Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenplay: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride
Horror, Rated: R
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Greg, isn’t it nice that Halloween is such a fun, harmless holiday?
And it only comes but once a year. Let’s recap.
It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) narrowly survived the brutal mass murdering rampage of Michael Myers. Now two investigative journalists from Britain are visiting Myers at a hospital for the criminally insane. One of the journalists brings Myers’ famous telltale mask and taunts Myers with it, trying to get him to speak for the first time in 4 decades. It doesn’t work. Now Myers is being transferred to another facility. On Halloween eve, he and a bunch of other “patients” at the facility are loaded onto a bus.
And the bus crashes. Myers escapes and goes on a killing rampage. Somehow, he finds the two journalists and kills them, retrieving his Captain Kirk mask (no kidding, the original mask was a 1970s Kirk Halloween mask painted white). Now, he’s making the rounds of suburbia killing randomly, but especially teens who are having sex when and where they shouldn’t be.
Greg, I’m not a big fan of this genre of film, but this remake of Halloween is about as good as it gets when it comes to horror and suspense. First, let me get my complaint out of the way – there is nothing interesting about a pure evil villain, especially one without any personality and who remains a relentless killing machine even after parts of his body are chopped off. Michael Myers is a villain who should just go away, but the ambiguity at the film’s end about his demise means there will surely be a sequel.
Okay, now let’s turn to the good stuff. The suspense during many scenes in Halloween nearly killed me. One reason is that the filmmakers here really do a nice job of making us like the victims before they are butchered. I hate this and I love it at the same time, because in a sick twisted way it is good storytelling to make us care about characters before forcing us to watch their heads get impaled on an iron fence. There’s really no redeeming value in any of this carnage and yet the darkest corners of my demented mind admired the bloodfest.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie is a pretty hot grandma, and I mean hot in both senses of the word. She’s been steaming hot mad at good ol’ Mike Myers for 40 years and has spent those decades hoping for his escape so that she can have a crack at him. Never mind that his escape means that over a dozen innocent people get eviscerated. Laurie wants Myers dead no matter the cost – except that she wants her family safe. Naturally, she does a dreadful job of protecting them. Laurie is a borderline psycho herself and she’s the only character in the film who apparently can do damage to Myers.
Is Laurie Strode a hero? I’m not sure she fits the definition so I would call her a partial hero. She’s more like an empowered victim who does go on the dangerous journey but is not helped by it in any way, shape, or form. Laurie is left bloodied and even more traumatized, not to mention the fact that many of her friends and family have been diced and sliced to death. As an audience, we sympathize with Laurie but it’s debatable whether she belongs on a heroic pedestal. I give her credit for being a survivor, which no doubt carries some heroic weight.
I also have no love for horror films. All movies are inherently manipulative – horror movies more than any other. They are designed to make us feel scared and they employ tactics like shock and disgust to create fright. And in comparison to other horror films I’ve seen, Halloween wasn’t that scary. It was a bit of an homage to the early incarnations of the “scream” genre. Myers kills randomly and in ways that are “interestingly grotesque.” Although there was a moment when he killed the mother of an infant and when he walked past the crib… but no. I think even that would have been over the top for an R rating.
I went back in time through the magic of “internet streaming” and watched the 1978 version of Halloween to make some comparisons. In that incarnation, Curtis’s character was a victim. She was chased by Myers, and while she got her licks in, she was ultimately saved by a man with a gun. Flash forward to 2018 and Strode is the one with a gun in her hand and she’s hunting Myers. Although she is a deeply troubled individual, having never gotten over the trauma of the events 40 years earlier, she is a fully enabled woman. And she has taught her daughter and granddaughter to be self-sufficient as well. This is a complete 180-degree turnaround completely appropriate for the #MeToo era.
We’ve talked about the differences between heroes and villains. Heroes and villains both usually have some inner hurt or pain that they need to resolve. Heroes work through that “missing inner quality” and resolve it by the end of the story. Villains, on the other hand, never get over that pain and that is what drives them down the path of villainy.
Strode is an interesting hero because she hasn’t gotten over her trauma. But she uses it to fuel her vengeance. Even though it takes 40 years, she does resolve her pain and uses it to become a fierce defender of herself and her family (sadly, not so much her son-in-law. Ah well. He’s just a disposable male character after all). I feel she is a hero because she does overcome her missing inner quality, it just took decades.
Halloween is a gory, screamy treat for people who love movies about a bad guy who does his best hibachi chef routine on innocent people. This film is an example of great craftsmanship, as there is just the right balance between suspense and carnage. I enjoyed seeing Jamie Lee Curtis playing a hopelessly damaged badass woman who (maybe) gets her revenge. I give this film 4 Reels out of 5.
Greg, we differ slightly about how heroic the character of Laurie is, but that doesn’t detract from her strength, charisma, and allure. Our hero is relentless, tough, gritty, smart, and courageous. She may be emotionally and socially scarred, but no one should mess with her, not even Michael Myers. I give her 4 Hero points out of 5.
With regard to archetypes, there is the pure evil villain, the people who underestimate him, the evil psychiatrist, the victim out for revenge, the overly trusting victims, and the baby whose life is spared. I give these archetypes 4 out of 5 Arcs.
Halloween was a fun film harkening back to the early days of scream queen horror. But it lacked the tension I’m seeing in modern horror going back as far as Blair Witch and more recently the Conjuring series. The murders were less grotesque and gory as they were ironic. In fact, the whole film felt campy. I give it just 3 out of 5 Reels.
I also liked Laurie Strode as a hero. While we may quibble over details, she overcame a huge long-term trauma to exact revenge on a mindless, pure-evil villain. (In fact, I was hoping for even a glimpse of what made Myers tick – but we didn’t even get a grunt. Very disappointing). The fact that she and her progeny trapped and killed their “harasser” plays well in the age of #MeToo. I give her 4 out of 5 Heroes.
And this film is rife with ordinary horror tropes. We see the TEENS DOING SOMETHING THEY SHOULDN’T which is the basis for their horror movie “just desserts.” I give the archetypes just 3 out of 5 Arcs.