Halloween 2018: homage is delightful, but not frightful

Zach Steensma–Staff Writer

John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is probably the most important slasher film ever made. Despite its relatively low budget and production value, Carpenter’s innovative and straightforward approach to his craft helped to create an atmospheric experience of unmatched intensity, effectively setting the standard for the genre for the next 40 years.

The new Halloween, under the direction of David Gordon Green, puts forth a noble effort to emulate this approach. But rather than recapturing the experience that made the original so iconic, the latest addition to this exhausted franchise doesn’t go much farther than paying homage.

That 2018 film is a standout sequel among a plethora of low-bar, mediocre installments. Writers Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley choose ignore virtually every plot point from the 7 sequels and 2 remakes that have been cranked out over the last four decades, and instead present the audience with a direct sequel to the first film, and a crowd-pleasing one at that.

This story sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, back in full force as the character that marked her debut in the film industry: Laurie Strode, the surviving victim of the original film.

Laurie is not just traumatized by her experiences from that fateful Halloween night in 1978: she is defined by it, and spends her days preparing herself and her family for the inevitable return of infamous murderer Michael Myers, played once again by Nick Castle, who donned the iconic mask in the first installment.

While the film is primarily focused on Laurie and how she copes with her past, a host of other new characters also find themselves caught in Michael’s merciless path: Strode’s own daughter Karen (Judy Greer), teenage granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), and several of Allyson’s high school friends.

The most striking difference between this Halloween and Carpenter’s original is the presence of comic relief. Whereas Carpenter’s film is consistently suspenseful and almost completely devoid of any comedic tone, Green and company opt to throw in a number of scenes filled with the sort shockingly out of place humor that both McBride and Green have become known for. There’s a handful of witty interactions between the snarky band of teenagers, a Seinfeld-esque discussion between two buddy cops, and a notably entertaining sequence involving a young boy named Julian (Jibrail Nantambu) who absolutely steals the show for the brief amount of screen time that we see him at home with a babysitter. Overall, the comedy is fairly hit or miss, and at times the line between what viewers are supposed to laugh at and what actually garners chuckles starts to blur.

While the tonal shifts can be awkward, the overall execution of the film is consistent and clean. The writers also deserve credit for the fact that almost every character, even the minor ones, get at least a small number of lines, as if to remind the audience that these are, in fact, real people whose lives are at stake.

The cinematography is tight and engaging, and the action scenes are crisply edited. Unlike Carpenter’s film, this is a high budget, studio production. Of course, there is an abundance of references to the first film, including a particularly engaging continuous shot of Michael moving through a very familiar suburban neighborhood. Carpenter himself even returns to score the film, adding a nostalgic flavor to some of the more intense scenes. Beyond that, the film doesn’t stray very far into uncharted territory.

The biggest fault at play in Halloween is the missed opportunity to further explore some of the questions and themes that it merely hints at, namely the danger of trying to understand and explain evil. For an epilogue to a 40-year-saga, the climax employs the character of Laurie Strode well, but hurriedly, and the ending, though satisfying, feels rushed. With a few laughs and some decent scares, Halloween 2018 is a fun but somewhat forgettable flick. While Carpenter’s Halloween is an experience, Halloween 2018 is just a movie.

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