“He Killed My Friends, And Now He’s Back To Finish What He Started, With Me. The One Person Who’s Ready To Stop Him…”
Acting as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s influential 1978 horror classic and thus disregarding and retconning the many, many franchise films which followed, Halloween circa 2018 sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode for a reunion with the iconic figure of the knife wielding Michael Myers forty years after the infamous Haddonfield Murders in which a handful of teenagers were brutally murdered by the hand of the ghostly masked serial stalker on Halloween night. Brought back to the big screen by Stronger director David Gordon Green, Halloween acts as both a respectful and intelligent ode to the Carpenter classic whilst offering enough fresh and interesting levels of substance which puts it above and beyond the many failed attempts to reignite particular horror franchises in an age when studios constantly feel the need to regurgitate old ideas for the sake of a quick and meaningless buck. With a barnstorming central performance from Curtis and a brutal, terrifying central antagonist in the form of Myers, Green’s attempt at resurrecting one of horror’s most iconic franchises is a resounding success, mixing classic genre undertones with ferocious slasher violence within a movie which indeed treads over very well worn ground but does so with an element of style and outrageous levels of joyous fun.
Kicking off by introducing to the audience a Myers securely kept within the confines of a particularly creepy asylum for the insane, the opening quarter of the movie takes its’ time in developing characters both old and new, particularly that of the now expanded Strode family, where an isolated and aged Laurie channels her best Sarah Connor impression by having used the majority of her life to prepare for the return of her own personal “boogeyman” at the cost of rejecting the chance to be both a mother and grandmother to both Judy Greer (Ant-Man) and Andi Matichak’s (Orange Is The New Black) Karen and Allyson. Whilst the majority of the audience are astutely aware that particular characters are undoubtedly headed for the chopping block when the inevitability of death is sprung upon the town of Haddonfield once again, it is to the film’s credit that once Myers begins his murderous ascent, the brutal and bone crushing violence is genuinely horrifying and knowingly contrasting to Carpenter’s original in which on-screen gore is sparse and heavily implied, and with genuinely shocking characters deaths and an array of tense set pieces, Green fully embraces and understands the essence of what made Carpenter’s film so powerful and simply updates it for a contemporary audience with alarming success. With enough clever odes to the franchise to keep the hordes of horror fans dancing with glee, including very familiar yet inverted camera shots and knowing dialogue which brings to light particular plot threads throughout the Halloween series, Green’s movie is made all the better by the enigmatic presence of the wispy haired Curtis, whose outspoken perception of the film acting as metaphor for the #MeToo generation also adding an extra layer of substance to a movie which managed to hit all the right notes, particularly from the point of view of slasher fans who will lap Green’s movie up like Michael Myers in a knife shop.
Overall Score: 8/10
“They’re Trying To Make A Hero Out Of Me…”
Whilst Peter Berg’s rather excellent Patriots Day detailed from beginning to end the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings with an added Mark Wahlberg, David Gordon Green’s latest, Stronger, takes a calculated and extensive look at the life of Jeff Bauman, whose life changing injuries during the bombings were subsequently the subject of a 2013 memoir written by himself and Bret Witter and now the basis of the screenplay for a movie led by the ever reliable presence of Jake Gyllenhaal as the famous and life-affirming Bostonian. Whilst Patriots Day was more focused on the action spectacle and a lightning fast editing pace, Stronger is a more low-key character piece which utilises the background of a terrifying event to understand one man’s journey through pain and suffering, and whilst Green’s latest is a picture seething with top-notch performances and likeable, empathetic characters, a bloated narrative over a needlessly extended two hour runtime does threaten to become tiresome at stages, but with Gyllenhaal on Oscar-worthy form, Stronger does manage to hold its’ own undeniably effectively.
Introducing the troubled, up and down relationship between Gyllenhaal’s Jeff Bauman and Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany’s Erin Hursley from the outset, the movie swiftly moves onto the events of the bombing without ever specifically focusing on its’ reasoning or motive and instead directly leads the narrative from the point of view of Bauman who throughout the course of the movie recounts flashbacks of the event, with each progressively getting more detailed and bloody as the film trickles through his long-standing recovery in both a physical and mental capacity. With Gyllenhaal using the character of Bauman as a vessel for his already well established acting chops, utilising the direction of Green to balance moments of emotion fuelled drama with low-key physical movements and reactions, Stronger does have a variety of Oscar baity speeches which in other hands would possibly have derailed the movie’s ultimate goal, but with impressive supporting performances from the likes of Maslany and Miranda Richardson, who although in her portrayal of the expletive ridden, Bostonian parent figure did bring to mind the brilliance of Melissa Leo in The Fighter, Green’s movie is a straightforward character piece, but with such an interesting character at its’ centre, Stronger is more then fulfilling, if slightly forgettable.