision to make Laurie “the hunter” in the final scene was brilliant. Beginning with the glorious callback of her lying still on the ground, then vanishing in the next shot, Green completely turns the tables on Michael as the Strodes gain the upper hand. They stab and shoot Michael, and eventually trap him, setting fire to the house. The three women — forever affected by his evil — look down at the trapped killer as the house burns around them, and I left the theater with some pep in my step.

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

 

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