By Jack Dignan
One usually knows what to expect when it comes to the slasher genre. Several potential victims are forced to flee from a manic killer who, depending of which franchise we’re in, is either utterly deranged or possessed with a hint of the supernatural. And sometimes they also take place in space (god, I love Friday the 13th). We now live in 2018, and the slasher genre has been done over and over again, with all franchises pretty much burned out. Friday the 13th is in limbo, the recent Nightmare on Elm Street was met with critical backlash, and for some reason we got two Rob Zombie Halloween reboots. The genre seemed to be at its end. Or at least, that was until David Gordon Green and Danny McBride had an idea.
A genre’s only dead if we let it die, and as we all know from every horror movie ever, never trust when the villain dies. As for Michael Myers (Nick Castle & James Jude Courtney), he’s very much alive. In fact, ever since that fateful night all those years ago, Myers has been behind bars (this newest installment works as a direct sequel to the original, ignoring all follow ups and ridiculous plot elements later introduced). With Halloween night slowly approaching, the town is on edge, but none more so than Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), sole survivor of the original. Never having recovered from the attack, Laurie has spent her entire life in fear, preparing and training for the day where she’ll finally get her revenge. And as fate wills it, on Halloween night, Michael Myers escapes.
This latest Halloween, the third film in the series to take on that title, brings this franchise back to its roots, resulting in a master class execution of grizzly violence and iconic scares. In a year of great horror films, Halloween sits up there as one of the best. The script by Green and McBride follows all your typical slasher plot beats, but it’s executed in a way that often defies expectations and, much to my surprise and delight, reverses the roles of prey and hunter. Unlike the original, don’t go into this film expecting Myers to be the sole character in charge. Laurie has been waiting, and years of built up trauma and abuse is ready to be unleashed.
Her story arc was one of my favourite elements of the movie; it takes this film up and beyond from being your run of the mill gore-fest. It delivers all the chills and blood spills you’d ever dream of in a film like this (and trust me, these are some of my favourite deaths in the whole franchise), while also providing commentary on victims and the power they have to rise up to their abusers. We shouldn’t let trauma define us, nor should we be infatuated with the men who kill. Serial killers strive on the attention, and in a day and age where violence and death is happening all the time, an event like this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But to the people involved, it is, and that’s what this film deals with. Finally, a slasher film with serious social impact.
Green’s filmography is the very definition of diverse. The renowned director will go from directing marvelous dramas, such as George Washington and last year’s Jake Gyllenhaal led Stronger, to making screwball comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Highness. So, a sequel to Halloween, strangely enough, fits right in, and Green goes absolutely nuts. It’s an endlessly creative, well-crafted, immensely crowd-pleasing continuation of this beloved story that had the TIFF Midnight Madness audience going absolutely nuts at its world premiere. The Midnight Madness crowd is usually a lively bunch, but never more so than during this movie. Audiences are going to absolutely eat this film up when it hits theatres next month.
There’s a single unbroken shot lasting nearly four minutes that follows Myers on an early murdering spree through the local streets he once grew up on, and my god, I wasn’t ready for just how insane, beautiful and gory that shot was going to be, but it was a fantastic addition to an already great movie. Not only is the camera work sensational, but also we’re treated with a tantalizing, unnerving and all round brilliant new score from John Carpenter, the original film’s writer and director. His DNA is all over this film, which will no doubt please longtime fans, but this isn’t just a film for older fans. This film absolutely stands on its own, and its singular, standalone title should be enough of a giveaway.
For those unfamiliar with the lore, the opening sequence tells you everything you need to know. We follow two investigative journalists who wish to make a podcast getting to the bottom of who Michael Myers is, and while their brief story does end with one hell of a way to go out, I couldn’t buy into them as characters. They were there for the sake of exposition, yet we still spend a considerable amount of time with them after that. Other minor quibbles include a few questionably dumb decisions from the supporting cast, a somewhat abrupt ending (I still liked it!), and a few generic plot elements that have been around since the creation of the genre, but all in all, the new Halloween rocks so hard. Jamie Lee Curtis (who gives her best performance to date) is a goddamn queen. All hail the queen!
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