Review: HALLOWEEN (2018) Is A Profoundly Relevant Return to Form
This review is spoiler-heavy, so if you have yet to see Halloween, please do so before proceeding. You have been warned.
There's a moment in David Gordon Green's Halloween, in which Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in one of her best performances to date), haven lived with the trauma that was born from the events of John Carpenter's original film, sits in her pickup truck, holding a gun and drinking mini-bottles, scared to death. She's there to see the transfer of Michael Myers, into a hospital bus and far away from Smith's Grove. In that one moment, seeing that once cheery yet shy character we all fell in love with in Carpenter's classic, be the accumulation of 40 years of trauma, ptsd and pain, you can't help but to know that Gordon Green's new film won't be your typical slasher film. Instead, we're giving what is one of the best looks at the pain and hurt that comes from living with the remnants of what was done to us survivors.
What's so very interesting about Halloween is that it's not very much of a Michael Myers film. Don't get me wrong, he's in a lot of it and the scares that come with this gem, are plentiful. What I mean by that is that it's very much a Laurie Strode film, it's very much a film about how ot properly dealing and addressing your trauma can affect multiple generations and how not being given the chance to deal with the PTSD can in turn alienate those around you. When we meet Laurie again, after the 40 year gap between the events of 1978's Halloween and this 2018 film, she's estranged from her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), a woman with her own trauma, having been raised to be suspicious of everything and trained to hunt and kill right up until she was taken away from Laurie by Child Welfare. The only family member who actively WANTS Laurie to be in her life is her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), a young woman who needs that bond that has been pulled away from her by a mother so concerned with not putting her daughter through the same paranoia that Laurie put her through, that she lies to Allyson about reaching out to Laurie and creating a wedge between Karen and Allyson. All of this is heightened by such brilliantly impactful scoring from John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. The score is intense and it's easy to get under your skin and creep you out, especially in a scene in which Allyson is being stalked by Myers, the music makes the scene on par with Laurie trying to escape The Shape at the end of the original film, it's intense, impactful and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
That's part of the charm of Halloween it never feels like a slasher film with faceless victims just being offed one by one. You care about the characters, from the podcasting duo (played the awesome Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) wanting to figure out why Michael killed the people he did back in 1978, to Ray, the silly husband of Karen. You care about what happens to them, you're emotionally invested with these people so much that when they and various other characters end up facing down Myers, it's either a gut punch to your soul or a breathe of fresh air when they escape. As the series progressed throughout the years, the focus became solely on Myers picking people off, that it was difficult to care about those victims. In 2018's film, we're given a great protagonist in Laurie, but we're also given a very interesting and layered character in Allyson, her friends Vicky and Dave (two reasons why the film is so affecting, they're absolutely great to watch), a love triangle issue between Allyson and her boyfriend that calls back to the Rachel/Brady dilemma in Halloween 4 and so much more. That's what makes Myers appearing and wreaking havoc so effective, you care for and are so invested in the characters, that when he strikes, he STRIKES and it never feels like "well, that person's dead, let's move on to the next." Instead you find yourself still thinking about what happened, long after it did. It's not without it's faults though, Dr. Sartain, or in Laurie's words, "the new Loomis" is a character that could be entirely be taken out of the film and it wouldn't affect much, his inclusion adds an unnecessary subplot that seems forced and takes away from an already enthralling story and journey we're going on.
The film's trailers blasted this "ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN" angle between Laurie and Michael and to be honest, Halloween never feels like that. It feels like one woman's quest to finally destroy her trauma, to finally meet that pain and hurt head on and well...burn it down and walk away. The symbology in Halloween is pretty intense, as Michael doesn't go after Laurie, no she goes after HIM. In the previous entries that the viewer has been asked to forget with this one, Myers has a set agenda, stalking and going after his mission of a victim, but in Gordon Green's film (excellently scripted by Jeff Fradley, Gordon Green and Danny McBride), once loose and after he gets his mask back (in one of the most intense and emotionally heart-wrenching scenes in recent horror), Michael returns to Haddonfield solely to kill and boy does he. Going from house to house and killing at random, it's not the Myers going after Laurie story that we've all known and been used to, no Michael wants to kill whichever victim he sees and feels led to kill. It's not until events bring Michael close to Laurie's fortified residence, that we're seen that facing of your demons that Laurie so desires to accomplish throughout the entire film.
When the confrontation does happen, it's a profoundly relevant sequence that spoke to me on such an emotionally heavy way. As a survivor of child abuse, I've known first hand how we live with the pain of what was done to us. It stays with us and it refuses to leave, until the point where we're shells of who we once were, wishing we could get rid of that pain that was given to us without wanting it. We push those closest to us away, in order to protect them from the pain we experience. We look at ourselves in the mirror and blame ourselves for what happened, even though it wasn't our fault at all. We live with that trauma, firmly on our shoulders, until we're given the opportunity to confront it and either be consumed by it or in the case of Laurie and Michael...fight it until you've got no fight left and then set it on fire and let it burn. Let it burn and watch that trauma and pain you've lived with go away, allowing you to finally feel closure and relief.
We don't get films like Halloween very often and though it could be dismissed as yet another slasher film or the 11th film in the series, it's so much more. It's, like Carpenter's original, a brilliantly crafted film, the only difference is that while 1978's film is in this writer's opinion, the greatest film ever made, 2018's followup is an emotionally relevant and important look at taking the pain we hold inside and finally moving on. Who would have thought that 11 films in, we would get, the most metaphysically important film in the entire series. Halloween is by far, a force to be reckoned with and I dare you to find a more important slasher film...you won't.