TIFF 18: ‘Halloween’ Delivers on Some Genuine Scares and Rewards Fans for Longtime Support – Review
Halloween came early this year as Michael Myers honoured festival goers at the Toronto International Film Festival with his presence. This latest instalment in the Halloween franchise is a direct sequel to the first film from 1978. In it, we have Laurie Strode and Michael Myers both prepared to end their longtime feud, once and for all. Laurie has been preparing for this ever since that fateful night 40 years ago, and Michael Myers has been too.
Laurie, her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), are three generations of Strode women who are about to face the consequences of Michael’s obsession with Laurie. Will the Strode women succeed, or will The Shape forever haunt Laurie and the residents of Haddonfield?
This latest instalment is directed by David Gordon Green who co-wrote the script with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride. Yes, you read that right, Danny McBride contributed to the script, which explains the fair amount of comedy in the film, and the knowing nods to John Carpenter’s iconic moments in the first film. The movie (for the most part), plays like an homage to its predecessor, setting up familiar scenes that made Halloween a cultural phenomenon.
There is an added dosage of female empowerment in the film that doesn’t quite land. At times, it plays like a gimmick and lacks a genuine understanding of the central idea that runs through horror films in regards to women. Often horror films and the leading ladies are allegories for toxic masculinity and the prevalence of violence against women in both real-life and in media. This Halloween seems to be taking cues from the very issues that the horror genre often reflects, but in many ways, there is severe lack of tonal balance with the comedic horror – which in turn makes the more serious assessments of the Strode women’s positions seem out of place.
There is painstaking detail put into establishing the consequences of that night 40 years ago and how that trauma (which is the central theme of the film) has affected every aspect of Laurie’s life, from her personal well-being to her parenting. However, the script often utilizes the tropes and conventions made famous by Carpenter’s 1978 film in a comedic fashion, commenting upon the absurdity of the various situations our victims find themselves in. This creates an uneven experience and suggests the screenwriters and director were unclear about what kind of film they should be making. Perhaps if a woman was to be involved in the scripting stage or directing the balance between Laurie’s trauma and the various homages, often comical, would be even.
Despite the problem with tone, there is no doubt that the screenwriters and director are greatly fond of Carpenter’s creation and the lasting effect it has had on the genre. It is clear that they are very aware that they could not replicate or imitate the original, so instead what they do is pay homage to the famous iconography. Although filming on film would have served the movie better, Gordon Green does a fine job honouring Carpenter while bringing Halloween to the modern-era. Meaning, advancements into filmmaking allows for a visceral experience as we see Michael Myers pillage through Haddonfield. There are some brilliant setups and although they could be predictable, they were also totally satisfying. Gordon Green truly hones in on what makes Michael Myers so fascinating and horrifying. As an added bonus, Laurie is given her fair share of fearsome moments as she doesn’t settle for being the prey.
All in all, Halloween is a movie for the fans. It is a reward for the 40 years fans have dedicated to this franchise. Despite the lesser sequels, Halloween has remained one of the most revered slasher horror films, ever. Nothing can ever come close to John Carpenter’s original, but David Gordon Green and the team behind this sequel have done their job in recreating the feeling and atmosphere of the original. Halloween is a well-deserved treat to fans of the franchise and horror.
Halloween scares audiences on October 19!