Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween (2018)—Because It’s Halloween (2020)

Don't you wish Star Wars would follow Michael Myers’ example? The franchise’s best received film since the 1978 original simply retconned away every other sequel with a casual conversation. Was Laurie Strode actually Myers’ sister? Nope, that was just the stuff of fake news and urban legends. Strode has spent her life waiting for Myers to take another stab at her and he finally does in David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), a Blumhouse production, which screens at the IPIC Fort Lee, the closest thing to a Manhattan theater these days.

Strode always knew Myers would come back, so in the forty since his initial rampage through Haddonfield, she raised her daughter survivalist-style, so she would be prepared to defend herself, much like Sarah Connor did in
Terminator 2. Karen Strode (now Nelson) always resented her mother’s crazy paranoid upbringing, just like John Connor, but she tries to understand how her mother was affected by the trauma of 1978.

Proving the unfailing stupidity of bureaucrats, someone schedules Myers’ long anticipated transfer from the late Dr. Loomis’s asylum to a maximum-security prison on the day of Halloween. Of course, Myers escapes, leaving a trail of bodies behind him. However, Strode has made full use of her time to prepare for him. Frankly, she doesn’t have much use for the cops, including veteran Deputy Hawkins, who was there that fateful night with Dr. Loomis. She will take care of Myers herself, as soon as her family is safely under guard, hopefully including her unaccounted for granddaughter, Allyson.

Rob Zombie, you’ve been dunked on. Green wiped away all the sequels and reboots (except maybe the in-name-only
Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which has always been the oddball outlier)—and nobody mourns for them. Instead, Green and his co-screenwriters Jeff Bradley and Danny McBride go back to what made the original so effective. They make Haddonfield and its homes feel like real places, so Myers’ brutality has a much more visceral impact as a result. In addition, there are hat-tips (including an audio recording of Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis), echoes, and parallels of the classic first film that fans will appreciate.

The defiance and resilience of Jamie Lee Curtis’s portrayal of Strode is another major payoff for the franchise faithful. She is the first to admit she made mistakes, but it is clear she refuses to be a “victim.” Honestly, this film makes a compelling case for 2
nd Amendment rights (despite an early firearm mishap that really doesn’t ring true). Obviously, waiting for the cops when stalked by hulking psycho killer is not a winning strategy.

Will Patton is also terrific as Deputy Hawkins, who like Strode, is clearly haunted by the past, but still functions socially at a much higher level. Between this film and
Swamp Thing, he is becoming a reliable genre stalwart. Haluk Bilginer chews all kinds of scenery as Dr. Ranbir Sartain (a former student of Loomis), while under Myers’ iconic Shatner mask, Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney make rigid body language creepy as heck. Andi Matichak is fine as Allyson, but she could be any oblivious horror movie teen, whereas Judy Greer is believable grounded as Karen Nelson and pulls off her dramatic arc quite memorably.

Honestly, the worst thing about
Halloween 2018 is the fact a sequel is on its way. If it had just ended here Halloween 1978 and 2018 would rank as a great horror duology. The best of John Carpenter’s films, most definitely including the original Halloween, have an intangible but deeply unsettling vibe. Green’s Halloween has something similar going on, which is high praise indeed. Enthusiastically recommended for all commercial horror fans, Halloween (2018) screens today and tomorrow (10/31 & 11/1) at the IPIC Fort Lee.