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Movie Review: Halloween 2018, proof that sequels are not always pointless money-grabs

Let's rewind to 1978: a time when neither myself, or most of the people read my blog, were born. It was an important year - at least if you're a big horror fan - as this was when Halloween was released and skyrocketed the slasher genre into mainstream consciousness.

Halloween is not my favourite horror film or franchise by any means (hello Scream) but it's hard to deny its influence. My apathy could probably be attributed to how dated it was by the time I got into horror films in the mid-00s - but it's more likely because the franchise as a whole got really out of hand.

Film franchises can get a bit wild if left unchecked, and Halloween was probably one of the worst examples of it. Spoiler alert if you haven't seen every film: but there have been (prior to the new one) 10 films with about three separate continuities. Laurie Strode has a daughter in one film but a son in another, and managed to get herself killed twice. There was a Rob Zombie re-boot. Plus a third film that had absolutely nothing to do with Michael Myers or Laurie Strode. And we can't forget about the one with Busta Rhymes doing kung-fu moves. I've seen them all, and I'm not recommending anyone follows my lead.

So when they announced they were making a new Halloween film set exactly 40 years after the original, I was a bit sceptical.

Until I saw the muthafuckin' trailer.

It looked fucking incredible. And the trailer clearly indicated - by mentioning that Laurie Strode is, in fact, not Michael Myers's sister - that the producers had decided to ignore those disorientated sequels and write the script as if none of the other films had ever been released.

Laurie Strode was only established as Michael Myers's much-younger sister in Halloween 2, so they were returning to the idea that Michael chose his original victims at random rather than as part of a revenge plot. The creators at the time of the trailer being released even said that the reason for this was because a murderer who had absolutely no personal reason for choosing his victims was a much more unsettling premise.

Now, I've always been able to take or leave Michael Myers as a villain. While I love the expressionless mask, the fact that we rarely see face, the muteness, his massive build, and the way he brazenly walks around with no fucks given - I usually prefer my villains a little bit more complex (or even morally ambiguous).

For me the real star of this franchise has always been Laurie Strode. While I have my issues with the Final Girl trope (get goods grades, don't have sex, or don't do drugs and you too will outsmart a serial killer! P.S. sluts die first) there's no denying that she is one of the best. Maybe it's because she has (almost) consistently been played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who could play a Teletubby and still hit it out the park.

And Laurie Strode did not disappoint in this film either. As is the case with a lot of films nowadays, she wasn't portrayed as someone who overcame her traumatic experience and went on to find peace with Michael safely behind bars. No. In the new film she is a crazy old lady who has been left severely impacted by her ordeal. In the trailer we can see that she has a Purge-esque house and mutters the words "Every night I pray he will escape so I can kill him". Because, in reality, it would be rare for someone to ever feel safe again after being stalked and almost killed by someone while they were just a teenager.

Plus, there are two new characters to add to the dynamic: Laurie Strode's daughter and granddaughter. Played by the fantastic Judy Greer and Andi Matichak, respectively.

But obviously, we all know that trailers can be misleading. So how did the actual film measure up?

When I visited my local cinema to watch it last Tuesday, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a film that found a sensible balance between paying homage to the original while still updating it enough that it wasn't the exact same film. Much like the Scream TV show (which I reviewed and raved about here) it kept the elements that made Halloween, well, Halloween. While Laurie had changed since the original, Michael Myers was the same hallow shell he had always been. He wore the same outfit, and we still don't see his face. His preferred victims still appear to be babysitters. There's a new psychiatrist who, like Dr Loomis, isn't that good at his job. Oh, and there's still the same iconic music and title card.

Honestly, for the first hour you're watching nearly the same film that came out in 1978, so for a while I was feeling a bit twitchy. But then came the final cat and mouse scene between Michael and Laurie, and it was everything I could have ever hoped it would be. I won't say exactly how it plays out but - while you see little homages here and there to the original - it isn't the same film. The closest showdown I can compare it to is Clarice Starling and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

Another thing I noticed is that the film is more visually appealing than the original. In 2013, Netflix released The Curse of Chucky (and in 2017 the Cult of Chucky) and created a slasher film that was actually, uh, artistic? I don't have the vocabulary to describe film effects or visual styles but even an untrained eye can spot that the directors sat down to develop a concrete look and feel (with a lot of white and a dream-like hospital environment). Watch all the Chucky films and you'll see what I mean.

The slasher genre has never been typically associated with arty film types, and has even been looked down on by film lovers who consider themselves to have a more refined taste. I've never wished for slasher films to develop a stricter aesthetic because - as it has been argued time and time again - part of what makes slasher films appealing is their simplicity. But I'm not against this emerging trend either and directors should do what feels right for their film.

In the Halloween 2018 trailer we are greeted with a red and white checker-board; a clear indication that this was another slasher movie that had mapped out its visual elements. And you know what? I liked it. Its visuals weren't as structured as Curse of Chucky, but it was definitely slicker than the 1978 Halloween.

In a world where it feels as though every film and its soundtrack is getting re-booted or planning an unnecessary sequel, it can be hard not to role your eyes. There are a lot of franchises out there that like to milk as much money out of fans as they can instead of bowing out gracefully or waiting until they have a solid storyline before proceeding with a sequel.

Halloween 2018 was not one of those films (even if many of the other films in the franchise were guilty of being ridiculous). The storyline followed on nicely from the original 40 years ago, and had a generous scattering of Easter eggs - but still enough changes that it didn't feel like the same film all over again.

And that, Hollywood, is how you do a sequel.

Morag x

P.S. I have chatted to a few people who didn't think much of it, but then I asked them how into horror films they are and if they have seen the original - and it was a no. Maybe this is a film where only the lovers of the original will enjoy it.
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