Blumhouse Gives "Halloween" New Meaning
I just got home a few moments ago after finally watching Halloween (2018), funnily enough with my mom and sister, and I loved it!
After reading a few reviews, it seems as if the general consensus among critics is that director David Gordon Green may have missed the mark with this installment when compared to John Carpenter's 1978 original. However, I disagree.
Today, horror movies and the audiences that watch them, are not better or worse than their predecessors; they're simply of a different generation with different tastes and standards. In my opinion, sequels rarely ever top originals, but I believe that Green was not trying to outdo or "remake" Carpenter's classic, but rather, tell the same story from a different point-of-view.; and he succeeded.
Blumhouse Productions has been doing horror right, at least in my eyes, with films such as Get Out, Insidious and my newest favorite, Happy Death Day (Part 2 being released Valentine's Day 2019), and have continued this streak with Halloween. Not only has the production company achieved the nearly impossible -- getting a now 59-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis to reprise her role as original protagonist now bad-ass Laurie Strode, and a now 71-year-old Nick Castle to reprise his role as Michael Myers / The Shape, but they did it in their own style while simultaneously paying homage to Carpenter and 1970's slasher films.
Although this Halloween was not jump-out-your-seat (or skin) scary, though I did jump once, I don't think it needed to be. For me, its spookiness rests more in the plot and storyline than in Michael's actions. Blumhouse successfully re-imagined Carpenter's original vision for a 21st Century audience, picking more at the audience's human emotions than their fright.
Avid fans of the Halloween franchise were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed awaiting the return of apathetic serial killer Michael Myers. But, what fans probably didn't know was that they were also awaiting the return of Michael's sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Talk about #FamilyTies. Michael and Laurie; each other's perfect foil.
Here we have brother and sister, squaring it out 'til the very end after 40 long years! Michael, isolated and silent while incarcerated in a state sanitarium after having murdered 5 people; and Laurie, paranoid and in a post-traumatic state, also incarcerated in her own home-turned-bunker deep in the woods, having ruined her relationship with her only daughter Karen (played by Judy Greer) and almost doing the same with her only grandchild Allyson (played by Andi Matichak), all to remain prepared for Michael's long-awaited return.
Thus, as an homage to the original, having ignored all previously failed attempts at sequels, while Michael is being transported from Smith's Grove Sanitarium to Glass Hill, maximum security, where he would spend the rest of his days, the bus somehow runs off the road into a ditch which allows all the patients to escape, including Michael. Once off the bus, Michael begins his rampage, making his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, virtually unseen, just in time for Halloween night.
Meanwhile in Haddonfield, Laurie is getting extra prepared to finally kill Michael, which involves continually trying to warn her daughter and son-in-law Ray (played by Toby Huss) to evacuate their house to instead stay in hers.
Personally, what I love about the film is that moviegoers haven't necessarily had to watch the original (or any of its sequels) to understand this film; which is great because I haven't watched a Halloween film in its entirety simply because the music and the mask always creeped me out, LOL! The backstory is well-established and it simply boils down to a brother and sister who have to duke it out after forty years of pent up vengeance. The familial theme throughout is what Green and writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride use to tug at movie watchers' heartstrings (at least, they tugged at mine and my mom's).
It's known from the start that Michael stabbed his sister Judith to death when he was only six years old and that his childhood psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (played by Donald Pleasance in the original), declared Michael as evil; yet, despite him being an evil murderer, Green, Fradley and McBride still manage to insert a bit of humanity into Michael.
Michael's psychiatrist for the past forty years at Smith's Grove, Dr. Sartain (played by Haluk Bilginer), somewhat represents the audience; strangely fascinated and obsessed with Michael Myers the man and the monster, wanting to get inside his head to understand his drive to kill.
Dr. Sartain's obsession becomes so intense that in the scene where Sheriff's Deputy Frank Hawkins (played by Will Patton) collects Allyson and Dr. Sartain to take them both to Laurie's bunker, they drive right into Michael, with Hawkins running him over with his police car. However, things take a turn for the weird when Dr. Sartain stabs and kills Hawkins as revenge for running Michael over, leaving Dr. Sartain to rescue Michael, push him into the backseat of the police car with Allyson, and finally get to wear Michael's mask.
Here, Dr. Sartain's affinity for Michael grows more intense, because he gets to feel the rush of murdering someone (Hawkins) just as Michael has/does, only to be murdered by Michael shortly after Michael regains consciousness. If you ask me, I'm sure Sartain probably died happy after finally getting to experience the thrill he's been yearning for the past four decades of studying Michael!
An element like Dr. Sartain's obsession is the type of nuanced "scare" of Blumhouse's movies. That, along with the fact that Michael can blend in in what people think is a Halloween costume, and simply walk into people's houses and kill whoever's home (more often than not the mother or babysitter). In fact, despite Michael having murdered two women in their homes (which caused critics to complain about the franchise's misogyny), the fact that Blumhouse has three generations of women who are literally armed and ready to take on Michael or any monster, shows the film's progression. The deaths of minor supporting characters didn't add or take away from the plot, like critics agree, but they were simply people in the way who needed to be added to Michael's quota after not having killed for forty years.
Speaking of minor characters, the scene where Michael walks into the gas station bathroom and creeps outside true-crime British podcaster Dana Haines' stall (played by Rhian Rees), took my mom out! She brought up a really good point; things like that happen in real life! Can you imagine being in a bathroom, alone, anywhere, not necessarily just a gas station, and someone's creeping outside your stall, not talking and not leaving you alone? Great job with that #scaretactic guys!
Green, Fadley and McBride also successfully incorporated intentional and unintentional comedy into the film. Oscar (played by Drew Scheid) who is Allyson's boyfriend Cameron's (played by Dylan Arnold) best friend, provided intentional comedic relief, specifically just before being killed by Michael. As well as Julian (played by Jibrail Nantambu), the boy who Allyson's best friend Vicky (played by Virginia Gardner) was babysitting, was funny with a lot of wit and had enough sense to run out of the house to save his life, leaving Michael to kill Vicky and her boyfriend Dave (played by Miles Robbins) inside the house.
But, there were also unintentionally funny moments that horror movie junkies or admirers of psychopaths would delight in. For example, simply the way Michael walks, or how easily he can access people to kill them, or the fact that he doesn't talk and that we cannot see his facial expression because of his mask, all make me go, "What a nut!" and burst out laughing!
Nonetheless, the ending (#spoileralert for those who have yet to watch), is truly what leaves movie watchers on edge. Villains aren't supposed to die. No matter how evil or bad a character may appear to be, there is some "good" (or human) in everyone. Audiences are supposed to sympathize with the villain and Blumhouse does just that!
In the scene where Laurie (and her daughter and granddaughter) finally capture Michael in her bunker and set it on fire, the way Michael looks up at them just before Laurie drops the match into the room, pulls a response of sympathy for Michael out of my mom and me. I don't know if this feeling was mutual for the rest of the moviegoers, but just looking at Michael in a room with no visible way out, having his sister, niece and grandniece yell at him and stab him and finally torch him, struck a nerve. My mom didn't make it any better by saying, "Awww! Don't do him like that."
But a scene like this really makes one wonder. Yes, on one hand Michael is a cold-blooded murderer, but on the other hand he's mentally unstable. Dr. Loomis may have classified him as "evil", but he's also someone's son, brother and uncle. Just how "evil" could he really be if he hadn't even killed a cell mate in forty years? Or does Michael's evil lie in his vengeance to kill his sisters? Is it the familial urge that makes him extra evil? Notwithstanding the random murders of neighbours and babysitters? Or is his mental state not a good enough excuse for his actions? Psychoanalysts can dig deeper into these questions, but Blumhouse does a great job in painting this picture, especially in that torching scene.
True fans were hoping to see Michael walk out of the house with flames about his body, as is tradition with villains never dying, because a villain dying would mean the end of an era. Instead all we got was an empty yard with a house that was aflame and a shot of Laurie, Karen and Allyson escaping on the back of a pick-up truck, with Allyson holding on to the bloodied knife.
Could this mean that there may be another installment where Allyson continues the saga?
I think Blumhouse did a great job with the many elements that make a good horror and continuing a classic without "messing it up" for original fans, and also showing Michael in another light. Not only did Laurie finally kill Michael, as far as we can see, but she was able to restore her relationship with her daughter, which hopefully can restore her mental health.
Still, Michael Myers forever!