“Halloween” Stays True to its 80s Roots

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

As a fan of the original 1978 “Halloween,” I had high hopes for the 2018 sequel. Thankfully, it did not disappoint. “Halloween” is a crowd-pleaser, with frequent nods to its predecessor, gory scenes galore and a satisfying ending. This movie is definitely a trip down nostalgia lane, but the cinematography, soundtrack, and plot are so timeless that even casual horror watchers will be able to find an enjoyable aspect. Even though it is the eleventh film in the eponymous franchise, “Halloween” effectively goes back to the elements that made the 1978 slasher film so popular.

The opening credits instantly set the tone for the film. The 80s-esque font and Michael’s theme music are both eerie and reminiscent. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, the babysitter Michael terrorized 40 years ago. Now older and wiser, Laurie has safe-proofed her home for the return of Michael — who she is sure will come back for her eventually. She has isolated herself from her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), has multiple locks on her door, a security gate and a hidden room where she keeps her various guns. On the night of Michael’s transportation to prison, he manages to overpower the guards and escape. Throughout the time that Michael doesn’t have his mask, the audience doesn’t ever see his face. The anonymity makes his character that much more creepy; there is no humanity or personality to Michael other than the fact that he is a cold-blooded serial killer. The film drives this point in through the senseless killing that takes place once Michael gets to the town of Haddonfield. After the iconic theme music sets in, everyone is fair game. However, instead of building the suspense through the soundtrack as other movies in the franchise do, the music is almost distracting at times. It alerts the audience of the violence that is about to occur and takes away from any surprise.

While Michael is off stabbing housewives, Laurie’s teenage granddaughter, Alison, is at a dance with her boyfriend. She leaves momentarily to chat with her friend, Vicky, about post-party plans at the house where Vicky is babysitting. Vicky’s scenes were refreshing to watch after Michael bashes a woman’s head in with a hammer. Her scenes provided comedic relief early enough in the film that it didn’t feel too light. Although his role was small, the boy she babysat was so charismatic that he stole the scenes he was in. The film tries to balance comedy with horror, and although in this case it worked, sometimes it felt out of place and took away from the intensity. The film does pretty well in staying away from cliches, but Alison’s storyline ends up feeling like a slasher trope. Her character has no real purpose besides providing the set of teens that are primordial to every slasher film. Apart from her importance to Laurie, her screentime only serves to establish plot details to the audience.

Alison is rescued by a sheriff and Dr. Sartain, Michael’s psychologist, after she has a harrowing encounter with Michael. What ensues is the most nonsensical scene in the film. Michael’s anonymity, a central part of his frightful character, is broken away by Sartain. The red herring during this scene almost veers the movie off course, but it manages to gain traction soon after. Sartain soon becomes one of Michael’s victims. His death scene was particularly gross — brains and blood splatter across the screen. Although the other deaths were still graphic, this one made me look away. The scare factor is definitely watered down compared to any of its predecessors (except maybe Rob Zombie’s interpretation) but the gore is amped up to a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” level.

After hearing about the bus crash on the news, Laurie is immediately on alert. She is the only person who can stop Michael’s wrath of terror, and their eventual showdown is intense. The film has little to no jump-scares, but it does a good job of building the anticipation as Laurie prepares for the confrontation she has long awaited. The shots are exceptionally thoughtful, and the sound effects during these scenes were fantastic. They were simultaneously a reference to its ‘80s roots and added to the momentum the scene was building. In this sequence in particular, the nods to the original were piled on. Fans in the audience are sure to recognize the iconic reference to its 1978 inspiration. But casual watchers shouldn’t fret, as the traditional camera shots and victorious (if a bit ambiguous ending) are an aesthetically pleasing and fun viewing experience.

Verdict: While its sense of originality and scares are lacking compared to its 1978 counterpart, “Halloween” pulls its weight. The multitude of characters and twists made the film unorganized at times, but it held true to its slasher roots. Anyone is bound to enjoy this sequel regardless of whether they’ve watched John Carpenter’s original film.

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