Halloween screened at the Toronto International Film Festival recently, and the reviews are in. Find out what we thought in our review below, and then check out a behind-the-scenes look at the movie--plus more fall 2018 movies you won't want to miss. Does the new Halloween hold a candle to the original? Read on.
Remember when fans were worried that Danny McBride and David Gordon Green--the guys behind HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down--would ruin the Halloween franchise by trying to make it funny? Well, the newest chapter in the Michael Myers saga--which is technically only the second, since it ignores all other sequels--is definitely the funniest film in the franchise. But surprisingly, it's also the perfect continuation to the story begun in the original Halloween 40 years ago.
Yes, it’s been 40 years since Michael Myers put on a mask and terrorized the town of Haddonfield, Illinois as "The Shape," and he hasn’t done much since then. Played by the original actor Nick Castle, as well as newcomer James Jude Courtney, Myers hasn’t spoken a word in the 40 years he's apparently been incarcerated at the movie's start. Not even when two podcasters--or “investigative journalists,” as they refer to themselves--present him with the iconic mask in an attempt to get a reaction does Michael stir. This is a return to form (or shape) for Michael. No longer the brother of Laurie Strode, as was established in sequels to the original, he is back to being a force of pure evil who commits random acts of violence with no cause or reason. Green, who directs with co-writer McBride, treats the character with utmost respect, like a larger-than-life force that deserves your complete attention and fear.
Castle and Courtney, who seamlessly share the role of The Shape, don’t miss a beat with their performances, as this is the most terrifying Michael has been since 1978. It helps that Green and McBride have made this one mean and nasty Halloween movie. It surpasses the body count of John Carpenter’s original even before Michael gets to Haddonfield, and we see kills involving knives going through throats, lethal headbutts, and more.
Meanwhile, the core of the story focuses on Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis gives what is perhaps the best performance of her career in the role that first gave her the spotlight. She effortlessly steps back into Laurie’s shoes, evolving the trauma and psychological damage Myers inflicted on her all those years ago. Yes, she is a complete and absolute badass in this film, as she is now the hunter and no longer the hunted. However, she is no Sarah Connor. She is a broken woman who hasn’t been able to let go of that fateful Halloween night.
Strode now lives in a fortified house in the middle of the woods and spends every day shooting at target dummies, preparing for the day when her paranoia finally bears fruit. Of course, it doesn’t take long before Myers escapes and finds his way to Haddonfield, where he obsesses over finishing the job he started 40 years earlier.
Despite the gravity of Halloween's themes, and the gory and violent fun audiences expect from a slasher, McBride and Green infuse the script with their signature sense of humor, and surprisingly, it actually works. Every side character gets a moment to shine, and the jokes never feel out of place, especially when coming from soon-to-be breakout star Jibrail Nantambu. Nantambu plays the only character who has any idea what’s going on in the film--he never makes a stupid choice (it's a slasher, so naturally, characters make a lot of stupid choices) and provides insightful meta commentary about the horror tropes on display.
Speaking of meta, Halloween pokes fun at every single film in the franchise, all while paying homage to its predecessors. There are references to Silver Shamrock, tributes to Halloween 2, and a fun cameo or two. The film also comments on this being a pseudo remake of the original, but in modern times. For example, when discussing the original babysitter killings from the first film, a character remarks that five dead people isn’t too much "by today’s standards." Green has fun with the idea of Laurie being prepared for Michael by playing with role reversal throughout the film. One instance in particular got the audience at the world premiere cheering so hard, the next three lines of dialogue were inaudible.
If there’s one problem with Halloween, it's that it never uses Laurie's granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and Allyson's mom Karen (Judy Greer) to their full potential. Thankfully, it isn’t a big issue, as Laurie’s story is compelling enough on its own. And those missing the magic Carpenter touch will be delighted to know that the film is keen on using silence to increase the tension, and there is a 5-minute-long single-shot sequence that is a marvel to watch, even if it’s quite brutal. Green may not have a ton of experience filming horror, but he sure knows how to create nail-biting tension at the right moments.
John Carpenter returns to score the film with the help of his son, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies. Yes, you do hear the classic Halloween theme, and Carpenter even uses a slower version of the theme at several key moments. Carpenter also uses a whole new style of synth rock that pulsates and beats like a heart and will have everyone in the audience on the edge of their seat while also making them pre-order the soundtrack as soon as they leave the theater.
Halloween doesn’t reinvent the wheel or create a new subgenre of horror. What it does is take the best parts of all the films in the franchise, and deliver the ultimate companion piece to Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. It's a film that not only has something to say about trauma and PTSD, but also delivers a bloody, fun time at the theater. Will Michael Myers return again? Who knows, but we sure as hell welcome him home.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Laurie Strode is a more complex character, yet a total badass||Side characters are slightly underused|
|Michael Myers is scarier than ever|
|The fantastic score that will get your heart beating|
|A much-welcomed sense of humor and meta commentary|