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With: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Sophia Miller, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu, P. J. Soles, Brien Gregorie, Vince Mattis, Omar Dorsey
Written by: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, based on a screenplay by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Directed by: David Gordon Green
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
Running Time: 106
Date: 10/19/2018

Halloween (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Live Myers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director David Gordon Green has one of the most fascinating and uneven careers in film right now, coming off one of the best debuts of the last two decades, George Washington, wandering in nearly every direction, occasionally failing spectacularly, but always worth watching. Up to now, he has never made a horror film, and not much in his existing filmography would indicate an interest in it. Often, when established filmmakers turn to horror, they tend to dress it up a bit, so as not to appear to be sinking into such a low, disreputable genre. (Luca Guadagnino did this with his Suspiria remake.) But Green dives right into the new Halloween with an enthusiastic and exciting fervor; it's the best film since the original in this long running series.

Green's Halloween is the eleventh film in the series, and the third to sport the plain-and-simple title; it's probably the new movie's most irksome quality. Couldn't they have come up with something clever, like Halloween H20 did in 1998? In any case, this one takes place 40 years, exactly, after John Carpenter's masterpiece Halloween (1978). As many other films in this constantly-shifting series has done, it completely erases everything that came before it, even, seemingly, the events of Halloween II (1981), which picked up immediately from where the first movie off. This is a direct sequel to the original film.

After the horrors of that night, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has led a tense, angry, paranoid life. (It's a wonder she hasn't had a heart attack.) In her deep-woods fortress, she has stockpiled an arsenal, rooms wired with traps, and a panic room. She also raised a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), whom she tortured and alienated with childhood lessons of self-defense. Now Karen has raised her own family in Haddonfield, and her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), and wants nothing to do with her mother, even though Allyson wishes to develop a relationship with her grandmother.

Meanwhile, Michael Myers has been locked up in the same facility for this entire time, and has never spoken, even though Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has devoted his career tending to him. (Sartain has also studied the work of Donald Pleasence's Dr. Loomis.) On Halloween night — and this is my favorite part — Michael is scheduled to be transferred to a new facility! This silly plot idea was already used in Halloween 4. Don't these people learn? Of course, this leads to an escape and a new killing spree. Laurie prepares for the worst, as does officer Hawkins (Will Patton), who was also there on that night in 1978 (although this is Patton's first Halloween movie).

The supporting characters here are nicely subtle and fascinating. Allyson has a best friend, Vicky (Virginia Gardner), who has a unique, lovable relationship with a little boy she regularly babysits; he's wise, and they tease each other in a lovely, funny way. Vicky has a sweet, goofy boyfriend, Dave (Miles Robbins), who wonders if the Myers killings aren't quite as bad as, say, a lot of the other things going on in the world in 2018. Then, two English true-crime podcasters (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) show up in Haddonfield to try to prod Michael into speaking and to prod Laurie into an interview. Some of these are typical horror characters, but Green and his co-writers flesh them out in more ways than usual.

Green chooses a widescreen format similar to Carpenter's, which allows him to match up the occasional flashback. But his style is completely different. The picture is grainier, a little less colorful. (Carpenter's movie emphasized the autumn oranges and browns.) Green moves in closer to faces, establishing a stronger sense of dread; there are fewer moments of quiet and peace in this one. Thankfully, Green also adopts longer tracking shots, similar to Carpenter's, but with a fresh vigor; Green brings his own style of movement to it. Though he's almost always been a supernatural figure, Myers in this one moves with spatial logic; he never jumps up behind someone if he's just been in front of them. With this approach, Green manages many nail-biting sequences; we never get any spine-tingles, but we hold our breaths more than once.

Carpenter is here in more than spirit. Not only does Green echo some of the famous shots from the first film, but Carpenter showed up to compose a new, creepy score for this film, based on his original classic score, but with new elements contributed by Daniel A. Davies and his son Cody Carpenter. The music perfectly accompanies the mood of a Halloween night, both fun and terrifying. The movie's biggest flaw is that the main characters, while effectively fleshed out during the first two-thirds, are rushed into a kind of neat conclusion by the final third; their complex rivalries and conflicts are too easily solved. (Weirdly, occasional Green collaborator Danny McBride co-wrote the screenplay and some of his redneck humor pops out in certain scenes; it's an odd touch.)

All in all, I was very happy with this Halloween. (I missed the press screening while I was out of town, and ended up being a paying customer.) Admittedly, nothing can ever equal the original, and the way it sprang upon an unsuspecting public, but this one uses intelligence and intuition to brush aside most of the nonsense that have plagued all the other sequels and remakes (especially Rob Zombie's ugly, misguided entries). I love this series, and I even have special places in my heart for the dumb ones, but I'm pleased as blood-colored punch that there's finally a really good one. I look forward to many more October viewings.

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