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, *** (out of 5) until further notice…

[Check out our discussion of Halloween 2018 on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

I Know What You Did Last Summer

A concoction with unblended bits of The Mutilator, Urban Legend, and of course, Scream, The “I Know What You Did Last Summer smoothie” is drinkable enough…question is, whether it’s good for you.

Usually, when a reviewer has zero recollection of having experienced something, there’s a reason for it. Chalk it up to multiple movie-induced False Memory Syndrome, or as is usually the case…that the film is literally forgettable. But I Know What You Did…has a lot of the elements that made Scream successful. And in some ways it even betters its better-remembered Kevin Williamson-penned predecessor with more interesting characters, less self-referential cutesy talk, and a killer with a fish hook.

Four rich-kid partiers plow over a pedestrian as they’re driving home from a beach party. With some strong-arming, they convince the dissenting member of their party, Julie, that they should bury the evidence at sea, and never mention it again. But as the title suggests, there’s a figure meting out justice, and the foursome, while they might be able to escape their consciences, cannot run from a urban legend-inspired antagonist.

A year later, around the same time Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) receives a note with no return address, citing the fatal incident. The kids suspect near-witness blue collar/red herring, Max (Johnny Galecki), but he’s hooked like a marlin in spectacularly gory fashion. The group realizes they gotta fight for their lives.

With sharp gallows humor and sharper performances, I Know What You Did…yes…baits the viewer with little dabs of effective hook foreshadowing, and even spares a member of the party when it’s least expected. There are references to other genre hits, both large and small: Barry (Ryan Phillippe) is stalked in a change-room a la Fatal Games; the traffic victim’s sister (Anne Heche) occupies an abode not far removed from the Sawyer house in Texas Chainsaw Massacre; and the killer hunts down hapless victims with a hook like fellow sleepy fishing village slasher, The Mutilator.

Where things go astray is in the back-third, where the silliness piles up more than the bodies.

Better than you remember, but not really good enough to stand the test of time (or merit two pathetic sequels)…Still, there’s enough to make this worth a re-watch.

*** (out of 5)