Written by Andrew Busch // Edited by Drew Beyer // Images courtesy of Bloody Disgusting, The Wrap
If the dozens of horror movies I’ve watched in my lifetime have taught me anything it’s that you can have nightmares while you are awake. But my biggest nightmare isn’t aliens from another planet that use humans as incubators or chainsaw-wielding killers that craft masks from human flesh. Instead, I am deathly afraid of watching as horror classics come back from the dead each year because of modern reboots. The bad news is that the epidemic appears to be getting worse with the number of remakes and sequels to past horror films reaching critical mass. In the next year, Suspiria (1977), Pet Sematary (1989) and The Grudge (2004) are scheduled to be rebooted accompanied by a slew of sequels like It: Chapter Two (2019), World War Z 2 and Happy Death Day 2U (2019). All of these films indicate that the horror genre is looking grimmer than ever for moviegoers searching for originality.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018) is by all means an enjoyable horror film, but despite the reverence it pays to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, it is hard to ignore the film’s status as a modern reboot. The worst part is that this isn’t even the first time Hollywood has tried to resurrect the series. After the five sequels to Carpenter’s film, Halloween was first rebooted just over ten years ago with the release of Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) and followed up by Halloween II (2009). So Halloween (2018) is actually the second modern reboot and the eleventh film in the franchise.
Halloween (2018) begins by erasing the nine films separating it from the original. It explains how Michael Myers was caught and institutionalized on the night of the babysitter murders in 1978. This very same night continues to haunt Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the present leading to a rocky relationship with her only daughter, divorces, and a constant fear that Myers will eventually return for her. Unsurprisingly, Myers escapes during his transfer to another prison and what ensues looks an awful lot like the night he first escaped nearly forty years ago. While a reliance on series tropes and an unimaginative plot line bog the film down, the new John Carpenter score, the well executed action sequences, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s performance make this reboot genuinely worth your time.
Just about every horror fan knows Carpenter’s 5/4 main theme from the 1978 film. Now, after nearly 36 years, Carpenter has stepped back into the franchise, this time with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, to score his first Halloween film since Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). With Carpenter’s hands back at the wheel, Halloween sounds more menacing and angry than it has ever been.
Tracks like Michael Kills Again and The Shape Hunts Allyson feature moments of heavy bowed guitar as frantic high hats ring and distorted bass lines pulsate in your ears. Songs like Laurie’s Theme are more subdued with suspenseful piano work and ominous string arrangements backed by the familiar hum of bass. Without question, Carpenter’s works on Halloween (2018) are the heartbeat of the film, and the new sounds he has created in collaboration with his son and Davies, updates the original score from 1978 for the modern era. As you watch the film you will notice hints of the same main theme peppered throughout, along with reworked tracks like Laurie’s theme that reflect the worsening anger between Myers and Strode. The result is a respectful homage to the original film’s score without leaning too far into nostalgia.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t use past tropes as creatively as the score. One example in particular is how Myer’s mask is presented on screen at almost every opportunity. I understand that everyone should know he is the star of the show, but the close ups feel a bit played out by the time the film reaches its climax. The plot also feels like it borrows too heavily from the original movie’s premise. Once again, the plot revolves around Myers’s inevitable escape from prison. Using the original film’s visuals and central plot wastes any potential room for creativity by keeping things safe.
But Green does take some risks with his action sequences. This is the franchise that started the slasher genre, and this new installment doesn’t disappoint when things get violent. Halloween’s gruesome sequences almost triple the amount present in the original film, yet Myers’s ferocity remains sparse enough to avoid complete oversaturation. Green also executes some brilliant scenes that are sure to impress even casual horror fans. One of these moments is a single-take scene where Myers moves from house to house leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Green revealed to The Wrap that there were eleven takes of this scene and that the eleventh take is the shot present in the film. Not only is this scene an impressive feat of filmmaking, but it also illustrates how mechanical and merciless Myers is.
On a separate note, Myer’s confrontation with Laurie is the film’s shining moment. The enmity between the characters that the score heightens finally explodes in their showdown with impressive results. However, to set the record straight Jamie Lee Curtis’s kickass performance as Laurie Strode is the real reason for this success, not the lumbering giant in the rubber mask. From the beginning of the film, Curtis really sells Laurie’s evolution as a character. She is no longer the helpless babysitter she was in her teenage years. Now, she is intense, armed, and incredibly lethal as she has spent nearly 40 years calculating her revenge. But the most compelling piece of her character is how the past has caused paranoia to rule her life. Curtis keeps this trauma at the forefront of her performance, making Laurie a remarkably deep character by horror movie standards.
As much as I want to hate Halloween (2018) for being another reboot cash-grab, the film is actually so well executed that I have to recommend it. Between its score, action, and Curtis’s performance there are more than enough intriguing elements at play for the film to be worth your time. Green turns over a new bloody leaf for the franchise and is able to harness the aura of the classic slasher for a modern audience. And while I still believe that the graves of classic franchises should remain undisturbed, I am glad Myers has come home to Haddonfield.
Halloween (2018) is in theaters now.