By Nils Reucker
So then, how do you write a review of a film that is highly anticipated by a crowd of drooling sequel-deprived Halloween geeks, one that is yet to be released, without giving away too many details and spoiling it for everyone?
As film critic Mark Kermode wrote: “If you don’t want to know anything about a movie before seeing it, don’t read reviews of the movie – they tend to discuss the movie.” Harsh but true.
Having said that, instead of going into plot details and in order to stay as spoiler-free as possible (pardon the subsequent mild shallowness), let’s make the following a retrospective retelling of that one fateful night that I was lucky enough to watch the latest sequel of my favourite horror franchise three weeks prior to its worldwide release: David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN (for all of those who just cannot wait: you may contact me for spoilers).
So, there was me, sat in the front row of Hamburg’s CINEPLEXX movie theatre, popcorn to my right, diet coke to my left, when she entered. SHE. Yes. The finalest of the final girls, the screamiest of the scream queens: Laurie Strode aka Jamie Lee Curtis herself. Never in my life would I have imagined having the offspring of icons Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis and my childhood hero introduce my favourite horror film to me – ever.
But yes, on that rainy night of October 2nd, 2018, it happened. So here goes a big shout out to Jamie Lee Curtis for making my evening so special and a night to remember – by filling an entire cinema hall with her vibrant and captivating personality, giving the strongest introduction to this movie and taking her on-screen character that we have all loved and analysed to pieces just that one bit further.
Because what some of us might not have realized yet: Laurie isn’t just that one strong final girl, the brave heroine that we have celebrated her for. Jamie Lee Curtis made us understand that Laurie is actually a woman of now almost 60 years who has gone through hell since the happenings of October 31st, 1978. She went home from school on that day being a dreamer, romantic, wanting to kiss a boy. On November 1st, however, she returned to school as a freak. A deeply wounded girl who lost all of her friends and part of her innocence.
From that fateful night on, she has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for 40 years and she’s never gotten support, help or love from anyone. To quote Jamie’s words: Nobody put their hands on her face to say “Baby, it’s gonna be okay.” Not even her family. She’s been isolated with just that one thought on her mind, that he will come back. Michael Myers will come back at her. Jamie Lee Curtis made us realize that this is Laurie’s film. This is her story.
Depth, pure depth. This is what the character of Laurie Strode is all about in this latest sequel to the franchise. We learn and understand the complexity of her inner being in a way that we never would have imagined watching John Carpenter’s original masterpiece. It’s safe to say that Jamie Lee Curtis really put her all into the portrayal of the character, delivering a deeply moving performance.
This immersive way of acting runs like a golden thread through HALLOWEEN (and yes, the so whitewashed franchise is finally being inclusive this time, having several African-American actors on board!). Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, and my personal favourites Drew Scheid and Jibrail Nantambu, amongst the rest of the cast, create credible characters. The odd funny moment (even after all these years, Laurie’s up for a joke) and at the same time the disturbing reality of what trauma can turn you into even 40 years on make this without a doubt the deepest sequel of them all – mostly due to the rich and evolved character of Laurie Strode herself.
James Jude Courtney’s performance as the Shape ranks amongst my personal top three for sure; everyone who expects an exact copy of Nick Castle’s legendary performance might be slightly disappointed, though. Michael just wasn’t 100% the guy you remember from 1978 but hey, time passes and people change (even ol’ Mikey). The Shape in 2018’s HALLOWEEN, in my opinion, can best be described as a solid Chris Durand performance (in killing scenes) with some George P. Wilbur thrown in (in walking, standing, scaring scenes). Solid, but not quite on par with the original. Some more Castle would probably have done well here, especially in scenes that did not require stunt performances. But hey, this is really nit-picking and they probably had their reasons for not involving Nick a tad more.
The mask: creepy, Kirkish, original. Sculptor Chris Nelson studied latex rot in order to give the mask the aged look that it has, capturing 40 years of wear and tear – but managed to maintain the original Don Post Captain Kirk features that previous masks failed to retain. And yes, the blackest eyes are back. No more visible pop eyes, we’re getting a peek right into the devil’s eyes again – blank and emotionless. The violence and brutality in this film, however, are unparalleled in the franchise – make of it what you will, but those people complaining about the size of Michael’s knife in the trailers will get their fair share of gore as Michael literally gets his bare hands dirty quite some times…
The score is tremendous and powerful, John and Cody Carpenter seriously outdid themselves. It’s true to the classic score but less subdued, more impactful, just that one bit more evil. Yes, it’s slightly reminiscent of Alan Howarth’s contentious electric guitar rendition of the original, but changes and variations to the theme are more subtle, more appropriate, more rhythmic; combining new motifs with classic ones (Laurie’s theme is still going strong here, as is “The Shape Stalks”!).
It truly sent shivers down my spine on many occasions throughout the movie – goosebumps guaranteed. Watch for that scene of Michael putting the mask on for the first time…and the Elrod ‘incident’! Sheer horror for eyes and ears – in a good way, naturally.
Oh and – whilst we’re at it – another aspect that will make all of the hard-core nerds rejoice: the film is packed with homages to its predecessors, referencing H1, 2, 3 and H20 in the most respectful way while ignoring them all at the same time. From more obvious references such as the old Don Post pumpkin, skull and witch masks from H3’s evil Silver Shamrock during trick or treating scenes to less subtle references of the aforementioned “Elrod incident” and an H20-like rest stop scene (absolutely loved that one!). Ultimate nerd-reference: remember the poster in Laurie’s bedroom, showing a self-portrait of Belgian painter James Ensor? She still owns it 40 years on!
Cinematography was beautiful, without a doubt the most aesthetic Halloween of them all – the old cold and warm contrasty colour scheme, representing threat and safe spaces respectively paired with beautiful picture compositions just raise this film to the next level.
I don’t want to sound like an absolute Halloween nerd – granted, I am one – but this is, in my opinion, the best of the franchise right after John Carpenter’s original masterpiece. And let me tell you – during the course of the making, during the release of stills and trailers, I’d been this film’s biggest sceptic.
Thank you, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis for making this one rainy October night in the front row of Hamburg’s CINEPLEXX so special for me and a couple of other horror nerds…and for bringing class back to the franchise right from the beginning – cause even the opening credits are epic. Wait for it.
On that note – Happy Halloween.
Follow Nils Reucker on Instagram – @nilsvonschreck