Halloween 2018

Faulkner wrote, “Memory believes before knowing remembers,” and many of us believed when we first saw Halloween. And even if it was before our time, its shadows continue to flicker.

We know that Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the all-time great horror films. It’s a starter on any classic horror roster, and whether it laces up with Martyrs, Maniac, Suspiria, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Night of the Living Dead is up for debate, its inclusion on the team NEVER is.

Our pal Jonathan at Daily Dead says in his Halloween review that studio releases often cater to those who “haven’t built up their horror IQ,” and while that may sound dismissive, it’s true.  We’re beating metaphors with a lead pipe here, but Halloween is to Joseph Conrad, what The Purge is to E.L. James. It’s Beethoven to Annabelle’s Cardi B.

So yeah, it goes without saying that Michael Myers’ work boots are tough to fill.

Enter Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green.

Halloween 2018 wipes the sequel slate clean and gives us Laurie Strode in PTSD survivalist mode. In the interceding four decades that MM’s been confined to an insane asylum, it seems like the hulking killer has gotten more intensive therapy than his victims.

Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a wigged out granny (here, referred to oddly and formally as “Grandmother,” …but not all of us were lucky enough to nave a nona or an oma).

She’s a reclusive drunk who’s hunkered down in a home that doubles as a fortress and bomb shelter, with a sliding escape hatch buried under a kitchen counter (daughter Karen ruefully quips, “welcome to my childhood”).

It’s rare (and ballsy) to explore Laurie’s psyche (and the impact its had on her immediate family), to this great an extent. She’s estranged from the rest of the Strodes, save for granddaughter Allyson (the sweetly compelling and headstrong Andi Matichak).

Michael is confined to a state facility, and shown from behind, looks like a grizzled Brett Favre. The inmates are given yard time on a square grid that looks like Myers will move from Knight to F3. A true crime podcast duo a la Serial, has received security clearance to get a visit with the mute psychopath. Like a rough Tinder date, they don’t get much in the way out banter out of The Shape even after goading him with a replica mask. They move on to see if Laurie Strode will give them good radio.

Cue the inevitable prison facility transfer. We know from watching hundreds of action films, that it’s virtually impossible for officials to handle these. They really need a police escort. When will these folks EVER learn? Soon, The Shape is on the loose and when two unlucky Illinois locals happen upon the upturned bus, that’s when things really come alive and we get to see one of the film’s many (too many?) callback kills. It’s chilling and brutal, catering to a modern audience while keeping with MM’s MO.

To the extent the rest of Halloween 2018 maintains the momentum is up for debate. The audience for this screening didn’t do the gasp + laugh combo, the surefire sign that things are going swimmingly. And while that shouldn’t factor in, theater audiences enhance rather than detract from the proceedings. Not sure what to make of this, and Halloween 2018 will require a repeat viewing at home for the definitive statement.

A lot of good came from this production though: Toby Huss brings the dad jokes as Allyson’s pop; Laurie’s son-in-law, Jibrail Nantambu is terrifically funny as one of the local kids; and Drew Scheid makes for a perfectly pathetic incel.  And of course, Jamie Lee Curtis sprays a big can of foaming whoop-ass in the lead.

Tentatively, ***1/2 (out of 5) until further notice…

C.H.U.D.

An urban scum outlier released in the height of the slasher boom, C.H.U.D. ain’t a total dud, bringing with it an embarrassment of riches when it comes to acting talent (John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Jay Thomas).

Still, for most horror heads, this one is best known for its iconic poster, one of the all-time best in the genre, a throwback to what the movie really is: a 50s creature feature, except using a smelly, Bowery/Lower Manhattan milieu for gobs of atmosphere.

As chatty as any horror movie ever, C.H.U.D (aka, Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) features George, a fashion photographer whose photojournalism focuses on the city’s down-and-outs. All the while, homeless people are going missing, something that has not gone unnoticed by a Soho soup kitchen worker, AJ (the wonderful Daniel Stern) who tries to tip off police.

Local NYPD finally gets involved, but only when a captain’s wife goes AWOL, and true to 50s sci fi form, there’s a stonewalling baddy in the form of a nuclear regulatory commissioner who knows more than he lets on.

C.H.U.D. plays upon the urban legend of something living in the New York City sewers a la Lewis Teagues/John Sayles’ wonderful Robert Forster-starrer, Alligator. However, it lacks the biting (sorry) humor and shocks of that one.

The “rubber monsters in a suit” are casually reminiscent of the The Creature from the Black Lagoon, crossed with the “lead demon” in Demons. And they’re pretty darn good. The improbably-named director, Douglas Cheek, keeps the beasts nicely hidden and wisely focuses on understatement and buildup.

For our money though, Street Trash is the king of all bumsploitation flicks, an audacious, grimy, disgusting (and highly memorable) flick, also set in derelict 80s NYC.

Still, C.H.U.D. has held up fairly well. It’s smarter and better-acted than it has a right to be. However, this subterranean horror isn’t done any favors with downtempo pacing.

***(out of 5)

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