31 Days Of Horror: Halloween 2018

So, I just got back from the cinema, where Geth and I spent the afternoon watching Halloween 2018 (2018)!

Halloween 2018 cinema tickets
Cinema tickets for my collection!

I’m really glad I got to go see this film on opening day, because I’ve been looking forward to it for months, and it was part of the reason that I decided to do a month-long horror film watchathon this year.  It’s the eleventh Halloween film, but it’s the first one since the original where John Carpenter has been involved in creating the story, and so in some ways it’s more of a true sequel than any of the ones that came before it.

In what is now becoming a cosy Halloween series tradition, the continuity is rebooted yet again.    Furthermore, unlike the Thorn continuity and the H20 continuity, this continuity also decanonises Halloween II.  So, to recap:

  1. Laurie Strode now did not get chased around a hospital the night of Hallowe’en 1978 after she’d survived Michael Myers’ first attack.  Michael did not kill the staff of that hospital, and Dr Loomis did not set a room on fire, seemingly killing both himself and Michael.
  2. Laurie Strode most definitely did not have a daughter called Jamie in 1981 and then die with Jamie’s father in a car crash in 1987.  There was no Thorn cult trying to use Michael and anyone related to him for bizarre rituals.
  3. Laurie Strode did not fake her death in a car crash sometime before 1981, move to California and change her identity to Keri Tate, get married, have a son called John in 1981, get divorced, and become the headmistress of a private boarding school.  She also did not get locked in a sanatorium for three years between 1998 and 2001 and then get killed by Michael on 30 October 2001.
  4. Laurie Strode, thankfully, absolutely did not get adopted by the Strodes after originally being Angel Myers, was not an unlikeable idiot, and did not go mad after suffering hallucinations of a woman in white and a horse.
  5. Most interestingly of all, Laurie Strode is not the sister of Michael Myers.  This is the only sequel other than Halloween III that has not gone with the story of them being brother and sister, and that’s only because Halloween III was a completely different story set in a completely different universe.

Instead, in this continuity, Laurie Strode has remained in Haddonfield for forty years, suffering from PTSD, has been divorced twice, and has a daughter and granddaughter.  Michael Myers was captured shortly after doing his disappearing act from the garden of the Doyle house, was taken back to Smith’s Grove sanatorium, and has been held there for the intervening forty years.  Dr Loomis passed on his knowledge to another British doctor, Dr Sartain, before he died at an unspecified point in time.  Michael, prior to the events of this film, only murdered five people: his sister Judith Myers; an unnamed truck driver during his journey to Haddonfield; and Laurie’s high school friends Annie, Bob, and Lynda.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with this film!

Callback to Halloween: the opening credits are exactly the same as the first film, except that the pumpkin starts off rotten and gradually returns to a fresh state.  Creepy!

The film starts off with a couple of British investigative journalists, Aaron and Dana, visiting Smith’s Grove.  They’ve been looking at the case (they specialise in shining new light on historical murder cases) and meet up with Dr Sartain, who trained under Dr Loomis and has been Michael’s doctor for many years.

Callback to Halloween 4: Michael is about to be transferred to a different sanatorium (that’s always a good idea!).  This is because the state have apparently got bored of studying him, and are planning just to let him rot somewhere for the rest of his life.

Aaron and Dana, who are clearly idiots, have managed to get hold of Michael’s original mask, and when Dr Sartain takes them to meet Michael, Aaron presents it to him, trying to get him to speak.  Dr Sartain explains that Michael can speak but just chooses not to.  Undeterred, the journalists head off to try and get an interview with Laurie Strode, who has been living in an isolated house for many years.  Laurie grants them an interview in exchange for $3,000, but tells them to get lost when they start asking questions about why she lost custody of her young daughter.

We’re introduced to Laurie’s family – daughter Karen, son-in-law Ray and teenage granddaughter Allyson.  Allyson wants her grandmother to come to a meal out that the family are having to celebrate Allyson’s success at school and to meet her boyfriend Cameron.  Karen claims to have invited Laurie and that Laurie can’t make it, but she’s clearly lying.

We get a lot of sequences of Laurie practising in a makeshift shooting range, showing that she’s been preparing to face Michael again for forty years.  Everyone, especially her family, thinks she’s kind of nuts.

Allyson walks to school with her friends, Vicky and Dave, and we get the backstory infodump.  Apparently Karen is lying about Laurie being able to come to the meal out because Karen doesn’t like having her around – the reason that Laurie originally lost custody of Karen was because she was bringing her up based on her fear of Michael’s return, training her to shoot guns and so on.  Dave has heard that Michael was Laurie’s brother, and Allyson denies this, saying that it was just something people made up to try and explain things.  Aside from being a slight fourth wall dig at all the sequel filmmakers who went with the family connection story, I think it’s very interesting that John Carpenter always saw things differently.

At school, Allyson meets up with boyfriend Cameron.  He’s okay about coming to the meal that night, but is more excited about the following night, when they’re going to be attending the school Hallowe’en party dressed as Bonnie and Clyde.

Callback to Halloween: Allyson is taking a philosophy class in the exact same classroom as Laurie did in the first film.  The classroom hasn’t changed at all and the teacher (voiced by original Lynda actress PJ Soles!) is still talking about fate.  We then get Allyson looking outside for the traditional spotting-Michael-outside-the-window, but in this film, it’s not Michael – it’s Laurie watching her from outside.

Back at Smith’s Grove, Michael is offloaded onto an ambulance with a bunch of other patients.  Dr Sartain, either heroically or stupidly, gets on the bus with them, because he believes that Michael is his responsibility right up until the moment he’s transferred to a new doctor.

At the family meal out that evening, Cameron is making a good impression on Allyson’s dad Ray, but Laurie arrives late, having driven to Smith’s Grove to watch the bus leave the sanatorium.  This has really shaken her, and she starts crying at the dinner table, causing general awkwardness.  I really love the characterisation and dynamics between the family – they’re all sympathetic, and you can understand everyone’s point of view.

On a quiet road, a kid and his dad have to stop the car suddenly, because the bus from Smith’s Grove has crashed (who didn’t see that coming?).  The dad goes off to investigate and is never seen again (the first of many offscreen deaths in this film).  The kid, after calling the police, gets out of the car with a shotgun, goes to investigate the bus, accidentally shoots Dr Sartain (who has survived the crash), panics, runs back to the car, and gets killed by Michael, who’s waiting in the backseat.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a young character (the kid looks about eleven or twelve) get killed in a slasher before!  The police find the bus crash scene, and Dr Sartain turns out to be alive, mumbling about someone having escaped.

The next morning, at the Haddonfield graveyard, the journalists are being shown Judith Myers’ gravestone.  Aaron, who is definitely the more unlikeable out of the two (though I won’t miss either of them when they inevitably get killed), sits on the grave and starts going through all the gory details of Judith’s murder, to the graveyard keeper’s obvious distaste.  We get the original footage of the killing from the first film, which is a nice touch (and means Sandy Johnson, who played Judith in the 1978 film, gets a credit at the end!).

Dr Sartain is now in the hospital, still alive and mumbling.  The main police officer in this film is Frank, an older officer who is said to have been the first on the scene when Michael was recaptured in 1978.  There is also a comedy relief sheriff in a comedy sheriff’s hat, but frankly, his only job in this film is to crack wise – it’s Frank who basically fills the Brackett role.

The journalists stop at a petrol station, taking the opportunity to confuse the American staff by using terms like ‘shop’ and ‘loo’.  Michael’s original mask is shown prominently in the boot of the car, so we know what’s about to go down.

Callback to Halloween H20: Dana sits in a toilet stall, and it’s shot very similarly to the scene with the mother and child from the 1998 film.

As expected, the journos aren’t long for this world.  Michael attacks Dana in the stalls first, then when Aaron, who has just gone through a quick round of find-the-body with the petrol station staff, comes to rescue her, Michael kills him and finishes off Dana by strangling her.  The police find the scene, and Dr Sartain shows up, apparently feeling much better.  The story soon makes the news, and Laurie sees it on TV.  Rather than freaking out, she just calmly starts making preparations.

At the high school Hallowe’en party, Allyson is enjoying herself – calling Vicky (who’s babysitting and can’t come to the party) to make post-party weed-smoking plans – until she catches Cameron kissing another girl.  He’s drunk, and angrily throws Allyson’s phone into a bowl of custard, which is a great and highly original way of getting rid of the convenience of a mobile phone (I’m so sick of 21st century horror film characters being ‘out of battery’ or ‘out of reception’!).  After this scene, Cameron is never seen again – I’m disappointed that we don’t see him die horribly, seeing as he turned out to be a dick, but at the same time I actually love the ballsy move of having a character in the film whose whole purpose is to remove the ability for the final girl to phone people!  Allyson leaves the party in disgust, accompanied by her friend Oscar.

Callback to Halloween II/Halloween 4/Halloween 5: Michael is wandering about, killing randoms in Haddonfield.  He needs to steal a knife from an old lady’s chopping board, just like in Halloween II, but in order to do so he kills her in a scene that is shot identically to a killing in either Halloween 4 or Halloween 5 (I forget which – I’ll have to watch them again to check when I’m not so Halloween-ed out!)

Callback to Halloween III: some of the kids trick-or-treating around Haddonfield are wearing the Silver Shamrock masks, which is an absolutely beautiful touch.  I spotted them straight away, but it was nice to have it confirmed during the credits!

Allyson’s friend Vicky is babysitting a kid called Julian, who is the best character in the whole film.  The relationship between the two of them is teasing and lovely – it’s basically the New Laurie and New Tommy relationship from Rob Zombie’s Halloween done right.  Unfortunately, once Julian’s been put to bed, Vicky’s boyfriend Dave shows up and the making out and weed-smoking commence, which always means Michael’s not very far away.  The two teenagers are soon killed (Dave’s death is offscreen, curiously), ready for the bodies to be found by Officer Frank, who is prowling around nearby looking for Michael.

Laurie has had the same idea, and she and Frank soon bump into each other, nearly accidentally shooting each other in the process.  Frank introduces Laurie to Dr Sartain, leading to another fourth-wall-breaking moment: ‘You’re the new Loomis,’ says Laurie, even though we know perfectly well that nobody could ever fill Donald Pleasence’s shoes.

Oscar leads Allyson through what is apparently a shortcut to Vicky’s house, but it turns out he has ulterior motives: assuming that Cameron’s out of the picture, he tries to kiss Allyson.  She reacts angrily, ’cause he’s a creep, and storms off, meaning that Oscar is easy pickings for Michael.  Hearing him scream, Allyson runs back, only to find his bloodied corpse.  So begins the final sequence!

Laurie, Karen and Ray, having failed to get in touch with Allyson due to her phone being awesomely taken out of action earlier, hole up in Laurie’s fortress of a house in the expectation that Michael will show up.  Allyson, meanwhile, gets found and picked up by Frank and Dr Sartain, and the three of them drive off in the police car.  When they see Michael in the road, Frank runs him over, but is then killed by Dr Sartain, who turns out to be crazier than his patients, and wants to keep Michael alive for further study.  He puts the unconscious Michael in the backseat next to Allyson, and starts driving to Laurie’s house.

Outside Laurie’s house, we get some classic Haddonfield incompetent cops keeping guard in a police car outside, having an inane conversation about sandwiches.  Dr Sartain stops nearby, and the cops spot the car and try to radio the driver.  Michael wakes up and kills Dr Sartain, the latter still imploring him to say something.  The comedy cops are also quickly dispatched, and Allyson manages to escape into the woods in the confusion.

At Laurie’s house, she equips her daughter and son-in-law with guns.  Unfortunately, while Laurie and Karen are having a heart-to-heart upstairs, Ray goes outside to investigate the police car, finds the dead cops, and is soon killed himself.

Laurie shuts Karen in the hidden cellar and prowls the house, looking for Michael.  This is a good tense sequence, as it takes ages for him to show up.  When he finally does, he and Laurie fight for a bit before he throws her off a balcony.

Callback to Halloween: Michael sees Laurie’s unmoving body on the grass below the balcony, then looks away for a second.  When he looks back, she’s gone.  This is the reverse of the classic cliffhanger at the end of the first film.

Allyson shows up at Laurie’s house after running through the woods for a bit (there was a scene with her doing so about five minutes prior to this, but there was no real tension to it, because we knew that Michael was in Laurie’s house at the time).  She calls out to her mother and grandmother.  Karen hears her from the cellar, as does Michael from upstairs, and Karen has to come out and hurry Allyson into the cellar before Michael comes down.  It looks for a moment as if they’ve managed to get away with it, but Michael soon realises what’s under the kitchen island, and manages to rip the island from the floor, exposing the cellar entrance.

In what is a really nice scene, Karen, readying her childhood shotgun, tricks Michael into confronting her by pretending to be too scared to use the gun and calling for her mother.  As she shoots him, Laurie appears at the door, and then there’s quite a cool sequence where the three generations of Strode women manhandle Michael into the cellar, Allyson stabbing him to get him to let go of her mother, and trap him there, the cellar becoming a cage.  Laurie then turns on the gas and sets fire to the house, kind of like the end of Halloween II on acid.

Allyson flags down the nearest driver, and the three of them escape, with the camera coming to rest on Allyson’s bloody knife.  Roll credits on what is definitely the best Halloween film since the original!  Having watched every single film in a short space of time, this Halloween fan will be very happy if that turns out to be the last film ever made in the series, because it ends the story beautifully.

(A quick Scream rules sidenote: I was relieved after Rob Zombie’s Halloween II that nobody said ‘I’ll be right back’ in this film, but there were an awful lot of instances of ‘Who’s there?’!)

A couple of behind-the-scenes notes from the credits:

  1. This is the second film in the series that has a dedication to original producer Moustapha Akkad, meaning he joins Donald Pleasence in being doubly memorialised.
  2. Michael is played in his Shape form by James Jude Courtney and, fan-pleasingly, in one scene with Jamie Lee Curtis by original Shape Nick Castle.  When he’s not wearing his mask, he’s played by Tony Moran, just like in the original film!
  3. Jamie Lee Curtis, who served as executive producer in addition to playing the lead, was really hands-on with this film – she apparently helped Carpenter with writing songs for the film and all sorts!  It’s really nice to see that this project meant so much to her.

Obviously, that’s me done with Halloween movies now.  We’ll be watching other stuff for the rest of the month, starting with another very old film tomorrow.

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