TIFF 2018 Review: Halloween is a love letter to the fans.
The most significant oversight of the Midnight Madness lineup at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival was that the programmers didn’t schedule Halloween as the opening night film. Granted, they picked Shane Black’s The Predator which was a relatively large film but let’s be honest; the hype just wasn’t as strong for that one. Halloween, on the other hand, is a film that millions of people have been anxiously waiting to see. I sat through about twelve screenings at TIFF before attending the Halloween premiere, and at least one person (usually a lot more) at each screening made mention of Halloween and how excited they were to see it. Yes, the hype was real.
Halloween is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. This new film directed by David Gordon Green completely ignores the seven Halloween sequels that have been released over the past 39 years. Green’s Halloween takes place exactly 40 years after the events of Carpenter’s and opens with a scene showing Michael Myers in an institution. While Michael hasn’t done much in the last 40 years, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has. Laurie is not only a mother but also a grandmother. While trying to care for her family, Laurie has not forgotten her past and will stop at nothing to protect her family. Laurie has spent the greater part of the last 40 years waiting for Michael’s inevitable return.
Over the past three decades, there have been seven sequels to the original Halloween as well two films directed by Rob Zombie. The seven sequels were somewhat hit or miss for fans and audiences. Some people liked them for what they were while others didn’t care for them at all. When Rob Zombie tried to reboot the Halloween franchise in 2007, he pissed off a lot of fans but ended up making quite a bit at the box office. However, the sequel bombed because most didn’t like what Zombie did with the franchise. Now in 2018, Blumhouse and David Gordon Green have done the impossible and are giving fans the Halloween sequel that they have been waiting forty years to see.
Halloween is an extraordinary film because even though it was made 40 years after the original, the story and the characters are treated with the same level of love and care as they were by Carpenter back in 1978. Yes, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, and David Gordon Green’s script is very much a love letter to the fans, but it is also the perfect continuation of what Carpenter has created. The film’s plot is not complex but rather very basic and straightforward. When it comes to a Halloween movie, fans want two things; Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. And that is exactly what they get with this film.
If you have seen the trailer or have read the premise online, it is pretty obvious that Michael Myers will somehow get loose and wreak havoc on Haddonfield. While the setup is exactly how many would expect, what is so rewarding about the film as a whole is how the story plays out and how the characters are portrayed and handled. What Green does so incredibly well is that he focuses on the characters and builds upon their personalities.
Jamie Lee Curtis portrayal of Laurie Strode is iconic. To say that Curtis becomes Laurie Strode would be an understatement because Curtis is Laurie Strode. Curtis has played several versions of this character before, but this is easily her best performance as this character since the original.
What is so awesome to see is that even after 40 years, Curtis is still kicking ass and taking names. Laurie has a reputation for being crazy because she is constantly worried about protecting herself and her family. However, in reality, Laurie is a survivor that isn’t about to put her life or the lives of her family members in jeopardy. Laurie has learned from her past and is now more aware. Curtis never lets the audience see Laurie as the victim but rather someone who isn’t going to allow what happened in the past ever happen again.
There is such a great dynamic created amongst the three lead actresses. Laurie, Karen, and Allison are portrayed as strong characters but are very different from one another. The film spends a good chunk of time introducing each of their characters by giving the viewer a chance to get to know each of these women. From there the script builds upon who they are as individuals and what their personalities are like before showing them working together as a team. The way this is all presented makes the film feel very rewarding because the script gives you a reason to want to root for these characters.
When it comes to the kills and chills, Halloween really delivers the goods. If you are a fan of blood and gore, you won’t be disappointed at all. There are multiple murders and every single one of them are great. To my surprise, the murder sequence that stood out the most isn’t one involving a knife and a hammer but rather Michael Myers using his boot to kill someone. I won’t spoil who dies but the crowd went absolutely bananas when this scene happened at the world premiere.
Speaking of unexpected, I was very surprised by how much humor was in the film. As someone who isn’t typically a fan of Danny McBride’s brand of humor, I was shocked by how funny I found the film to be. I’m sort of glad that Green, McBride, and the rest of the crew weren’t afraid to add in some humor to lighten up the dark tone. One of my favorite scenes was the scene with the babysitter. Again, don’t want to ruin anything but the little boy in this scene was so great because of how perfect his line delivery was.
Halloween is the best film in this franchise since the original and one that is sure to delight fans while making many new ones. Blumhouse has done it again by proving that they are the masters of horror filmmaking and storytelling. Halloween is destined to become a cult classic just like the original and will be something that fans will watch over and over again for many years to come.