Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Review: Halloween 2018

CONTAINS SPOILERS- Full review after the third paragraph so, if you haven't seen the film and don't want details, stop reading! But... Myers' is back!

Fan Made Poster 
I got excited about this one, once I knew that John Carpenter had given his blessing. I got even more excited when it was revealed that the sequel followed on from the events of the first film and, as such, deleted the derivative sequels from existence (I exclude H20 and the third film which didn't even feature Myers but was still awesome- SILVER SHAMROCK!!!) My excitement reached fever pitch when the stunning reworking of the theme was released and the trailer which just promised so much. But and it's a massive one! I have been known in the past to rant about pointless reboots that don't so much add any originality but actually destroy it. The Evil Dead reworking was just awful and don't get me started on the waste of space that was Cabin Fever. So, how could a Halloween sequel keep to the beautiful and timeless quality of the original but still add to it? It's a tough gig and get it wrong you risk angering us fans who are now expecting a work of sheer horror genius. When you set the bar so impossibly high and reboot an entire series aren't you asking for trouble? Let's find out if Myers can still run with the big boys, in a day when jump scares are two a penny and after the gratuitous blood letting of the Saw films, isn't Myers going to feel a little pedestrian? As a dedicated fan of the original I will be hard to please and yet, and yet we could be in for a film that delivers much needed new blood.

Halloween has received largely positive reviews and although a couple of critics have taken issue with the reboot, accusing it of being little more than fan fiction (I have read some fantastic fan fiction but going with the negative tone of the review this was a lazy swipe) and complaining about the lack of character development with Laurie Strode (Lee Curtis). My hopes are high and yet I still harbour this nagging doubt that this is one film that will never deliver what it promises. I will say that I find it staggeringly insane that reviewers have accused the film of adding nothing new. The trailer reveals two massive innovative twists in that 1) Michael is no longer related to Laurie (blamed on Internet rumouring- clever!) and 2) Strode's character has been transformed from screamy baby sitter victim to a kick ass, PTSD driven whirling dervish bent on killing Myers. We have seen this before, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2? I am sick of critics pouring scorn over films when it is not warranted. So, fair warning, if Halloween delivers on its promises I am going to rip apart the negative opinions an expose them for the poorly written trash that they are. However, if it doesn't I am going to be one disillusioned Carpenter fan!

OK, so before I get into my own review I want to say a few things. When you review a film you are reviewing that film on it's own merits. Obviously, if it's part of a franchise, how it fits with whats gone before is a factor. But what you don't do is allow your own bias for or against  an original, previous film to colour what you review. This is what has happened with some reviews of Halloween and in a lot of cases those reviews have been unprofessional and unfair. I am a huge Carpenter and Halloween fan, yet I will not allow my love of his original work to colour how I review this. To malign another film makers work simply because you set the original film up on some sort of celluloid pedestal is insanity and, quite frankly, your comments mean less than nothing. You  embarrass yourself and you call into question the integrity of Creatives far more talented than yourself. Honest review, absolutely, drawing links and parallels, as it should be. But don't dare to slate someones film when it is not warranted and only because you guard the original with some sort of warped and obsessive fandom. Secondly, a word on Babysitters! When you take on the role of babysitting someone's children in a professional capacity you are not expected to  pass a course in how to defeat an insane, supernatural and unstoppable force, armed with a knife. You don't expect it and should you find yourself on the wrong end of The Shape's knife it is only going to end in one way. There is no "How to survive Myers when he comes a knocking at your door" In addition to this, teenagers are stupid (unfair possibly) and lack the world experience of adults because, guess what? THEY ARE TEENAGERS. Enough with the tedious bashing of babysitter stupidity and their inability to fend of Myers. I'd like to see you do better! Thirdly, when a film maker shows that someones phone has broken, run out of charge or has no signal it's not called lazy film making, it's called continuity. We live in an age where pretty much everyone has a phone. If access to them is not disposed of sensibly then the film wont last long! Quick text of distress or a call to the police and its game over. Critics that complain endlessly about the same phone disposing of techniques would also complain if they didn't have one at all or if they were gotten rid of in a more outlandish way. Halloween is a film who's existence is supported by the very creator of the original. For that reason alone it demands respect and an honest unbiased review. So here is mine!

From the pre title sequence Director, David Gordon Greene sets out his stall. This film is not a reboot it is intended to be the sequel that the 1978  original should have always had, It's 40 years since Halloween 1978 and Michael is about to be transferred, that would be 40 years to the day. It's not an accident and the film alludes to a plan to complete the prison move on this auspicious date and not a (rolling eyes) "when will they learn" sort of thing. What you think is going to happen does and off we go again! The title sequences are the same as the original film with Carpenter's amazing new reimagining of his original seminal score. Greene is not being subtle here and effectively wipes out the 9 sequels with one smashed pumpkin that then timelapses back to full shape. As if Greene is calling out the other films for ruining Myers and the Halloween franchise, this is how it should have gone! It's a powerful statement and brilliantly executed. Throughout the film there are loving homages to the original. From the beautiful wide shots to lingering atmospheric camera angles that add to the films powerful emotional punch. But don't be fooled into thinking this is just a loving fan fiction meander down stabby lane. It is so much more than that. Halloween is a sequel that has much to please Carpenter fans and  fans of the original but it also brilliantly stands alone. It is a great horror film in its own right! Within the opening few scenes I find myself grinning happily and also bemused as to why any reviewer would have found fault with this, especially a horror fan and most especially a Carpenter fan. Greene hasn't just copied the orginal he has added value and both Myers and Strode have moved on. More on that later.. I think that all too often reviewers can be accused of going to a film with pre concieved notions and this is worse if it is a sequel to a film they hold in high regard. Bad reviewing will show that nothing will please a die hard Carpenter fan if they do not hold The Horror Master's work with a little more of an open hand. There is so much originality on show here that I despute, loudly the assertion that it adds little to  the original.

Strode has been changed by the events 40 years previously and we see a lady who has been destroyed mentally and emotionally by Myers' actions. Lee Curtis plays her character as one who has allowed her family to be ripped apart as surely as Myers' knife victims. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has never been more accurately displayed and the pain of the emotional wounds are etched onto her face. Driven by an all consuming desire to destroy Myers when he escaped and preparations for this eventuality have been extensive and meticulous. We see no difference between victim and killer, indeed the lines arent so much blurred as merged. Strode's grandaughter (a fabulous  performance by Andi Matichak) is desperate to have any sort of relationship with Laurie and as she looks out of her classroom window (seated in the same place as her Grandmother 40 years ago) it is Laurie she sees  this time and not Myers'. This juxtoposition of roles is marked throughout the film as the weird and darkly twisted symbiotic relationship that exists between Myers and Strode is revealed. They share one purpose, one sole reason for living and that is to kill each other. Here, then is a horrific case study of how traumatic events can effect their victims to the point that their sustained pain cuts more deeply and wounds greater than any knife injury could. Strode has no relationship with her daughter, Allyson (Judi Greer) and whilst it becoming evident that the preparations for Myer's return were well conceived the damage that Strode's obsession has caused is tortuous.

Myers himself is not without scars and he has been aged well and believably, we catch a glimpse of scars both emotional and physical. He is treated as the literal Boogeyman but the years have lessened the power to shock and Haddonfield has gotten sloppy. Questions were raised as to whether Myer's can cut it  in this post Jigsaw and Hostel world. Whether what shocks back in 1978 would still be an effective horror vehicle now?  The answer is simply, it is! Myers is every bit as terrifying and potent as once he was, you could argue even more so. Myers is a legend and when he is let loose the panic and terror that follows in the wake of his orchestrated killings is palpable. Like most serial killers he does not kill randomly or indiscriminately but selects his victims in line with his M.O. He chooses to pass fancy dressed children and selects lone woman, but leaves alive the baby. The scary element is that we never know what motivates him to kill, we do not see through Myers' eyes and it is this ambiguity that chilled in the original, it still does! Myers' laboured and heavy breathing is added to as well and it is that of Strode's that joins with his in the final act. So Halloween is a film that adds to whats gone before and not just with furthering of events but with character arc and depth. Halloween is a sublime sequel, a phenomenal horror film but it is also a beautifully realised and shot movie.

Loomis is dead (Donald Pleasance) and his mantle has been passed to his student (Doctor  Sartain) If Loomis could be accused of not following the Hypocratic Oath then Sartain would be considered to have smashed it to pieces. Obsession can change and distort as surely as PTSD and Sartain doesn't want to just see into Myers' psyche he wants to become Myers. Sartain was almost certainly the orchestrator of Myers' escape and the events that follow have been expected, indeed, welcomed by him. This futile attempt to seek reason to Myers' actions can be only fuelled by professional vanity. He has witnessed first hand, Loomis' attempts to reach Myers' and yet he believes obsessively there is a way in. We also learn that Myers' stays silent out of choice and not because he cannot speak, adding another layer of power and control to Myers' mystique. Clearly the lines between victim and killer haven't just blurred for Strode and Myer's but also for the very Doctor, who was attempting to treat his killer patient.

Some reviewers have had issues with the "babysitter trope" within Halloween and I have challenged this insane thinking earlier in this article. Having now seen Vicky (a feisty performance by Virginia Gardner) I want to call this out for the rubbish that it is. Vicky is no victim and she isn't slow in protecting her babysitting charge either. She fights off Myers' as best she can but,, let's be honest, when you've been stabbed you are going to lose this one! In fact Vicky's role is far more effective and switched on especially when you compare to the "totally" slaughterable Linda from the original film. Nice sheet moment as Myers drapes a bed sheet over her corpse! Reviewers can be so desperate to jump on bandwagons (tropey tropish troping troperism) that they miss the cart all together and make idiots of themselves. When we review it is about the film not our outlandish and misguided ranting about the horror genre or life in general. Do your job or do something else loves!  Horror films are now far more gory and graphic and this has led to Halloween's blood flow being increased (from none in the original) But at no stage does this feel excessive and Myers' kills seem terribly thought through, almost measured (yes the classic head tilt is back) 

Carpenter has loudly bemoaned the supernatural element within the sequels and my major concern was in how he would portray 'The Shape" as unstoppable force of nature (yes he is) if this aspect was removed then it makes no sense that the volley of bullets or indeed fire would not stop him. Whilst it is true that the supernatural aspect has been made more ambiguous this is done in such a way that it dials up the suspense and horror. Why does 'The Shape" kill? Why is it seemingly unstoppable? We can guess that the reason it has an issue with Strode is because she escaped it's original slaughter but what if it was more than that? All too often modern horror hands us tidy little packages wrapped in neat little jump scares. All the dots are connected and everything is explained. But this leads us to forget about the true horror , the unseen and unspeakable. The unknowable! 

Whilst the ending is left open for future films and as the titles roll I am left with one question. Michael Myers' 40 years on. Does he still cut it? Piercingly so.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, but I think you mislabeled the ladies. You referred to Laurie’s daughter as Allyson and her granddaughter as Judy Greer’s character, which I believe was actually her daughter Karen. So unless I’m mistaken, they’re just mixed up :)