“Halloween” in 2018: Good, but Questionable

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The 2018 reboot of “Halloween” retcons out the 40 years of sequels, prequels and reboots since the classic original. It received political publicity when Fox News published a headline admonishing star Jamie Lee Curtis’ gun control stance, as her character used guns in the movie against the iconic horror villain Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle). Fox accidentally got it right; this “Halloween” features a lot of “good” violence, committed by the heroes in self defense. This is the kind of gun violence that drives America’s obsession — the kind of violence that police officers feel they are emulating when they shoot down black men in the street, or that store owners feel they are emulating when they shoot at people who would dare to touch “their” property. The key difference, however, is that both Myers’ spree in this film — and the “good” violence that tries to stop it — aren’t real.

This rendition of “Halloween” makes few attempts to be realistic. A human head is lit from the inside with a flashlight like a jack-o’-lantern, characters are impaled by knives and left hanging against walls. Heads are stomped on. In other words, this is a pretty good “Halloween” movie. It  cleverly sews together a classic Michael Myers murder spree with a siege movie set at the fortified house of Laurie Strode (Curtis), the now-aged and traumatized protagonist of the original film.

Although every “Halloween” except the original is purged from the film’s history, director David Gordon Green makes many hommages to the original through parallelisms and twists. And, of course, we have here an updated version of John Carpenter’s iconic score, which is still one of the most effectively creepy horror themes in movies.

Viewers in search of a slasher movie will not be disappointed, but as is common with slasher movies, this “Halloween” isn’t particularly scary. It holds a different kind of pleasure than this summer’s soul-breaking “Hereditary,” or this spring’s surprising adrenaline rush, “A Quiet Place.” The thrill of slasher movies is seeing how closely they adhere to the formula, and this “Halloween” effectively subverts what we expect. In this, the film becomes exciting. The filmmaking itself may be stale, but this “Halloween” has a new story to add to the legend of Michael Myers, which is worth seeing.

We started this review with politics, and so we will end it with politics. I couldn’t shake a feeling that Fox was — gasp — kind of right. The headline was met with memes about how movies are fake, so the actions of the characters should be taken with a grain of salt, but I feel nothing could be further from the truth. Stories in movies, especially sleek money-makers like this, are the backbone that support our contradictory and amoral beliefs. Indeed, commiting “good” violence against an inaccessible alien “Other,” like Michael Myers, is one of those core beliefs — the kind that Fox News and their ilk love to advocate for and the kind Jamie Lee Curtis and her ilk supposedly love to oppose. But as long as movies like “Halloween” are good movies that I, as a critic, can recommend, we will not be free of those beliefs.  

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