SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE NEW FILM HALLOWEEN
John Carpenter’s original Halloween is one of the most esteemed and sacred horror films of all time.
The resulting franchise, though it has had its ups and downs, is a cornerstone of what we think of as modern horror. Regardless of how individuals may perceive the 1981 sequel, the unrelated Season of the Witch, the so-called “Thorn Trilogy”, the later sequels, or the Rob Zombie versions…
Damn. That was so much different stuff I forgot what my point was.
Anyway, horror fans love different parts of the franchise for different reasons and some of us can even find reasons to love all of the films (except Resurrection).
It took some balls for Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jason Blum to think they could just step into this beloved horror franchise and change 37 years of history that quite frankly didn’t make a whole lot of sense, anyway. But it still took balls.
Balls, and Jamie Lee Curtis. And John Carpenter himself, who, along with his son Cody and Daniel Davies provided a powerful score.
As I’ve said many times, I don’t have any issues with the idea of sequels, reboots, remakes, or re-interpretations. I’m always a big fan of new ways of looking at things I love. Sure – sometimes it ends up badly, but I don’t think revisiting familiar concepts is inherently bad.
I’m not gonna lie – I had reservations about the progenitors of the modern day white buffoon taking the reins of this franchise. While I saw great promise in Green from Pineapple Express, it’s always a sketchy proposition to see comics moving into the genre. Just because Jordan Peele was successful doesn’t mean everyone will be.
Having said that, everything I saw about Halloween leading up to its release looked not only interesting, but tonally spot-on. When I walked into that theater with our pals Ryan Cadaver and Nicole Ghouled, it was with minimum reservations.
Did the film deliver? Read on.
1 – She’s Still Got It – First and foremost Jamie Lee Curtis is a superstar BAAAAAADAAASSSSSSSS. I thought everyone in Halloween was great, but Curtis held it all together with her weary-but-indomitable Laurie Strode.
She plays Laurie as a person who’s constantly on the verge of either turning into solid steel or bursting into tears. This is the finest performance of her career and one of the best I’ve seen this year. There wasn’t a moment of “acting”; at no point did I have the opportunity to see Jamie Lee Curtis – her passion and depth left nothing but Laurie Strode’s raw trauma on the screen at all times.
Note – Jamie Lee Curtis looked much more credible fighting Michael Myers than Busta Rhymes did.
2 – They Got It – The filmmakers nailed not only the tone of the original film, but the look. The Halloween sequels rarely evoke Carpenter’s style, but this one felt crisp and tight, with few – if any – wasted moments of screen time. Everything felt like it meant something and there was very little self-indulgence.
The Carpenter/Carpenter/Davies score is excellent. Parts of it update and recreate the original, while new pieces make me glad I preordered the album. It’s all going in my permanent Halloween playlist.
3 – Jokey-Joke Restraint – I was very concerned by a survey I received prior to seeing Halloween that asked me how I felt about the creators injecting “a new kind of dark humor” into the franchise. That sounded like exactly the kind of thing I did not want.
One of my biggest problems lately has been the inappropriate use of humor in movies I want to love. Dick jokes, fart jokes, and vulgarity for its own sake have their place, but when they end up in certain films it can make the director seem tone deaf and undermine the dramatic arc of the story. It offends the heck out of me when a serious moment is undercut by a one-liner.
All of that is stuff I was concerned about prior to seeing this movie.
I needn’t have worried. There is humor, but it comes from the characters and is very natural (much like the 1978 original). In a couple of instances it is used as a relief for the tension the filmmakers have created, which is exactly how humor should be utilized in horror.
4 – The Wind-Up – Speaking of tension, this movie will have you slowly edging up to the very end of your seat before making you either jump out of it or slump back.
There are many moments where the filmmakers string the audience along, skillfully playing with expectations of timing and action. They know their horror and they understand how it works. In particular the climax of the movie where Laurie stalks the Shape – a wonderful inversion – left the three of us breathless.
5 – The New Loomis – Early on we are introduced to new character Dr. Ranbir Sartain, played by Haluk Bilginer. He is very obviously the new Dr. Loomis, to the point where later in the movie Jamie Lee Curtis gets a hilariously meta line referencing the fact. It’s quick and it’s subtle, similar to Don Cheadle’s introduction in Iron Man 2.
The diabolically named Dr. Sartain is no simple stand-in, however, and plays a very catalytic role in the film. From the start he seems a bit off in how enthusiastically he allows a pair of podcasters to interact with the imprisoned Michael Myers. By the end of the film, his role has become absolutely shocking and, I have to say, amazing.
I kid you not – I kind of thought at one point that Michael was dead and that this guy was just going to wear the mask for the rest of the movie. Of course, that didn’t happen and what did was very satisfying.
I loved a lot of things about this Halloween. Pretty much everything, in fact. But what the filmmakers did with this character might be my favorite.
6 – Podcasters Are Stupid – The movie opens with a couple of British people – dare I say obnoxiously British? – showing up at Smith’s Grove to attempt to interview Michael Myers on the 40th anniversary of “The Babysitter Murders” (a nice nod to one of the original titles for the 1978 film). All of the pieces are in place for them to seem like important parts of the movie:
They are the first characters we see.
They know pretty much everything about Michael and Laurie in-universe, making them both an experienced audience’s touchstones and a new audience’s historians.
They have Michael’s mask – from a “friend” in the Attorney General’s office.
They are the narrative connecting thread between Michael, Laurie, and Dr. Sartain.
One of the things that makes them seem so important also means their doom, because we know Michael gets his mask back. And boy, does he. Sorry about your damn luck, podcasters. SHAPE SMASH.
7 – BRUTALITY – One of the things I admired about Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers was his almost animalistic brutality. This version is more refined, but the kills are just as impactful. Perhaps more so because they seem in a way to be more calculated than Zombie’s monster.
Many of the kills elicited vocal reactions from the nearly-full theater we saw it in, including one that had yours truly leaning up out of my chair and yelling “SHIT”.
Michael’s actions could be a bit of an amalgamation of all of the past versions – there is some truly disturbing gore, but not what I would consider “splatter”. He’s vicious, but precise. And in many instances we see the same disturbed mind that hid bodies to be found later and created “displays” with his victims. This was a welcome callback to the original.
8 – Laurie Stalks The Shape – I mentioned the inversion of circumstance above; where Laurie is hunting Michael at the end of the movie. One of the key themes of this new sequel is the relationship of predators and their prey. Dr. Sartain even suggests at one point that Michael’s need to terminate Laurie and her continued existence is what keeps bringing him back (it is essentially acknowledged in this film that Michael was, indeed, killed by Loomis – they didn’t attempt to offer up some explanation of how he survived to make him seem mortal or “more grounded”).
Not only did we get a fantastic, high-tension sequence of Laurie searching her survivalist bunker/home, once the two face off there is a hugely satisfying callback to the original film – our tough-as-nails heroine goes toe-to-toe with The Shape and gets tossed out of a window to the ground below.
When Michael looks down after being distracted by something else, SHE’S GONE. Just like he was at the end of the 1978 film. The audience we were with popped HUGE for this moment.
9 – Family Stuff – Obviously we needed something to care about other than Laurie and Michael’s eternal seething hatred for one another.
Since Danielle Harris was busy filming like three other movies, Laurie Strode’s daughter, Karen was played by Judy Greer. While Greer doesn’t really have much to do other than resent her seemingly bonkers mother, Andi Matichak is compelling as Allyson Strode, Laurie’s granddaughter and the “Laurie” of this film. She’s smart, witty, and loves her grandmother, who she calls “Grandmother”, which seems oddly formal and weird but also seems right for this film.
Honorable Mention goes to Toby Huss for playing Ray, Karen’s husband and Allyson’s father. He switches between charming, clueless, and hilarious with ease.
Kudos to the filmmakers for not creating some convoluted family situation that would have detracted from the rest of the plot. Karen, Ray, and Allyson are just a regular family. I mean, aside from Grandmother.
Note – I am sure Danielle Harris was not actually a consideration, if for no other reasons than she simply doesn’t have the right look to play a teenager’s mother and because these guys aren’t touching the Thorn Trilogy.
10 – OH! It’s That Guy! – Will Patton plays Frank Hawkins, the character that stopped Dr. Loomis from shooting Michael Myers in the original film. This is more than just a fan service callback, though. Patton is genuinely endearing and Hawkins has had the opportunity to regret his action, something he is determined to correct in this movie.
Patton and Jamie Lee Curtis have excellent chemistry and I would have loved to see more of them together. I enjoyed the fact that we didn’t have to endure the typical “Leave this to the professionals, miss” horseshit that pretty much every other movie would have set up. Instead, Hawkins recognizes the situation and treats Laurie as part of the team needed to eliminate the menace that is Michael Myers.
11 – A Dire Threat, Indeed – Once Michael gets going, there’s very little pussyfooting around. Everyone treats him as a massive threat. This is classic wrestling psychology – treat your heel as a threat and the audience will see them as one. Even though we’re already terrified of Michael thanks to our existing knowledge of him and the acts we’re witnessing, seeing the characters in this world acknowledge the danger he represents elevates him beyond just being a guy with a knife.
12 – “Aw Man, I Got Peanut Butter On My Penis” – Misheard line of the century. You’ll know it when you hear it. Because that’s exactly what it sounds like.
13 – The One That Got Away – SONOFABITCH. I just realized that Cameron – Allyson’s asshole boyfriend – disappears halfway through the movie and, as a result, survives.
If anyone in this film deserved to have their head stepped on, it was Cameron.
Note – Cameron is the son of Lonnie from the 1978 film.
14 – Oscar Worthy – There is satisfaction to be had from the fact that the runner-up for Haddonfield Douche of the Year, Cameron’s friend Oscar, meets a truly grisly end. One of the best in the movie, as a matter of fact.
If you haven’t seen the movie, Cameron is the guy from the most recent trailer. The one whose head you wanted to see impaled on a fence the second you laid eyes on him. You know who I’m talking about.
15 – Well, Isn’t That Convenient – Somehow Michael ends up at the house where Allyson’s friend, Vicky is babysitting. He is in the midst of a very random Halloween killing spree, so it’s pretty convenient that he happens to hit this house.
I am fine with this extremely contrived set of circumstances for two reasons.
1 – It results in a memorable sequence full of tension and fun characters.
2 – If not for this scene, we wouldn’t meet Julian, who is awesome. Played by Jibrail Nantambu, Julian is one of this modern crop of Precocious Children Who Manage To Not Be Annoying. Much like Harley Keener and Lyanna Mormont, this kid pulls off being funny and likeable, something characters under 15 or so could never do back in the 80s.
16 – Thorn Cult – At two points in this film I was certain the Thorn Cult was going to rear its Illuminatic head – first when Dr. Sartain reveals his true motives, then at the end when a stereotypical shadowy old truck shows up to rescue the survivors.
Intellectually I knew there was no way McBride and Green were going to dip into such a controversial part of the Halloween mythology, but at the same time if they found a way to tell that story in an interesting way, why not?
I’m sure it’s for the best if we never see that particular faction of the horror genre again. Maybe.
17 – Happy, Happy Halloween – You probably saw them in the trailers, but I thought it was awesome that they put the Silver Shamrock masks from Season of the Witch in the movie. Because obviously that has to be the follow-up to this one.
HEAR ME OUT.
Badass Ultimate Laurie Strode has escaped with her daughter and granddaughter. After hearing from Allyson about Dr. Sartain’s insane plan, she wants to dig a little deeper into the guy’s background to make sure the threat to her family is truly over.
In doing so, she uncovers his connection to
GET READY FOR IT
THE SILVER SHAMROCK TOY COMPANY. WHO ARE PLANNING TO USE PIECES OF STONEHENGE TO TURN CHILDREN’S HEADS INTO PORTALS TO A DIMENSION OF PURE EVIL.
The same kind of pure evil that caused Michael Myers in the first place.
And now, the only people that can stop them are Laurie, Karen, Allyson, and Laurie’s doctor ex-husband TOM MOTHERFUCKING ATKINS.
Also, Silver Shamrock is run by the Thorn Cult.
Be sure to join the conversation in the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group!