Halloween movie review: Strong return to form

Halloween movie review: Strong return to form

Michael Myers is one with the mask, his most defining character trait after his breathing and killing.

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle as Michael Myers

Score: 4/5

1978: Legendary director John Carpenter, with Debra Hill, brought to the big screen the first of many masked serial killers in Hollywood. Michael Myers took cinema by storm in a simple-yet-effective horror/slasher themed around Halloween, a festival to remember the dead: a fitting thematic tie-in for Myers, who went on to become one of cinema's most recognisable serial killers, in part due to the disturbing mask and the mouth-breathing.

What followed were less-than-desirable sequels, reboots and sequels to the reboots which expanded on the mythology surrounding Myers, complicating what was originally just a simple, single-minded killer who scarred the hearts and bodies of whoever saw him.

Now, Halloween is rolling around once again, and what better time than to resurrect this boogeyman of old with a sequel-reboot to the franchise. But does Halloween stand up to the bar set by Carpenter all those years ago?

The plot is fairly simple: It is Halloween 2018, and the little town of Haddonfield, Illinois is preparing for the festivities. Children stroll about in their cute costumes, adults go strutting about their daily lives and teenagers do teenager things, the horror of that night of 1978 all-but-forgotten. However, not everyone forgets.

Two reporters, Aaron Korey and Daina Haines head to a hospital that houses, among other insane inmates, Michael Myers. Monitoring him is Dr. Ranbir Sartain, a man who has the air of simultaneous genius and madness.

Myers' mask makes a surprisingly early arrival in the film, courtesy Aaron Korey.

Aaron unsuccessfully tries to goad a reaction from Myers before he is moved to a "less-than-desirable" facility in Sartain's words and the duo then try to go to Laurie to learn "her side" of that night, but are soundly rejected.

Elsewhere, Laurie's granddaughter seems to be trying to reconcile her mother with the family, while Myers is transported to the facility. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose and Myers escapes into the wild. The monster is free to hunt again.

Halloween brings the series to a fresh table, a table where nothing except Carpenter and Hill's masterpiece exists. All mythology built around Myers is tossed out the window and he is restored to his original self: a serial killer who has no need for words and prefers kitchen knives to kill in a painful-but-quick manner. He's a hunter out for blood.

The ignoring of all the previous films also gives Halloween significant leeway to reintroduce characters from the first film with changes appropriate for them: Laurie has gone on to become estranged from her daughter, Karen, who she taught to shoot - and Karen seems to hate her for it. Laurie is paranoid, always fearing Myers' return, and yet she seems to look forward to it the most.

On the other side, we have Frank Hawkins, a cop who knows about the horror that is Michael Myers and is all-too-eager to end him and save little Haddonfield from any future tragedy, which brings him to conflict with Sartain, who has an unhealthy fascination with Myers' mind and insists that not be harmed because he is 'state property' - a stance contrary to the one taken by his mentor Loomis, who insisted - and tried - to kill Myers.

In the midst of all this is Allyson, Laurie's granddaughter, who has been in touch with Laurie behind Karen's back. Unlike Karen, Allyson seems more amenable to Laurie's suggestions and is the one shown to care for her more than most. Among all the new additions to the series, Allyson is the most well-developed as a character, torn between her love for Laurie and her reluctance to cede to her grandmother's fears.

Myers himself is returned to glory with fascinating reverence to the character. Courtney completely puts himself into the shoes of the deranged serial killer who knows no pain, no fear and no rest. He lives for the kill and the only connections he has with the world are his mask and Laurie. His performance is overwhelming, in both his wordlessness and his brutally efficient killing. Myers is death personified, and all who he sets his eyes on, die.

Myers is a monster on a killing spree, which may or may not be a random selection if Sartain's hypothesis is to be believed.

Director David Gordon Green is, for all intents and purposes, the proper choice for the film. His mix of drama and comedy gives him a certain command over the presentation. There is no beating around the bush with his direction: almost every scene in the film has something of value to add, be it in the downtime scenes to prepare for what is to come, or during the scenes of bloody murder.

Carpenter's return to the franchise as a composer does wonders. The score is tense, in line with the excellent cinematography and direction, adding a foreboding atmosphere to the film. Carpenter knows where to put the music and where to let the natural sounds of stabbing, walking and talking take precedence, giving the film an oddly ASMR-like feel.

Overall, Halloween is a strong return to the long-running franchise. Freed from the shackles of mythology, David and Carpenter have crafted an effective slasher/horror film true to the spirit of the original. It has an easy-to-digest plot, well-written characters and a long string of bodies left in Myers' wake. This is the movie some wanted to be, but few managed to capture the spirit of.

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