“Halloween” is rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity. Its running time is 105 minutes.
The soulless white mask of Michael Myers might be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was in 1997 that I read an article on slasher movies accompanied by a picture of Myers holding a huge knife. This happened to be right before I spent a week at my grandparents’ eerily quiet farmhouse, and I spent four sleepless nights expecting The Shape to show up at any moment. It was only later that I came to respect John Carpenter and his 1978 horror classic “Halloween” for managing to scare me so effectively. Of course, Carpenter’s original was followed by several less-terrifying sequels and the forgettable Rob Zombie reboot, so Michael and his mask have since lost their edge, but my hope was that resurrecting Myers for a new “Halloween” film in 2018 would make me scared all over again. For better or worse, I am now less scared of Michael Myers than ever.
The new film is a follow-up to the first “Halloween”, but erases all franchise lore that came after, including the twist of protagonist Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) turning out to be Michael’s sister. She was just some teenager who survived Michael’s killing spree and was subsequently traumatized. Laurie’s life has completely fallen apart since that fateful night, as she’s lost two husbands, custody of her daughter (played here as an adult by Judy Greer), and her mind in general. Michael, for his part, has been locked away in an asylum where was studied at first by the iconic Dr. Loomis, and now by the oddly-obsessed Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer).
A pair of journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) visit Michael right before he’s scheduled to be transferred to a new facility and basically taunt him with his old mask. Michael breaks free during the transfer (shocking, I know) and sets out on another killing spree, though he has to get his mask back first… He eventually makes his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, IL, where he picks off some lonely homeowners, incompetent police officers, and his personal favorite, hedonistic teens. He eventually comes to target Allyson (Andi Matichak), Laurie’s granddaughter. This gives Laurie all the more reason to lure Michael to her home in the woods, where the two can have a final showdown to attain closure after 40 years.
The film is at its best when it plays as a comedy. It has fun referencing the original film and there are some laughs from minor characters who make stupid horror movie mistakes. There’s also an extended bit from Allyson’s babysitter friend (Virginia Gardner) and her young charge (Jibrail Nantambu). I can see where some viewers could be annoyed that the film just lets these two seemingly riff for several minutes, but it’s a really funny riff that justifies its existence.
Of course the bulk of the film is straight horror, and I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t pull it off too well. Michael is completely expected every time he shows up, and his victims are rarely likeable enough to curry interest in their survival. Even the mask is less scary this time around, its disturbing pure whiteness replaced with a sort of flawed silver. The climax in Laurie’s house is especially frustrating because it has been established that Laurie has been preparing for this moment for 40 years and you’d think she’d have a more polished defense in store for the stalker. One tactic is a particularly underwhelming slow burn, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know what realistic alternative I would have used instead. Although I enjoyed some early parts of the new “Halloween”, I can’t bring myself to recommend the film because in the end, it just isn’t that scary.
“A Star is Born” is rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse. Its running time is 136 minutes.
Editor’s Note: This column has been offered to our newspaper free of charge, with more to follow. We will run them when space allows.
How is this movie losing to “Venom” at the box office? It barely made half the money of the subpar superhero movie last weekend, and early estimates for its second weekend have it trailing by $7 million. I’m not even talking about how “Venom” is creatively inferior to this film, because creatively inferior films beat out critical darlings all the time. I’m talking about how I saw “Venom” on opening day in a theater that was maybe a third full, while I tried on three separate occasions to see an early screening of this film, only to have it sold out on me every time. I did finally get into an opening-day showing, but less than 10% of the theater’s seats were still available, and I have little doubt that it eventually sold out. And it bears repeating that “A Star is Born” is a creatively superior film, so it should be doing better anyway.
The story follows country-rock superstar Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also directed the film) and his relationship with incredibly talented unknown Ally (Lady Gaga). Boy first meets girl when he’s so desperate for a drink that he stumbles into a drag bar, just in time to catch the one actual female performer. He falls in love with her voice, her version of “La Vie En Rose”, and her in general. The two spend some time together, where they banter, play with her fake eyebrows, and Ally reveals that she’s a talented songwriter, but doesn’t have the look to make it in the industry. Jack has the power to help someone make it in the industry no matter what they look like, so the next night he invites her up on stage where they perform her song “Shallow” and she becomes an overnight sensation.
And thus, A Star is Born, and it quickly rises, as Ally records more songs, performs at more elaborate venues, and gets nominated for awards. Jack’s star, meanwhile, begins to fall, as his lifetime of living the rock star lifestyle begins to catch up with him. The two get married, and this makes them deliriously happy for a while, but soon their bantering turns to bickering and their bickering turns to downright nasty fighting. Ally is constantly furious with Jack for his substance abuse, while Jack takes umbrage with Ally slowly losing her creative voice and becoming a pop-star sellout. The two are headed for an ugly public meltdown, but can their love survive the dark side of fame?
Save for when the singers are belting, this is a pretty quiet film, with much of it being carried by the charm of the two leads. This is just fine, as the two are incredibly charismatic. Their chemistry conquers all obstacles like Gaga’s weak acting in her opening scene and Cooper’s inability to get any power behind swear words. You’ll want them to find happiness through thick and thin, and the ending will make you wish you’d been able to spend more time with them and they with each other. On top of all that, the music and performances are stellar, with “Shallow” very likely to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. The film will probably do even better at the Golden Globes, where it can dominate the Musical/Comedy categories.
Watching “A Star is Born” in a packed theater, it came as no surprise when the film garnered applause. The crowd went crazy for “La Vie En Rose”, “Shallow”, and the ending. I’d say Stars are being Born here, but it’s more like they’re being re-Born. Cooper was already a Star as an actor, but here he makes himself a Star as a director as well. Gaga was already a Star as a singer, but here she makes herself a Star as an actress as well. See this movie to witness two already-talented Stars succeed in both their synonymous fields and new ones.
Bob Garver is a movie reviewer from New York City. Contact Bob Garver at email@example.com.