by Patrick Bromley
I like Halloween (2018) a lot. It's a difficult movie to talk about, because the title is confusing and because it's a movie that totally ignores 40 years of sequels and remakes (except for when it doesn't), which means I have to try and get nine other movies out of my head in order to view and discuss it the way it should be viewed and discussed. It becomes especially difficult to do when it means ignoring H20: 20 Years Later, the movie that most dulls the impact of Halloween (2018) by virtue of the fact that it got there first. Watching Jamie Lee Curtis return to the role of Laurie Strode and confront Michael Myers all these years later is incredibly powerful, but I couldn't quite shake the feeling that it would be so much more powerful if we hadn't seen this same story played out twenty years ago in another movie this one pretends doesn't exist. Instead, I have to be happy with a do-over. It's a very good do-over, but a do-over all the same.
From its opening credits, which more or less recreate the opening of John Carpenter's 1978 original only with an updated score (by Carpenter and his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies) and a pumpkin that's rising up as though being inflated -- I'm back, the fucker says, and it's right. Halloween is back. Director David Gordon Green has succeeded in making a movie that feels a lot like Carpenter's in the ways that it needs to, but distinguishing itself as a David Gordon Green movie throughout. It's in the intensity and brutality of the kills (which owe more than a little to the two Rob Zombie Halloween films, movies that are much more like Halloween 2018 than fanboys will be willing to admit), or the way he counters his use of Carpenter's negative space and controlled camera with extreme close-ups and handheld immediacy. This is a Halloween movie that wants to get in close to its characters, to examine the toll that the past and the passage of time has taken on them, to understand how they've been affected and what still drives them 40 years later. It's a much more personal take on this story. Where Carpenter's Halloween wanted to portray pure evil, Green's Halloween wants to study it.
There are other issues I have, of course, like the convoluted role a couple of podcasters play in Michael getting back his mask or a handful of scenes that push for humor in a movie that, quite honestly, has no room for it. There's a direct callback to 1981's Halloween II, which is frustrating because Green and Co. have gone out of their way to tell us that movie doesn't exist in this continuity. Why, then, make a point of referencing it? But these are barely more than nitpicks, because on the whole Halloween is both an emotionally affecting drama (particularly if you're as invested in this series and these characters as so many of us lifelong fans) and as a really strong horror movie. There are a couple of set pieces in the film that are as tense and as scary as what Carpenter achieved in the original; the difference here is that Green is quicker to break that tension with a payoff, where Carpenter made you wait for it. And wait for it.
This new Halloween understands something about the Michael Myers characters that none of the other sequels did, which helps make it feel much more of a piece with the '78 film. Carpenter's Michael Myers is allowed to be a character: sure he's quiet and expressionless and lacking in any depth by design, but we are still offered a glimpse of the way he sees the world. There are POV shots and shots over his shoulder. There are scenes of Michael doing things that are totally separate from the other characters. He exists as his own entity, not just as the external threat we see in the subsequent movies, which just turn him into Jason Voorhees. Green picks up where Carpenter left off, allowing Michael to be half of the equation. It's even more important in this new Halloween, actually, because the story this movie is telling is about the two fractured halves on a collision course towards being a whole one last time. Know what the only other entries in the Halloween franchise to understand and explore this idea were? The Rob Zombie films. But sure, let's keep talking about those like they were crimes against horror.
Blade Runner 2049: a legacy sequel that has its share of problems but which honors the original and justifies returning to this material all these years later. It's more than just the sigh of relief we can collectively breathe that they didn't fuck it all up; the filmmakers have managed to move the story along while still addressing new concerns -- in short, the original and the sequel are about different things, and that's rare in any sequel, much less one made 40 years later. It functions as a beautiful bookend to the 1978 film, paying off not just the reunion of these two opposing forces but also the decades in between that took place off camera. It rewards us for caring for all these years and hopefully gives Laurie Strode the peace she deserves. Lord knows she's earned it.