Fantastic Fest hosted the red-carpet premiere of Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis and co-star Andi Matichak attended along with the film’s producers. This sequel to the original slasher flick which introduced the world to Michael Myers exceeded my expectations. The crowd, which viewed the film simultaneously on several screens, reacted enthusiastically.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country shows horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit into any genre. This year it ran Sept 20-27, in Austin, Texas, at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater – South Lamar.
Halloween, Fantastic Fest’s opening night feature, took a new, surprising, and creative approach to the current Hollywood obsession with remakes and sequels.
The Same But Different
The first Halloween appeared in 1978 and was followed by a dozen or so sequels, remakes and spin-offs. Rather than go back and try to arrange and make sense of the complex Halloween mythology, the producers decided to ignore everything that occurred in films after the first movie. An unusual approach, but one I appreciated because that was the only Halloween I’d seen.
The new Halloween takes place 40 years after the ending of the original, in both real and story time. We learn the Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, had a baby, Karen, played by Judy Greer. Karen grew up tortured by her mother’s paranoia and preparations to defend herself against Michael Myers should he ever get free. That baby grows up and has a baby of her own, Allyson, played by Andi Matichak. As the film begins Laurie is a Granma with a daughter desperate to avoid her and a teenage granddaughter who wants her included in all the family
All this time Mikey has been in an institution for the criminally insane. There, he became the pet project of Doctor Sartain, played creepily by Haluk Bilginer (Act of Vengeance). Of course, there would be no movie if he didn’t escape and come after Granma and her girls. So, he does.
It’s a Slasher Flick, Right?
It’s a slasher flick, but an extremely well done one. During the question and answer session after the film, the producers shared that although John Carpenter wasn’t actively involved in production, they kept him clued in and involved by email. He gets credits as both Executive Producer and Creative Consultant. The master’s touch was still included.
The cinematography maintains the mystery of Michael Myers identity. Even though he is chained down in an outdoor exercise yard and two podcasters are there to interview him, we never see his face.
Another element that raises this above the level of a run-of-the-mill bloody-teenager movie is the storyline that involves the mental state that being chased by a maniacal killer might leave you in. Laurie has become a survivalist, but not to survive a nuclear holocaust or the zombie apocalypse, but to be ready when her nemesis escapes.
Jamie Lee Curtis said how important she thought exploring this trauma was to the story. The strain put on the relationship with her daughter, and the friction this creates between granddaughter and mother make up much of the story’s character development arc.
Curtis also paid tribute to late writer/producer Debra Hill who wrote most of the Halloween movies. “Debra is Halloween,” she said, “and I am so grateful to her.”
Of course, it is still a horror film and certain tropes work their way in. How many times can a person get shot, fall off the second story of buildings, and have hands chopped off and keep on going? Both Michael and Laurie put the Energizer Bunny to shame.
There is also a scene which is almost a parody of a scene in the original film. It takes you out of the moment when you see it. I wish they hadn’t done that.
Listen for the Baby
The producers admitted to one Easter Egg in the film. Early in the film Michael Myers approaches a baby crib and we hear the baby crying. Listen closely. It’s a voice you’ll know. But, you’ll have to figure it out yourself. I’m sworn to silence.
The ending is inevitable but contains a subtle hint that maybe there could be yet another movie in the series. If you never saw the original, or kept your eyes closed during it, watch it, then see the new Halloween. It sets a new standard for sequels.
The two trailers for the film, which you can find online, both contain too many spoilers. I would avoid them like you’d avoid Michael Myers. Universal Pictures will unleash Halloween on theaters on Friday, October 19, 2018. Happy Halloween.