Halloween (2018)

Face your fate.

Year of Release: 2018
Genre: Horror
Rated: R
Running Time: 106 minutes (1:46)
Director: David Gordon Green


Jamie Lee Curtis ... Laurie Strode
Judy Greer ... Karen
Andi Matichak ... Allyson
Toby Huss ... Ray
James Jude Courtney ... The Shape
Nick Castle ... The Shape
Haluk Bilginer ... Dr. Sartain
Will Patton ... Officer Hawkins
Rhian Rees ... Dana Haines
Jefferson Hall ... Aaron Korey
P.J. Soles ... Teacher


Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

Master of horror John Carpenter joins forces with director David Gordon Green and producer Jason Blum for this follow-up to Carpenter's 1978 classic.


Halloween 2018, remindin' us that there's no death too gruesome for people who spend 40 years tryna pry an introvert outta their shell.

And speakin' of psychological dysfunction, I don't mean to be the box of Good & Plenty in anyone's trick-or-treat bag, but I'm just not feelin' Halloween this year. Skunky Hernandez says I'm just in a funk, and while I'll admit he's an authority on the subject, I think it's got more to do with nine years of bein' menaced by cannibal sagebillies, zombie deer, and a coupla days spent in the bottom of a well at the hands of Bambi Mastrude's sociopathic sexcapade made flesh.

Nonetheless, I drove out to the Grime Time with every intention of perseverin' for all the little kids who'd come to trick-or-treat car-to-car and stumble aimlessly through the Sage Maze so they'd all have somethin' nice to look back on when they're in their mid-40s with six kids, an upside down mortgage, and a ruptured sewage line that spews colonary confections onto the hood of the disabled Tesla Canaveral they bought offa Craigslist anytime somebody flushes the dumper.

I got as far as the ticket booth.

"Where ees costume?!" Skunky demanded from somewhere inside a superhero get-up just generic enough to avoid the wrath of Marvel. "I tol' you costumes ees mandatory!"

"Oh look, I'm being threatened... by Ted Cruz," I chuckled.

"Wolverine, pendejo. Now go home ane change!" he demanded.

"Like I'm the only one. Look, Silas ain't wearin' one," I deflected, pointin' toward Row 6 where Silas was engaged in conversation with what was either a diabetic Rambo or an Oath Keeper.

"He ees Wolfmane! Later he take peechures weeth keeds next to marquee," he explained, pointin' to the sign and remindin' me that the first feature for the night was Fury of the Wolfman.

"Silas, you whore!" I hollered in his general direction.

"I get 10% of the gate," Silas shrugged and began combin' his face.

"And a cheap whore at that," I groaned.

"Here, put these on," Skunky instructed, grabbin' a pile of leather outta the lost and found and thrustin' it toward me.

"Um... Skunky," I paused, searchin' for a delicate way to explain why he was gonna need a penicillin shot in the morning.

"You be Made Mex!" he beamed, clearly proud of his improvisation skills. "Hmm... pantalones has beeg hole een rear... oh! I see, here ees meesing piece," he deduced, holding up a gimp mask.

"Skunky, I'm gonna go to the concession stand, grab some bloody nachos, and start the flick. Don't talk to me again until you've watched Pulp Fiction - but once you have, don't talk to me *about* Pulp Fiction either," I said, too horrified to appreciate the humor in the situation. "And by the way, they're not wearin' costumes either," I noted, gesturing toward Stacy Gaskins and Sofia Quinones.

"You ees stupid as you ees stubborn! They ees nurses!" he observed.

"They work at Mom & Poop's Senility Acres, dumbass, those're their uniforms," I gloated.

"Thees ees true? Why you no wear costumes?" Skunky asked the women, visibly bummed.

"We don't have time for this," Stacy said as she popped the top two buttons on her uniform.

"Ah-ha! See! They ees *naughty* nurses!" Skunky cheered.

I turned and left once it became clear that a victory dance was imminent, but if you think I was about to swim around in what I'm 99% sure was Edgar Mastrude's S&M suit that turned up in one of the outhouses after the 4th of July you've got an imagination Salvador Dali would've envied.

Fury of the Wolfman went off without incident; Skunk raked in $5 for every picture he took of Silas snarling menacingly at indifferent children, I ran a moderately successful Three-card Monte table that brought in around six pounds of Halloween candy, and all the screams that came from the maze were followed either by amused giggling or the words "you're on the pill, right?" as expected.

Everything seemed fine until intermission when every light in the place, and the projector, died.

"What the hell's goin' on, Hernandez?"

"Put that thing away! Somethin's wrong!"

"Mommy, I've gotta pee!"

Those were a few of the comments that my employer has authorized me to repeat, and although there was initially more confusion than the first act of a David Lynch movie, we were able to establish a rational, constructive dialogue once we got a little light on the subject.

"Where're those savages you got workin' out here? I bet they done this!" Zeke Ewert insisted.

"If you're not showin' a second movie I want half my admission back!" Rocky Pogue complained.

"This better be good, I was about to get some," Dale Whelchel declared.

"Oh, you were not," his wife, Gretchen, corrected, generating scattered laughter.

Fortunately, Skunky took charge and waddled into action to assuage the audience's concerns.

"Ees no problem! I go fleep breakare, be right back--" he was sayin' when suddenly everything came back on, only with The Phantom of the Opera projectin' onto the screen in place of the scheduled follow-up.

"Weird. I set up A Bucket of Blood before I came down to piss," I thought aloud.

"Obviously you screwed up," Mark Skidman scoffed.

"Obviously your mom screwed a hippo," I fired back.

"Shuttup, you!" Skunky growled in my direction.

"Power es back on, we start second feature shortly," he assured everyone right before a series of shrieks pierced the wall of the Sage Maze, prompting a coupla dozen men to go chargin' in to investigate.

I wasn't about to set foot in that death trap again, but I could hear snippets of conversation from up on the deck of the projection booth.

"Somebody pinched my ass!" Tawny Sissel screamed.

"Me too!" Maime Tibbets affirmed.

"Wait! I didn't get your phone number!" Richard Fawner wailed in the direction the shape had fled.

I stuck around and watched Phantom until the mob made its way back to the lot, and by that time things were startin' to get a little heated between some of the younger guys who suspected each other of playin' grabass with their respective dates when, all the sudden, a figure wearin' a hospital gown appeared up on the ledge in front of the screen holdin' a cow's pelvic bone in front of his face.

"Up here, fools! Tis I - The Phantom of the Drive-In! They tried to keep me imprisoned in their dungeon of terrors, but I have returned!" the man asserted.

"If he falls we've had it," Sofia warned Stacy gesturing toward the gravel below the drive-in screen.

Stacy and Sofia were probably the only ones who had any idea who this guy was but he was plainly desperate, and the image that came to my mind, as the two nurses climbed the ladders on either side of the screen in their attempt to corral this guy, was the next mornin's headline that read: "Elderly Patron Killed at Drive-In - Are the Films to Blame?" There wasn't much time, so I slid down the projection booth's handrail and grabbed Skunky.

"When they get too close that whackadoo's gonna stage dive like a crank fiend at a Sex Pistols concert, and if somebody doesn't catch 'im our business license is gonna break his fall," I warned.

"Whoevare catch that man geet free corn dog for life!" Skunky yelled for all he was worth.

Nothin'. It was so quiet you could hear the surviving remnants of the summer's cricket crop.

"Alright! Free cerveza for life!" he amended.

Buzz McCullough ended up claimin' the prize after deckin' three other guys who tried crowdin' 'im when old man Grimes, the original owner of the Grime Time, as it turned out, dove off the screen to escape the grasp of the night nurses entrusted with his care. The dementia had taken almost everything he had at age 93, but some of his memories of the Grime Time had survived, and sad as it was to see the old guy carted back to the hospice center, I couldn't help but hope that when my number comes up that I manage a last hurrah half as impressive as the one he pulled off.

In case that wasn't depressin' enough, once we'd closed up for the night I hadda drive home and lower myself to watchin' the next Halloween sequel even though they hadn't made one that really felt like a Halloween movie since 1988. I gotta say though, after watchin' the 2018 version, I think they mighta figured out how to recapture the magic that's been missin' all these years, and that formula seems to involve stuffin' the new entries with so many homages and callbacks to the classics that it'd border on doublethink to develop a negative opinion. It's like an elaborate trap for pessimists that dares 'em to try pickin' the movie apart so they'll get dogpiled on by the fanatics who've seen the first five movies 926 times apiece and can recite every scene and line from memory and challenge the whiners to explain why somethin' was so cool when Carpenter did it in 1978, but "stupid" when somebody else did the exact same thing in 2018. It's downright diabolical.

I'll tell ya somethin' else too - it wasn't easy to extract and impart new learnin' experiences from a movie that's essentially a greatest hits compilation from flicks past, but I dug deep and scooped out a few nuggets to keep our collective coconuts snowballin' with accumulated wisdom, so I hope everybody appreciates it. First, if Child Protective Services takes your kid away because you tried preparin' 'em for the day that a psycho killer escapes state custody and tries murderin' 'em, and then said psycho killer escapes state custody and tries murderin' 'em, an apology is probably in order. Second, when the state mandates the transfer of a supernatural killing machine on the 40th anniversary of the night he previously escaped your custody you *could* request a temporary delay, but then folks might call ya chicken. And third, a BlackBerry is no match for tapioca.

The movie begins back at Smith's Grove Sanitarium where advanced treatment for Cocoa Puff addiction continues 40 years after Michael Myers originally wrought havoc on the local babysitting industry, and now a coupla journalists (Aaron and Dana) are there interviewin' Dr. Loomis' understudy (Dr. Sartain) to find out how many times Mike hasta get up to pee at night and who endorses his social security checks for a piece they're doin' on has-been psychopaths. Sartain eventually agrees to let 'em speak to Mike out on a giant squash court that's been painted to resemble the floor in a '50s diner, at which point Aaron tries to bribe Mike into doin' an interview for Entertainment Tonight in exchange for his old William Shatner mask until he gets so P.O.'d that his psychic paparazzi death beams start radiatin' out like a lighthouse and cause the other inmates' brains to do the locomotion. Then Aaron and Dana go lookin' for Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jamie's a lot more receptive to bribery 'cause the upkeep on the para-military industrial complex she lives in has taken a serious toll on 'er bank account ever since 'er Ginsu settlement money dried up. 'Course these're the kinda people who see a woman who lives behind an electrified security fence located 90 miles from the nearest Starbucks and think the best treatment for 'er crippling paranoia is to sit down with 'er would-be killer and shoot the breeze, so they end up spendin' their afternoon tryna come up with a story compelling enough to keep their employer from filin' a lawsuit against 'em for misuse of their expense account.

Next thing, we're in Haddonfield where Jamie's granddaughter (Allyson) is all bummed out 'cause she's about to graduate from one of those gifted schools where none of the kids know how to change a flat tire, only 'er mama (Karen) won't invite Jamie to the graduation 'cause she's afraid she'll climb the flag pole with a bull horn and deliver an unhinged rant decrying the abolition of the death penalty. Meanwhile, Jamie's out at Chateau Schizo with a deer rifle lobotomizin' a buncha mannequins she fished outta the dumpster behind JCPenney till she gets bored of that and drives to Smith's Grove to get bombed on miniaturized bottles of ill-gotten honor bar booze and watch Michael's transport bus take 'im to his forever cell. Then she goes to join the rest of the family at a restaurant but hasta leave before she causes a nationwide alcohol shortage, and Karen takes the opportunity to tell Allyson about how she spent the first 12 years of 'er life learnin' how to kill a man with an emery board in case Mike ever pulled another Houdini routine on the hospital until CPS started askin' questions about all the tiger traps and coyote snares on the property and handed 'er off to one of those Christian foster families tryna save America one impressionable youth at a time. Elsewhere, a guy and his 13-year-old son with a 3-pack-a-day smoker's voice find the prison bus in the ditch on the side of the freeway, and when papa doesn't come back after goin' to talk some sense into all the ravin' derelicts screamin' about the space amoebas eatin' their brains the kid takes his dad's rifle and accidentally prescribes a dose of hot lead for Dr. Sartain and tries fleein' the scene until Mike grabs 'im by the head and forces 'im to do an impression of a paranoid barn owl.

The next mornin', the journalists visit the grave of Judith Myers and record spooky, sobering observations about the nature of evil to appease the ghost of Donald Pleasence, 'cept when they stop for gas Mike shows up and makes a few staffing cuts until the place becomes self-service only. Then Mike goes into the can and mashes Aaron's face into the wall until it's got tiny patches of pretentious British beard hair embedded in it and squeezes Dana's neck like a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough so he can collect his mask and do his part to prevent the spread of COVID. While that's goin' on, Jamie sneaks into Karen's house to demonstrate a few of the security lapses in 'er perimeter and to tell 'er about the unscheduled stop Mike's bus made the night before, but Karen just channels 'er inner Blanche Dubois and tells 'er she's always been able to depend on the kindness of strangers and suggests Jamie go interview for a job at the NRA instead of spreadin' their propaganda for free. So with Jamie's warnins cast aside like roll after roll of Smarties from a trick or treat bounty, Allyson goes to the Halloween dance with 'er gender fluid boyfriend, only when she goes to get some punch she catches 'im smoochin' with Toni the Tigress and tells 'im he can go nibble all the cat nips he wants 'cause they're through. While that's goin' on, Allyson's friends (Nikki and Dave) are tryna swallow each other's tonsils instead of payin' attention to the kid they're supposed to be watchin', and when the kid sounds the alarm Nikki finds Mike in the closet where he proceeds to carve 'er pumpkins and tack Dave to the wall where everyone can get a good look at his frustrated pantler.

Jamie, the sheriff, and Sartain converge on the house and Jamie's able to put a round in Mike's shoulder, but Mike splits so he can watch this dork (Oscar) try to put a liplock on Allyson and then mercy kill 'im before he can grow up and become Andy Dick. Allyson comes back to check on 'im when she hears the sound of an iron gate spike squishin' up through his brain and immediately runs off to tell Sheriff Hawkins that Mike's usin' questionable tactics in order to win the neighborhood Halloween decoratin' contest, only when Hawkins and Sartain pick 'er up in the squad car they spot Mike and Sartain forbids the use of vehicular manslaughter against a ward of the state but Hawkins puts his foot down. Apparently Sartain's got battered psychiatrist syndrome or somethin' 'cause he's so sure he can change Mike that he pulls out his self-defense pen and shivs Hawkins when he tries to empty his clip into Mike's prone personage. Then Sartain stuffs Mike into the backseat of the cruiser next to Allyson and heads for Jamie's place so he can scratch his beard thoughtfully in quiet contemplation when he reunites maniac and victim for the illuminating Michael Myers: This is Your Life experiment he's got planned, 'cept before they get there Mike wakes up and bicycle kicks the prisoner partition so hard that it crushes Sartain against the steerin' wheel until he can see his own peptic ulcer and stomps his face into septum soup. Meanwhile, up the road a piece, the cops in the patrol car assigned to guard the entrance to Jamie's place start gettin' suspicious when they spot a large man in a mask makin' like Nancy Sinatra outside Hawkins' unresponsive rig, and while Mike's tearin' their faces off and turnin' 'em into festive decor Allyson sees 'er opening and takes off through the woods.

A few minutes later the cop car pulls up in front of Jamie's house, but when Allyson's dad goes out to get an update he finds the cop-o-lantern in the front seat and Mike makes a chiropractic adjustment on his spinal cord while he's in shock. Dad gets a shot off to alert Jamie, only she uses the advanced warnin' to press 'erself up against the front door and Mike ends up bustin' out the side panels and starts givin' 'er a reach-around until she manages to raise the barrel of 'er scattergun and blows two or three of his fingers off. Then Jamie and Karen hunker in the bunker until they hear Mike go up to the second floor and Jamie hasta follow 'im so he doesn't get his hands on any of the 43 firearms she's got strategically hidden around 'er bedroom as she drops steel security doors behind 'er like she's playin' a high stakes game of Jezzball. Eventually she finds 'im after his trip up the flight of stairs sets off his COPD and Jamie notices what sounds like Darth Vader practicin' Zen meditation behind one of 'er mannequins, but Mike wrestles the gun out of 'er hands and she ends up topplin' over the balcony railin' like a drunk teenager at a poolside resort. Mike's got 'er right where he wants 'er now and he knows that by the time those nosy Activia people come lookin' for 'er he'll be long gone, only before he can banzai drop on top of 'er and squish all the probiotic microbes out of 'er gutbucket Allyson finally arrives at the house and distracts 'im just long enough that by the time he looks back over the railin' Jamie's gone. See what they did there? Nice. Gonna hafta zip my lip right here before I give away the details of Jamie's top-secret plan, but once you've seen it you might develop a greater appreciation for the value of home-field advantage.

Alrighty, well, ya can hardly go wrong with a hundred-minute highlight reel of the franchise's greatest hits, in-jokes, and callbacks, can ya? Not an especially gutsy approach, but it definitely shows the audience whose side you're on. Ordinarily I'm not much of a cheerleader for sequels produced 40 years after the fact, nor 20, or 10, for that matter, but considering the last flick in the primary chronology was Resurrection, a new addition to the original timeline wasn't just welcome, it was downright necessary. Tonally, it's the closest any sequel's gotten to the original since Part II back in '81 and the producers play it so safe that I have a hard time understanding how anybody could possibly hate it, but I suppose we do live in an age where there're more attention-seekers per capita on the internet than there are on Bourbon Street durin' the Mardi Gras celebration. It's actually got a lot in common with an early Friday the 13th sequel in that it's so similar to what came before that it fits into place seamlessly and unobtrusively without risking anything that could possibly raise a fuss, which, if you wanna keep the door open for more sequels, is a sound strategy. Just move the story into the present day, (re)establish your characters, respect the existing mythology, and then, if you wanna try something daring at a later date, you'll have hopefully built up enough goodwill that the fan base doesn't crucify you when they hate it.

The thing I find most interesting about it has nothing to do with the flick itself, but rather the surgical accuracy with which studios' accounting departments have managed to separate us from our money. Don't get me wrong, I'm not chastising anybody for tryin' to wring a few more dollars outta their intellectual property - I just find the evolution of the process fascinating. Originally it was sequels. All you had to do was pump out a sequel every few years and you'd be assured of keepin' the fans happy and padding the studios' finances, but after a while even the most reliable of franchises peter out once a series gets up into the high single or double digits. After that it was remakes and that worked out even better because, while it would sometimes alienate fans of the original films who considered such an act to be blasphemy - remakes brought in the general public who'd maybe seen the original film in a series and nothing else, and they, of course, outnumber genre fans exponentially. But the latest development is smarter still - a sequel that ignores everything in the series except the original, which is, in nearly every case, the most popular and most nostalgic entry in any given franchise. It's diabolically brilliant, because this pulls in the mainstream audience as effectively as a remake, but is decidedly less offensive to hardcore fans of the franchise, and as long as you bring back a few key characters, maintain tonal consistency (this is where the two Chainsaw "requels" kinda screwed the pooch), and nail your homages, nearly everybody's happy. Hopefully some of the other studios take note, 'cause this concept is vastly more interesting and just as profitable as the endless string of retreads and could represent a much-needed paradigm shift in the way projects are greenlit.

Anyway, now that I've used up my entire year's deep thought allowance, let's see if Mike can still swing his tools in the face of rheumatoid arthritis. The plot, just to be clear, picks up after the events of the original Halloween from 1978 and does not include those of Halloween II. So we're brought up to speed with the revelation that Loomis and the Haddonfield police department eventually captured Mike after he pulled that disappearin' act at the end of the first movie and put 'im back in the same asylum even though he already broke outta there once before. I think the reason so many people liked Halloween 2018 is that there's no wheel reinvention goin' on and no startling new revelations to behold, as was the case in many of the ill-fated entries in the series and its remake. The story is about as simple as it gets and primarily concerns itself with the antics of the dysfunctional Strode family and its anxiety-ridden matriarch who eventually proves that it's not paranoia when they really are out to get you. It's almost a family drama, only the primary cause of said drama is that nobody'll believe grandma when she tells 'em a geriatric psycho killer in a fright mask is tryin' to play mumblety-peg with 'er rib cage, so the plot, which remains faithful to the original film, is surprisingly basic and linear for a modern horror movie and features none of the galaxy-brained plot twists we've come to expect, nor the humiliating plot holes that often accompany them.

The acting is excellent, and whatever you may think of the recently wrapped trilogy, you've gotta give Blumhouse credit for going with an unknown for the role of Allyson when there must have been a powerful temptation to cast someone with "star power." Admittedly, I watch so few new movies that I probably wouldn't have known the difference, but it speaks to the studio's reverence for the original film when they chose to follow its blueprint. That said, many of the supporting characters feel like an afterthought, and the choice to present Loomis' heir apparent as being even more unhinged than he was by the time his character was laid to rest forces Jamie Lee Curtis to carry the flick, which, fortunately, she does. Just to be clear - there are no bad performances in the movie, and although you never get to see their faces, the cameos by Nick Castle and P.J. Soles prove, once again, that the producers have their fingers on the pulse of the genre faithful - but it must be stated that the only characters that really matter are Laurie, Allyson, and Michael Myers.

The special effects are limited and include an unfortunate amount of computer-generated blood spray. It seems to be the go-to method for every scene in which there's contact with a knife or bullet, and this is especially disappointing given just how minimal the special effects need to be to stay in line with those of the '78 version. All the gore that we see post-assault is great, and although it's not really in keeping with the simplicity of the first film, the hollowed-out head lit from within to resemble a jack-o-lantern is well-crafted and amusing, and the squished head is satisfyingly gooey as well. So it's not all bad, and the reverse time-lapse of the rotting pumpkin reconstituting itself during the opening credits is clever and charming, but if there's one area where the flick disappoints it's here - with the inclusion of computer-generated effects that're wholly unconvincing and create an air of laziness given how easily all of those sequences could have been achieved with practical effects. The same could be said for the climax, although a little leeway is in order given the permits, associated crews that would have been required, and the fact that they would have only had one shot at it.

The shooting locations are decent, and while the flick can't quite match the authentic Halloween atmosphere from the '78 version or Halloween 4, it does come close. They shot this thing in 28 days in a middle-class suburb of Charleston, South Carolina where it's still plausible that kids trick-or-treat, and Allyson's neighborhood works as a reasonable facsimile of Laurie's original block despite the two locations being situated about as geographically distant as possible. Smith's Grove was actually Military Magnet Academy in North Charleston, but the production designer and cinematographer's combined efforts help to successfully pass it off as an asylum. I'm not clear on whether Laurie's compound was built specifically for the production or whether the filmmakers simply rented a building scheduled for demolition, but it was a real building rather than a set, and its rustic appearance, in conjunction with the surrounding timber, effectively build a feeling of claustrophobia during the climax while also illustrating Laurie's physical and psychological isolation from the rest of society. The art direction, the location scouting, and the production design are all good, but on the whole, it's just not quite on par with the first flick.

The soundtrack might well be the high point of the movie due in no small part to John Carpenter returning, along with his son, to score the picture. It, like the events of the movie, brings the audience back to the original film - with generous recycling of classic tracks woven in with new pieces that are as menacing as they are catchy. You can bring back Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, but without that classic Halloween theme it'd never work, and the inclusion of not one but three new variations on the most memorable tracks from the original film arguably make it the best soundtrack of the entire series up to this point. Catchy though the original score may be, it can be risky attempting to contemporize old music in a way that appeals both to longtime fans and young'uns for whom the film may be their first exposure to Halloween, but the Carpenters' composition walks that line and strikes the perfect balance between nostalgia and innovation.

Overall, Halloween 2018 is, due to its strong production values, the fourth best in the series behind the first three flicks; although if we're ranking them strictly based upon personal preference, I'd place it fifth behind the first four, as I prefer Halloween 4 in spite of its inferior technical values. It may well sound disappointing to land roughly in the middle of the pack, but the Halloween series is unusual in that when it's good, it's very good, and when it's bad, it's very, very bad. Or, put another way - 44 years and 13 flicks have come and gone since Jamie Lee Curtis first impaled Michael Myers' eyeball with that coat hanger, and somehow, this one, produced 40 years after the original, manages to outshine every other entry made after the year 1988. It's all a matter of perspective really, but however you wanna rank them, Halloween 2018 is a welcome palate cleanser after mosta the crapola Dimension released, and definitely a return to form that fans of the original film won't wanna miss.

Rating: 73%