Halloween (2018) Non-Spoiler Review
This October horror has come home!
‘Halloween’ (2018) is the most exciting and exhilarating slasher film since 1996’s ‘Scream’ and delivers a big screen rollercoaster horror experience like nothing else in recent memory. The film pounds you with bursts of horror mastery, giving you a sublime blend of brutality, gore, dark comedy, thrills, tension and isn’t scared to be self-referential; making sure it addresses any potential 'yawner' moments before the audience does.
Go see it in a packed theatre opening weekend, it's definitely one of those films that work best with a large audience.
‘Halloween’ (2018) pays deep homage to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece while playing with the slasher genre's tropes to great effect; sometimes subverting them, at other times leaning hard into them, all the while having a ball playing in the genre’s sandbox.
One thing that was surprising was how funny it is, well, it’s not super surprising since Danny McBride was one of the writers, but it was packed with jokes.
Now, sometimes that can be to the detriment of the story – especially if you are trying to convey dread, fear and build tension. However, in the case of ‘Halloween’ (2018), the humour is naturalistic, aligned with each scene’s endgame, is based on the kind of stuff horror fans would, or think they would say upon coming face-to-face with a slasher killer like ‘Michael Myers’ (not in that awful ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ way) and most importantly, the humour is used to develop the characters into more rounded people rather than fodder.
Also, it is so well placed it offers those moments of brevity required for an audience to breathe for a moment before the tension gets cranked up again.
The film is a story of 3 acts, each with a different overt tone, so it’s best to dive deeper into this film act by act.
Firstly, it’s interesting thinking about how the film feels like 3 slightly different experiences. The movie doesn’t stop and tell you that each act is starting with a title card like a Tarantino movie, instead, it uses extremely hard edits.
After walking out of the theatre and catching my breath, I started to think about the 3 acts more and how - although there’s all the connective tissue in place - it had a style that in parts gave in an anthology feel. Massively overthinking it, but since the ‘Halloween’ franchise was supposed to be an anthology series from the third instalment onwards, plus being a huge fan of the ‘Creepshow’ films etc., it was a cool notion to think there may have been a very subtle nod to horror anthologies dropped in the mix... Anyway.
The first act in this film is a work of art; like David Fincher/Nolan shot a thriller that was a love letter to Hitchcock. There’s no doubt that had the overall style of the first act dominated acts 2 & 3, this film would be getting an Oscar for Cinematography and/or Directing – it’s beautiful.
The way the film opens, all the way up until the presentation of the first kills, is mesmerising. Nothing so traumatising and barbaric has ever looked so good. You can feel every head impact and every bone break; the atmosphere is almost tangible, you are so immersed in it.
The film gives nothing in terms of development to ‘Myers’, completely ignoring the need to provide growth and motivation for him, simply stripping it all back to the original film’s concept of pure unstoppable evil, a brutal force of nature, and it works so well.
In contrast, Laurie Strode - played once again by the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis - is a far more broken and complex character than the usual ‘final girl’ or horror protagonist. The film superbly climbs inside the mind of a slasher genre victim after the event. Exploring how the kind of traumatic experience the survivors endure at the hands of horror icons would change a person to their very core and how it would haunt them decades later.
Jamie Lee Curtis brings her A-game in the film and portrays a hard as nails yet also extremely fragile ‘Laurie Strode’ who is filled with rage, PTSD, aggression and fear - flitting between all these mental states at a moment’s notice.
The character is set up to be strong and venerable at the same time. A tragically flawed hero that has spent her whole life since the events of the first film wanting to hurt 'Michael' so much she has only hurt those around her for 40 years.
Sice note. The supporting cast is pitch perfect and the humour and banterish dialogue help you genuinely care about most of their safety. Yeah, there's a couple of obvious fodder victims, but not always the ones you suspect.
Act 2 is where things take a turn. After a very hard edit, it’s Halloween night in ‘Haddonfield’ and this is where the film goes from being a homage to Hitchcock thrillers to straight up slasher, brimming with nods to the original film that will have fans gushing – especially the masterfully crafted no-edit shot. It’s also at this point when the film stretches its slasher legs and starts to lean heavily into the genre, playing loose and free with the classic teen horror tropes and when the bulk of the comedy floods in as the film enjoys itself – a lot.
As mentioned, ‘Halloween’ (2018) is pure entertainment from start to finish but act 2 does have plenty of elements that could throw someone off the ride, leaving it difficult to get back on.
The slasher genre is infamous for its tropes. Wes Craven's 'Scream' was based around calling them out while subverting/leaning into them gleefully and the new ‘Halloween’ is no different. It relishes the opportunity to play with the tropes and is exceptionally subversive in places going as far as to genuinely earn many of its more ‘cliched’ scares.
However, in places, it has a little too much fun causing some of the scares to feel really cheap as it tries to have its cake and eat it with by subverting yet leaning into the tropes at random.
The only reason some scares stand out as cheaper is because the film goes out of its way to earn its grubby cliché scares and they are so beautifully placed (during the open act) it feels so dirty when it cops out.
Same with the tropes, it sublimely subverts the tropes but when it feels like it or needs to drop in the tired old tropes unwashed, it can feel jarring.
Personally, that’s stepping back and being hyper-objective. Subjectively, it’s bloody awesome. It's like the film goes from a gripping thriller akin to ‘Seven’ that switches to a less funny and darker ‘Idle Hands’. I loved it, but I can understand if more casual filmgoers, who aren’t as drenched in the slasher genre, may be thrown off by this act. Or it could be the exact opposite, the film may not kick in for some folks until the slasher genre classic hits start playing out.
Act 3 is where it gets awesomesauce.
Basically, as ‘Skyfall’ took ‘Home Alone’ and twisted it into a ‘Bond’ finale, ‘Halloween’ (2018) runs with the premise for horror but never makes it stupid. It’s at this point where the jokes cease and the shizzle hits the fan. The film homages and subverts classic ‘Halloween’ scenes, has tension piled on tension and the action that closes out the film left the audience giving it a standing ovation.
Overall, it's the most entertaining horror film I have seen in over 2 decades that wasn't a straight-up parody.
Some of the kills rival the best the 80's had to offer.
The direction and cinematography are Oscar worthy in places. The characters are relatable (mostly) and more engaging than your standard fodder. It's easily in my top 5 of 2018 and my top 5 slashers of all-time.
‘Halloween’ (2018) is a big screen must-see experience. It has been over 20 years since I have walked out of a slasher film in such awe.
As mentioned, there are some parts that hyper-critical fans may nit-pick but, for its minor flaws and desire to have it all, it still delivers a thrill ride that I am still buzzing from almost 3 weeks after seeing it at FilmFest Hamburg.
Compared to other slasher films, the experience alone is worth a 10/10 and a full-price ticket opening weekend.
David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley have knocked it out of the park with this one, it is one of the most entertaining movie-going experiences of the year.
Head of content and co-founder of Beyond the Box Office.