2018 marks the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s seminal horror film: Halloween (1978). The original Halloween film was so important in either inventing or cementing many of the slasher tropes that came to become integral in the genre throughout its mainstream years in the 1980s and 1990s. Halloween (1978) was an incredible low budget film applauded by critics and audiences alike that utilised masterful direction of visual space and a haunting score by Carpenter himself to build tension within the fantastically eerie suburban atmosphere of the fictional Haddonfield. On it’s 40th anniversary, David Gordon Green ignores the poor sequels and re-visits Haddonfield to reunite horror icon Michael Myers and quintessential final girl, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).
Halloween (2018) sees Michael Myers, now an old man, escape his mental hospital and goes on a killing spree back to Haddonfield. Curtis’ Laurie Strode, is similarly old, now suffering from PTSD has now alienated herself from her family devotes herself to killing Myers when he eventually returns. What results is a fantastic, but fundamentally flawed, dynamic as an unstoppable killer meets an unkillable victim.
The most commendable aspect of this film is Green’s total reverence and references to the original film. There are constant callbacks and inversions of iconic sequences and moments from the 1978 Halloween – character tropes and moments defy expectations by subverting expectations as the hunter-hunted dynamic continually flips. Michael Myers (or The Shape), played in body and voice by Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney, is as terrifying as ever. He is more brutal than ever before, a relentless, quasi-supernatural force of evil intent on nothing more than killing Strode. His part in the film is particularly fixating for the first 40 minutes of the film, before he arrives in Haddonfield his killings are unsettling and reach heights of tension unseen in the franchise since 1978.
Similarly, Laurie Strode takes a fantastic turn as a character haunted by the events of 1978. Fixated on her previous meetings with Myers, she drives away her family and tasks herself to nothing more than killing him upon his escape. For such a fantastic turn in character, Laurie, is unfortunately underutilised on the screen. Instead, Green spends far more time exploring her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and her trite teenage relationships and her daughter, Karen Nelson (Judy Greer), who continually hams up her character. This under-fixation on Laurie may be down to the film following Myers for huge amounts which, whilst exciting, does not satisfy a viewer looking for a recreation of the atmosphere of the original film.
This film has been in development purgatory for years, and as a result gone through many screenwriters. Comedy writer Danny McBride lent his hand, much to the detriment of the film. His lines stick out like a sore thumb as he tries to insert schlocky comedy lines and ruin the atmosphere. The film also suffers from recurring frequent annoying and generic teenage drama and characters are seemingly pointlessly introduced only to disappear a few scenes later. On the other end of this spectrum in production is the score, which was made again largely by the fantastic John Carpenter. His iconic 5/4 synth score is pulsating and infrequently used, building tension to send shivers down your spine, something to be experienced with a fantastic cinema sound system around.
Halloween (2018) is a flawed love letter to the original. The highs are high, the lows are low – tricking people expecting a film as good as the original and treating those who expected another crappy entry into the Halloween franchise but got something much better.