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Fantastic Fest 2018: “Halloween” Review

Fantastic Fest 2018 is the largest genre festival in the U.S. The festival runs from September 21 – September 28 and calls the Alamo Drafthouse its home. The festival kicked off with the highly anticipated film “Halloween.” This “Halloween” isn’t a reboot, this isn’t a reimagining; it’s a continuation that reaches back for the beloved original while also stepping into a spotlight, proclaiming “I’m here! Feel the fear! ‘Halloween’ is near, bitches!”

In the exalted halls of Culture, there are the few and the fine films that become instant pillars of our social language. You know what I’m talking about. The movies whose references find their way into the conversations of people who haven’t even seen the original source material. The films that have cult followings or feature prominently on television marathons. The good ones. The truly good ones.

Like the 1978 instant horror classic “Halloween.”

The legacy of the first film has been followed by new lore and returns to the horror of Michael Myers. In 2018’s “Halloween,” the love of the original that radiates off of this film makes it a perfect continuation.

“Halloween” does exactly what you want it to do. It does it well.

“Halloween” takes place 40 years after the events of the original film. Laurie Strode is permanently haunted and changed by her narrow escape from Michael Myers’s killing spree all those years ago. When the evil escapes again, he is coming for Laurie. A final confrontation – but, this time, she’s ready for him.

Director and writer David Gordon Green is joined by co-writer Danny McBride in bringing the legend of Michael Myers full circle. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role of Laurie Strode in a career-defining performance. Curtis is joined by Judy Greer and Andi Matichak. Horror wizard John Carpenter is joined by industry genre leader Jason Blum as a spooky producing dream team. It looks like 2018 will yield more than a few jewels for Blumhouse’s crown.

“Halloween” | Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

“Halloween” kicked off 2018’s Fantastic Fest to much fanfare and with great enthusiasm from the industry community and film fans alike.

The absolute highest praise that this critic can extend to “Halloween” is this: Jamie Lee Curtis is a legend. She proved it in 1978. She has defended her title in 2018. I don’t know if it’s the great writing. I don’t know if we’re riding the coattails of the original. I don’t know if Curtis is just that good. But this take on Laurie Strode was badass genuine.

This ain’t your mama’s final girl.

Even the most casual of horror fans know the trope of the “final girl.” We know her virtue. We know her struggle. We know her narrow escape. But what happens to the Final Girl after the dust has settled?

What makes “Halloween” so interesting is this continued exploration of trauma and fear…and what fear can do to a person. What happens when a victim chooses not to become a victim? Is it possible for a victim to become a monster? This concept is perfectly illustrated through Curtis and her flipping the script on what it is to be the “Final Girl.”

“Halloween” | Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

In this new “Halloween” there is both homage and innovation, the Final Girl conversation being the purest example. I mentioned from the outset that a great deal of love and respect for the original film was poured into this project, but that does not mean that some of the less popular lore is ignored completely.

In her Fantastic Fest Q&A session, following the premiere screening, Jamie Lee Curtis said it best, “No one wrote the Bible on [“Halloween”].”

What does this mean? It means that this “Halloween” is a love letter to the first film. It brings back characters and references and moments and locations that we know and love. It honors them; it also plays with them and uses them in unexpected ways. It means that hit and miss moments from the franchise are not swept under the rug, but addressed quietly and maybe confirmed or denied by the current universe.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that this also means that “Halloween” does things that are entirely new.

I’ve been a lifelong horror fan and the horror film community is my favorite tribe of movie lovers. We share a common language and laugh at the same jokes and find ourselves frustrated by the same tropes. It is especially satisfying when a film listens to that community and offers moments that say, “We hear you. We know what you would do in this situation. Here’s a character that speaks only to you.”

“Halloween” offered surprising moments of humor and danced a great number: giving us what we crave from the original, addressing the plot holes and complaints, and giving us an experience that exists only for the contemporary horror fan. “Halloween” knows its audience.

A criticism that other outlets have offered “Halloween” is accusations of blatant fan service. But I have to ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

So what if the film spoon-feeds us exactly what we ask for? It’s worth it, when you hear an entire auditorium cheer, or laugh, or gasp in horror together. That’s the movies, baby!

Of course, none of this would be possible without the stellar performances of the cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is absolutely slaying it in the role she was always born to play. Greer and Matichak are not to be ignored. This film would not work without them.

You see, “Halloween” is a lot more than just a fun slasher flick. I spoke earlier on a sincere exploration of trauma, but beyond that is the very real impact of tragedy and trauma on families. Underneath all the slashing knives is another vein of horror that is, likely, much more relatable. Greer delivers a grounded performance that gives this essential depth to the film. Watching Matichak was like watching a young Curtis again and it brought the whole thing home.

I give “Halloween” my highest recommendation. I already can’t wait to see it again!

You can catch “Halloween” at Fantastic Fest 2018 on:

 “Halloween” stalks into theaters everywhere Friday, October 19. Stay tuned for more Fantastic Fest 2018 coverage on Shuffle Online! 


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