Halloween Review: Average, but worth a watch
A film superior to the bad films made through the years, but, not even close to Carpenter’s 1978 original that forever changed the quintessentially American trick-or-treating holiday
Going by today’s heightened standards of violence and gore in filmmaking, the original Halloween of 1978 would fail to make much of an impact on a desensitised viewer. But that would be an unfair expectation for a film that set the bar for a slew of slasher flicks/franchises to come. And truth be told, the original was the best the new genre had to offer then. I’m convinced of the shock it must have elicited amongst audiences in the late 70s. Besides, there’s nothing like a bit of originality, is there?
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle
I watched Halloween as a teenager in the early 2000s, and revisited it recently in preparation for the eleventh film of the series. And though John Carpenter’s cult classic did not make as much of an impression on me as I’d expected, there were certain aspects of the first film that were much ahead of its time. The first-person perspective of the killer/Michael Myers as he stalks his victims, for starters. The film’s haunting theme is one of those pieces of music that has always remained with me, and the associations it makes will forever be intertwined with a deranged psychopath wreaking havoc on the lives of unsuspecting suburban teenagers. Carpenter has gone on record stating that the score was heavily inspired by the music of The Exorcist (1973) and Suspiria (1977). And just as Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells takes us back, even against our better judgement, to that freezing bedroom of the possessed Regan MacNeil, Carpenter’s theme succeeds in putting us in the shoes of his mentally unstable serial killer.
Nine films followed the 1978 original, only to give audiences this direct sequel four decades on. It begins with two English podcasters in search of answers to the 1978 massacre in Haddonfield. They travel to the mental health facility where Myers has been incarcerated for 40 years. They meet with his current psychiatrist, Dr Ranbir Sartain (the old faithful, Dr Samuel Loomis, having passed on), to get a sense of where things stand. The doctor informs them that he hasn’t spoken a word in all these years. The two podcasters are taken to an open-air concrete plot that houses the most dangerous inmates of the sanatorium. In spite of urging him to engage, he gives them nothing to document.
The next stop is Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) house. After the traumatic events of 1978, Laurie suffers from severe PTSD. She is more or less estranged from her daughter, but is rather attached to her teenage grandchild. Her home is a mini-fortress, equipped with multiple cameras and weapons in the event of her tormentor’s imminent return. Laurie is convinced that Michael will make another attempt on her life, and believes she is ready for him this time. After the podcasters are sent packing without adequate information, it is learned that a bus carrying inmates from the sanatorium has met with an accident on the highway – and Michael Myers is back on the loose.
One aspect both the original and this direct sequel have in common is the pacing. The only difference is that Halloween (2018) is a bit too long for it to work well. The music isn’t utilised as effectively as Carpenter’s film, either. The theme does make an appearance as Michael slips back into his pattern of Halloween night butchery, but the absence of the killer’s perspective set to music (which I really believe they should not have done away with) ruins some of the more important scenes.
The opening sequences are quite unrealistic too. That two unknown podcasters could get access to a notorious serial killer so easily, let alone be allowed to incite the patient for a reaction, is quite simply absurd. The only telling scene of violence is a shot that is so abrupt (with no music) that it creeps up on you without fair warning. The middle-aged Laurie Strode comes off as too much of a badass for someone with severe PTSD. Besides, Michael Myers, who would now be 61, possesses the same superhuman strength he did four decades ago. Please don’t tell me he’s become another Jason Voorhees (from the God-awful Friday the 13th series)! Though Halloween (2018) may be worth a watch, being superior to those bad films made through the years, it certainly does not compare to Carpenter’s 1978 original that forever changed the quintessentially American trick-or-treating holiday.