Watson Reviews: Halloween 2018 (Spoiler Free)

I am not much of a horror fan.  I typically avoid all but the most arthouse or sophisticated takes on the genre.  I would almost certainly avoid the eleventh installment of a slasher franchise that began when I was three years old.

But when positive word of mouth started spreading about the soft-reboot of the creepy killer series, I figured I would give it a try.  Could it overcome my admitted bias against the genre?

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Though there have been 10 films before this one…some reboots…most continuations… this film ignores ALL of the other Halloween movies since the 1978 original.

Michael Myers is in a mental hospital after going on his now infamous 1970s era babysitter killing spree.  Laurie, the one victim who escaped his wrath, has become a paranoid survivalist who is preparing for the day he is released.  Laurie not only internalizes the fear of Michael, but she has also passed it on to her daughter; who was taken away by child protective services because of the way Laurie prepared for her inevitable final battle with the evil Myers.

When Michael is transferred to a different hospital, of course the bus crashes, and Michael goes after Laurie and the unsuspecting families of Haddonfield.

WHAT WORKED:

  • Halloween captures pure evil and menace instead of cheap slashing. Unlike Friday the 13th, Halloween doesn’t rely on jumpy, shock scenes.  Michael Myers simply doesn’t sneak around.  He comes right at his victims and the director lets the audience watch with dread.  That to me is much more terrifying. Sure you aren’t jumping out of your chair, but it is much more horrific.
  • An actress took advantage of the big stage. One particular actress, Virginia Gardner (Runaways) who played best friend Vicky, took a small role and made an impression.  In a tangential scene, Gardner made a slash and demonstrated strong screen presence.  I wish she had been cast to play Laurie’s granddaughter; who had zero presence.  Also fun was Jibrail Nantambu as Julian; a little boy whom Vicky babysits.  The two had great chemistry in a sequence that probably could have landed on the cutting room floor and not affected the script.  This film’s humor was often uneven, but this scene really landed.
  • That damn creepy theme still does half the work for them. This is by far the best theme song in horror history (unless we count Jaws as horror).  Just the opening credits with this theme playing raised the hairs on the back of my neck!

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

  • Jamie Lee Curtis has never been a great actress. She just isn’t.  She has had her moments, but really  never delivered a lot of great dramatic performances.  This role relies heavily on her ability to move the emotional needles and she wasn’t that strong in this area.  The film survives despite her weakness, but it is a drag on the narrative.
  • They go out of their way to tick up the death count. There was some very funny commentary by a young character early on where he notes that “by today’s standards” the five death body count of the 1978 original is somewhat tame.  Killing five people is barely even the top news story in an era of school shootings and spree killers.  The 2018 update goes out of its way to correct that by wracking up the death count, but the deaths seem to sometime serve solely to make Michael menacing and not any other reason.  It’s a little extraneous.
  • Can we get Judy Greer a real part? I love Judy Greer (Ant-Man), and she is solid in this film, but it is still another put-upon suburbanite role that she always gets.  She is always having to react to someone else.  I wish she could get a meaty role that gives her more to do.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I hadn’t seen any of this series since the second installment….(well, I saw part 3 but that isn’t really part of the series at all)… so I was coming in fresh.  I have to say, I enjoyed this film.  It had its hiccups, but it was still enjoyable.

Plus, there was a nice turn on a horror cliche toward the end that provided a fresh and funny moment.  Worth a watch if you want a solid scare.

Overall, I give Halloween 2018 a score of 8.5Bahn Mi PB & J’s out of 10.

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