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Halloween review - a horror classic reborn


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2018's Halloween is a brilliantly crafted love letter to John Carpenter's 1978 seminal horror classic - a mix of deliberate callbacks and fresh new ideas that nails the original's atmosphere of unease and simmering tension.

I don't feel bad in saying that I didn't find the original Halloween particularly effective. I certainly understand why it was influential and I can dispassionately identify the elements that make it a good horror movie - but I didn't think it was scary. 

There's a bit in the new movie where an indifferent teen asks why a guy with a mask and a knife killing three people so many years ago is such a big deal. That's a crass thing to say, and his friends rightly call him out for it, but at least in terms of popular culture, it's not an unfair question - does Michael Myers even have a place in a modern age of horror?

The answer is a resounding yes. It's fitting that the new Halloween isn't a numbered or subtitled entry in the series - not just because it wipes the slate clean, continuity wise, but because it very much feels like it's the Halloween movie of this generation. 

It's a new coat of paint on a horror classic that some, like me, can't fully get behind because of its age - a remake of sorts, not literally, but in spirit. Watching it made me wonder if this is what audiences in 1978 saw in the original. 

The story picks up 40 years after the events of the first movie, disregarding every sequel that followed. Even Halloween: H20 didn't go this far with its retcon, since its alternate timeline started after Halloween II

Laurie Strode is no longer Michael Myers' younger sister - she's just the traumatized survivor of a murderer's killing spree. Jamie Lee Curtis is spectacular in her reprisal of the role. 

The older Laurie is a battle-hardened badass, who's spent the last 40 years training and preparing for Michael to come back. Her house is a fortress stocked with weapons and traps. At the same time, she's arguably more vulnerable than we've ever seen her - estranged from her family, living alone and still clearly carrying the pain of that fateful night in 1978. 

it's easy to draw a parallel with Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, right down to the strained relationship between mother and child. Here, Judy Greer plays Laurie's daughter, a woman trying very hard to live a normal life after spending her childhood in constant fear of the Boogeyman. 

Then there's her daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) - a young, healthy well-adjusted teen. Three generations of Strodes that get put to the ultimate test when Michael Myers escapes and starts killing again.

Michael Myers has an incredibly unnerving presence in this movie. He's never really jump-out-of-your-seat scary, but he'll definitely get under your skin. He's human in the sense that he has a tangible, physical presence, but in all other respects, he's almost a supernatural figure - one that simply emanates evil.

One of the most disturbing scenes in the movie has Michael kill a woman, only for her baby to cry out in another room. The silent killer turns and starts walking towards the sound. It just makes your blood run cold. 

Another thing that makes the new Halloween very effective is how it takes the time to flesh out even its most minor characters. There are bits of dialogue packed with just the right kind of specific detail - the boy who'd rather go dancing than hunting, the cop that packed homemade brownies for lunch.

These go a long way in making every character feel like a real person, which in turn ramps up the tension. They're just not there to be the body count until Michael gets to Laurie. A lot of the time, you actually hope they make it out OK.

There are a handful of jump scares to be found here and most of them are really good. The movie uses them sparingly and to good effect, instead of relying on them for its scares. 

It's in the final confrontation between Laurie and Michael that Halloween really hits its stride (or strode, if you will). The nail-biting finale elevates a movie that was already quite good to one of the best of the year - balancing terror and dread with moments of pure, fist-pumping awesomeness, and culminating in a death glare for the ages. 

It's easy to see that Halloween was made by very talented people that adore and deeply respect the original film. John Carpenter himself was on board as executive producer, and he also worked on the new score, which builds on the iconic themes of the franchise. 

Halloween 2018 is a fantastic movie and a terrific sequel/reimagining of a horror classic. If you've never seen a Halloween movie, this might just be the definitive version to go to. For long-time fans, it's bound to be a truly special treat. 

Halloween arrives in cinemas on October 19th.

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