The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"HALLOWEEN"

Halloween

John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic Halloween has inspired multiple sequels and reboots, to varying levels of quality. The new 2018 Halloween asks us to forget about all of them. The movie positions itself as the one true follow-up to the original, promising a final showdown between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and masked killer Michael Myers. Of course, fans will know that she already decapitated him in 1998's Halloween: H20, and that he killed her by throwing her off a roof in 2002's Halloween: Resurrection. But hey, here we go again.

The premise this time is that Michael has been in an institution for the criminally insane for the last forty years. Laurie, meanwhile, has dealt with her trauma by becoming a survivalist, arming herself with weapons and fortifying her remote house with booby traps. One Halloween night, Michael and some other inmates are transferred to a new facility. In the process, he escapes and promptly makes his way back to Haddonfield in search of his old victim. Laurie is ready and waiting for him.

Some new characters are introduced, including Laurie's daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who resents having been raised to prepare for violence she doesn't believe is coming, and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who finds herself on the streets of Haddonfield when Michael returns. Will Patton plays Officer Hawkins, a cop who was around when the previous murders took place and now wants to help Laurie. There's also Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), described by Laurie as "the new Loomis," in reference to the doctor portrayed by Donald Pleasance in Halloween and Halloween II.

Halloween comes from some unlikely sources -- director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and co-writer Danny McBride (best known as the comic actor who starred in HBO's Eastbound and Down and feature films like This Is the End). Clearly fans of Carpenter's masterpiece, they aim to achieve a tone similar to the original's, as well as to develop a plot that feels like a natural extension. For the most part, they succeed.

There are two big ideas here that work in the movie's favor. The first is that Laurie and Michael sort of need one another. He has spent decades waiting for the opportunity to go after her again. She has waited decades to kill him. Both know their reunion is inevitable. Neither will be satisfied until it occurs. This connection gives the story genuine suspense. The other good idea is a nifty surprise twist that happens about two-thirds of the way through, impacting the way we perceive a significant character. By finding some new angles to explore, Halloween feels faithful without coming off as a mere retread.

Green stages Michael's rampage with real menace. There's a harrowing sequence in which he terrorizes a woman inside a gas station bathroom, and another set in a backyard with motion detectors that turn the lights on and off during his attack. The climatic showdown between Michael and Laurie, meanwhile, delivers the goods fans are certainly hoping for, thanks to the physical and thematic closure it provides.

A couple extra scenes involving Karen and Dr. Sartain would have gone a long way toward making their individual character arcs feel more complete. Observant viewers will also notice one or two weird plot holes involving some of the contraptions in Laurie's house. The intensity of Jamie Lee Curtis's performance is the glue that holds everything together. Laurie's need to know that Michael is dead before she can rest helps gloss over any minor flaws. The actress invests the picture with a useful dose of humanity.

If anyone really thinks this will be the last meeting of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers -- or the last appearance of the latter, for that matter -- I have a nice plot of land in Florida to sell you cheap. But who cares? Halloween does what it needs to do. The film is tense and spooky, and its willingness to explore the idea that a horror movie heroine would experience long-term trauma as a result of her ordeal is admirably ambitious.

( out of four)


Halloween is rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity . The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.


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