Directed and co-written by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak
Running time : 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA rating: R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
by Hunter Bush
Is it weird to tell you I got emotional during Halloween 2018? Well I did. My eyes welled up during the finale, watching the culmination of a 40-year battle with evil reach its close. Seeing how the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers finally ends...for now. Because, let's be real: this won't be the last Halloween movie. By hook or by crook, there will be more but that knowledge shouldn't diminish your enjoyment of any of them.
As with all movies, the movie itself should be taken on its own merit as much as possible, and on its own merit, Halloween 2018 is a story about the cost of surviving.
The Halloween franchise began in 1978 with John Carpenter's classic, the original Halloween. Conceived with Debra Hill, I had always heard that the Halloween films were intended to be an anthology film series, with each successive installment linked to the others only through their shared proximity to the titular holiday. Regardless, as you probably know, that was largely not the case. Halloween '78 told the story of Michael Myers who, in 1963, at only six years old, murdered his sister with a kitchen knife. After 15 years in juvenile detention and mental health facilities, Michael escapes and returns to his neighborhood, killing and injuring many. Laurie Strode however, survives. Michael is shot by his therapist and falls off a 2nd story roof, but once Dr. Loomis checks on Laurie, he returns to his roof vantage point to find Michael gone.
In 1981, Halloween II returned us to the same evening in 1978 to find that Michael is hunting for Laurie, who had been taken to the hospital for trick or treatment (couldn't help myself) for her trauma. Michael kills several more people before ultimately being shot in both eyes (by Laurie) and blown to smithereens along with Dr. Loomis (by Loomis himself, no less). We also learn that Michael and Laurie are siblings.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) has no bearing on the franchise [outside of a loose tie to the cult mentioned below - Ed.], so I'm skipping it. I do love it though.
Halloweens 4, 5 & 6, subtitled The Return of, The Revenge of & The Curse of Michael Myers respectively, (from 1988, '89 & '95) function as their own sort of trilogy. We learn that both Michael and Loomis survived the explosion & subsequent fire and that Laurie has died in a car accident leaving behind a daughter, Jamie. Michael and Jamie have a psychic connection which allows him to track her, but possibly also warps her mind, as she ends up attacking her mother in a scene not unlike the one from Michael's origin. Jamie ends up, years later, pregnant and the prisoner of a cult who believe Michael is the subject of a Celtic Druidic curse and wish to continue the bloodline. Or something. Also Paul Rudd is there. And yes, he looks the same.
In 1998 came Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, which explained that Laurie had not died, but had faked her death and gone into hiding under an assumed identity (in the world of H20, Jamie and all her related sequels never existed) though Laurie does have a son. When Michael finally finds her and comes to finish things, Laurie comes out on top, decapitating Michael with a fire ax
2002's Halloween: Resurrection tells us that the man in the Michael Myers mask & onesie from the previous film was in fact a paramedic who responded to that night's events and who Myers managed to switch clothes with when no one was looking. Understandably, Laurie has had a breakdown and been institutionalized for the years since. Michael then kills her and goes on to ruin a reality TV special and get roundhoused kicked by Busta Rhymes.
As you can tell, I've been preparing for this, but you needn’t have been. David Gordon Green's H'ween '18 (say it out loud; it’s fun) manages to give you all the backstory you need to know without feeling forced, largely through the device of a true crime podcast. Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall play the podcast's hosts, coming to deep dive, Serial-style, into the case from 1978. This will be their last chance, as Michael is being transferred from the sanitarium he is currently in, to a maximum security facility where he will be held for the rest of his days and unlikely to have visiting privileges. Their attempts to provoke a response from Michael and to convince Laurie to speak with him open the film and give us all the information we need on this Laurie Strode.
Jamie Lee Curtis has, once again, returned to play Laurie, though this time as a kind of doomsday prepper, though her doomsday takes the form of one man in an inside-out William Shatner mask. She has spent 40 years training, stockpiling weapons and supplies, fortifying her home and dreaming that Myers would escape so she could kill him. Laurie has two failed marriages in her past and a strained relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and the film uses these three women to explore the collateral damage of trauma.
The film also explores what it means to be the predator or the prey, as Michael's new therapist Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) posits a theory that Michael's desire to kill Laurie is all that keeps him alive (he is canonically 61, the film hitting theaters on what would be Myers' 61st birthday, no less). Sartain's musings also lend symbolism to Laurie's life, turning what some view as her maddening obsession with Myers into almost a defiant act: that she refuses to let him win is her life's purpose. It's almost the axiom "living well is the best revenge" in action, except that Laurie isn't living her best life, cut off as she is from her family and the world at large.
But the film isn't as dire or serious as all that might make it sound. Horror as a genre has always tackled issues in, at least, a subtextual way while on the surface we get to enjoy the tension and release of watching Michael Myers (or whom-, what- or witch-ever)(sorry) stalk through a house and bury a knife in some unsuspecting person's chest. So while H'ween '18 deals with some serious concepts, it also bludgeons, impales, shoots, stabs, & chokes its way though many set-pieces that should (and most likely will) become all-timers.
Visually, almost none of the gore felt like it was depicted in an unnecessarily ghoulish way, which benefits both the budget and the final product. In one unbroken sequence, we see Michael (played by both James Jude Courtney and original “Shape” Nick Castle) pick up a hammer from a carelessly unguarded workbench, then only hear him bludgeon someone with it from the other side of the wall. When we finally see the results, we glide smoothly past the victim; the details reduced to a bloody afterthought at the side of the screen. Stylistic choices like that don't lessen the impact of the violence any, and in fact might do the opposite. That isn't to say that the movie is tame or bloodless, it just knows how and when to play its cards.
There's also plenty of tension-relief humor, especially from li'l scene-stealer Jibrail Nantambu as Julian, a boy being babysat by Allyson's best friend, who's maybe the most genre-savvy character in the whole flick. The script (by director David Gordon Green as well as Danny McBride & Jeff Fradley) resists the urge to constantly wink at the audience. There are references and allusions to the franchise, but for the most part they're character-based and subtle enough that they might not be references at all. For example, one line of dialogue from Will Patton's Officer Hawkins, "There's a reason we're supposed to be afraid of this night" felt like an allusion to the line "Everyone's entitled to one good scare" from the '78 original (delivered by Charles Cyphers' Sheriff Brackett). If it was intentional, it's a very subtle nod that doesn't ruin the mood in pursuit of a "do you get it?" elbow in the ribs. With fan-service moments woven into the characters' arcs, the audience is all emotionally on the same page whether they "get it" or not.
The emotional beats of the story are incredibly well-handled and, as I said, I got choked up watching the inevitable confrontation between Michael and Laurie. She has turned her home into a veritable fortress to stop Michael Myers from being able to reach her, but simultaneously, she knows that he'll never stop. Watching her clear room after room, actively seeking the confrontation that very nearly killed her multiple times forty years ago, tracking the predator whose metaphorical teeth have never left her throat was exhilarating. Even though Michael Myers would never be as defenseless and unassuming as Laurie had once been, now she is in his shoes and he has no idea what he's in for. The ending that all of this builds to is wonderfully satisfying narratively and symbolically as well as visually and even though both Michael and Laurie have both "died" numerous times before, this go-round feels different; more final.
I know there will inevitably be more films to carry the Halloween name, more "final chapters" in the Laurie Strode / Michael Myers story but they'll have some very large shoes to fill. Halloween 2018 is one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in a theater in quite some time, without a single sequence that felt unearned or unnecessary. It is marvelously made and anchored by an emotionally raw performance from Jamie Lee Curtis that is among her best. Long may she reign.