Wednesday, December 12, 2018

REEL REVIEWS

REEL REVIEWS

Exactly forty years ago in 1978, writer and director John Carpenter released what is widely considered one of the scariest films of the slasher genre, and one of the most successful independent films of all time: “Halloween.” Centered on the night when it’s considered appropriate to be wearing a creepy mask, this simple idea was executed ingeniously, despite its limitations. The movie was shot in no less than twenty days, and was made with an estimated budget of around $300,000, which even for 1978 was ridiculously low. Even the mask they used for the killer was cheap. It was just a Captain Kirk mask they spray painted white after removing most of the hair, and it only cost them one dollar. Yes, only a dollar.

Most importantly, it was the first starring role of Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of famed actress Janet Leigh. Between Curtis and Carpenter, a film that could’ve easily been overlooked and forgotten went on to become a best-selling franchise, spawning multiple sequels, and even a remake. Now, exactly forty years since its release, a new sequel has appeared, one that promises to be the final installment in the series that will finally put the nefarious killer down for good. A sequel, that for whatever reason, is only titled: “Halloween.”

The new story follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has been living in seclusion after her traumatizing experience on Halloween night—when Michael Myers murdered several people and almost took her life. Meanwhile, after spending forty years in an institution, Michael has escaped and is making his final return home. As the masked killer goes on a rampage during Halloween night, Laurie takes it upon herself to save her family and put an end to Michael Myers once and for all. The film also stars: Judy Greer and Andi Matichak.

Not counting the remake, and the sequel it spawned, there have been a grand total of seven films released after the first “Halloween.” Eight if you count this one. If you’re not familiar with them already, then allow me to be the first to tell you that the “Halloween” series is without any doubt the most confounding horror series ever—and I’ve seen the “Friday the 13th” series, the ones where the killer goes to Hell, Space, and even Manhattan!

You’d need a map to figure out the continuity of this series. However, for better or worse, the recent film is a direct sequel to the original 1978 film, so there’s no need to go back and watch any of the others or worry about continuity. I just wish the new sequel was a proper successor.

Days after viewing “Halloween,” I found myself speculating whether or not I should call this a bad movie or not. While it’s not insultingly terrible like “Alien: Covenant,” it’s not creepy or insane like “IT.” Though it’s heavily flawed, it legit feels like they were trying here. So, let’s delve into the good parts first.

One interesting fact about this movie is that Michael Myers, or The Shape as he is credited, is played by two actors. One of them it turns out is writer and director Nick Castle, the same man who played Myers in the first film. Credit where credit is due, he’s still as disturbing as ever, and the fact that it’s the original actor behind the mask—for certain parts at least—makes it even more unsettling. Speaking of returning actors, I didn’t forget about Jamie Lee Curtis. After all, her scenes are the main highlights of the movie.

She does a grand job returning to the role as Laurie Strode, a woman who’s been traumatized after a terrible event Halloween night. It feels like she’s upset over what happened, and is terrified that her stalker is still alive and out there. However, instead of playing the role of the damsel in distress, she takes up arms and hunts down Michael Myers herself. I don’t want to spoil much, but the movie is almost worth seeing just to see Laurie Strode being the one stalking Michael Myers for a change. It’s quite a heel turn; I just wish the same could be said for the rest of the movie.

Though the film has two or three “Gotcha!” moments, I was never terrified or scared. Though Michael is disturbing as we’re watching him stalk his victims through long takes, I never felt scared, uncomfortable, or even stupefied. And it does get kind of ridiculous when we see Michael survive the numerous punishments he endures throughout this movie. He’s not a specter, a zombie, or a demon, he’s a guy in a mask. But apparently, being evil gives you inhuman strength and endurance. Like the ability to survive being shot or hit by a car! And keep in mind, Michael is supposed to be about 61 during this movie.

Even the title itself seems like a flawed decision. I usually don’t critique titles of films, but why doesn’t this movie possess a subtitle? What happens if a newcomer wants to see the original? Unless they see the year or the cover, how are they supposed to know which is first? Would it have been so hard just to give it a subtitle? Something like: “The Last Night,” or even “Reunions,” just something?

Besides a few ideas I can’t reveal due to spoilers, it just doesn’t feel like anything clever was brought to the table in this movie. I pretty much knew who was going to bite it throughout the whole movie. And while we’re on the deaths, I have to talk about how the kills are conducted. For an R rated film, the kills feel pretty tame. Yes, we’re given ‘implications’ of what the killer is doing, but the film immediately cuts away before showing anything gory or graphic. There was one scene where I legit expected a graphic and horrific kill was about to occur, but instead, it just ends rather monotonously.

You could argue that maybe the filmmakers were trying to play with expectations, but I say it was more of a copout. It’s like watching an exciting and intense stock car race, except every time you see a driver about to attempt a daring maneuver to get ahead, they just stop and remain in their lane for the duration of the race. It’s just dull, and by the end, you’re just waiting for it to conclude.

“Halloween” is rated R for horror-violence and bloody images, along with language, brief drug use, and nudity. While Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle both do a fair job keeping the story going, and I’ll even add that the original score is well put together, the overall movie just feels inferior and not as scary as the first one. I’ll even take it another step further by saying it’s inferior to the 1981 sequel: “Halloween II,” the very first sequel in the franchise. Flawed as that one was, it still had Jamie Lee Curtis—as well as Donald Pleasence—it was well shot, disturbing, creepy, and possessed a satisfying conclusion. A shame, the same cannot be said here. The final score for “Halloween” is a 7 out of 10.

Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.

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