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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Halloween, Review: Too much slashing, but all pointless

Halloween, Review: Too much slashing, but all pointless

Murder can be mysterious and motivated, and the genre is called murder mystery. That is the Agatha Christie kind. Give the audiences a good murder mystery, filled with suspense, anytime. Murders that are gratis, committed serially, without motive, perpetrated by a psychopath killer, have been dealt with in films like Psychopath, The Boston Strangler, No Way to Treat a Lady and the Indian biopic on Raman Raghav, the head-smashing stone-man. Let’s not forget Halloween, the 1978 John Carpenter original that has been re-visited after a full forty years, and given a fresh new lease, now in its eleventh instalment. Halloween 2018 is a direct sequel to the original.

Forty years after the Babysitter Murders, the killer, Mike Myers (name rings a bell?), is serving a sentence in a sanitarium. Podcaster duo Aaron Korey and Dana Haines arrive at the sanitarium to interview him. Dr. Ranbir (another bell) Sartain, who has been treating Michael after the death of his predecessor, Dr. Loomis, tells them that them that Michael, who has never spoken as yet, is able to speak, but chooses not to. Aaron tries all kinds of provocations, but Mike does not speak.

Aaron and Dana then head over to Laurie's heavily fortified house to interview her. Laurie is the only intended victim whom Mike had been unable to kill. She has spent the last 40 years dealing with post-traumatic stress and preparing for Michael's inevitable return, to finish off unfinished business. Aaron and Dana reveal to Laurie their interest in finding out why Michael committed the murders, and ask her to meet with him, in a final attempt to get him to speak, before he is transferred to a maximum security prison. They even offer her a fat sum as incentive. Laurie keeps the money, refuses to meet Mike, and sends them away.

As psychiatric patients are loaded on to a bus, Dr. Sartain insists on accompanying Michael. The bus crashes in a ditch, the security guards are killed, and Michael escapes. The day is Halloween. Michael finds Dana and Aaron at a gas station, and kills them one by one, in the most brutal manner. Michael recovers his mask from their car. That was all he needed.          

Characters created by composer-producer-director-writer John Carpenter and Debra Hill four decades ago are alive and killing, or getting killed. Carpenter has also composed the music, is one of the producers and the Creative Consultant (the term does sound strange in a film about a mass murderer). Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green are the gentlemen who have given new twists and turns, some of them literally, with a cleaver. McBride’s writing credits include Your Highness and Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter. The script bears testimony to the spirit of hope, as sympathy keeps swinging towards the intended victims. We know nobody will escape, yet we hope against hope. Along the way, some characters meet their gory end just because they happened to be there. Just as the victims are unlucky to be meeting all kinds of horrible ends, the shape is lucky that he manages to find his targets as more or less sitting ducks.

Director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Our Brand is Crisis, Stronger) has frequently collaborated with Danny McBride. The pairing works well in this case too. Having decided that no motive other than a mental condition is to be advanced as an explanation for the gruesome killings, they then go about their task well. It’s both random and pre-meditated, since the climax sees Myers heading for the Strode abode. An elaborate climax is then woven, with the intention of unleashing a deadly cat and mouse game. Dr. Sarlain’s behaviour, though driven by a perverse logic, still seems illogical. Laurie Strode’s guts and gumption, a bit misdirected, come through quite well, nevertheless, as she prepares for the ultimate confrontation.

Jamie Lee Haden-Guest, aka Baroness Haden-Guest, born 1958, daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh) made her film debut in 1978, starring as Laurie Strode, in John Carpenter's Halloween, 1978. She’s a Halloween veteran, having starred as Laurie in four sequels: Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002) and Halloween (2018). She looks her age, but that’s in character, as events date back 40 years. As someone who has been dealing with post-traumatic stress for so long, she is convincing.

Judy Greer as Karen Nelson, Laurie's daughter and Allyson's mother, happily married and not up to the task of dealing with an escaped serial killer, does well. Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson, Karen's daughter and Laurie's grand-daughter, who keeps her wits about her when faced with the ultimate fate, is attractive, has a meaty role and does justice to it. Haluk Bilginer as Dr. Ranbir Sartain, Michael's psychiatrist, who has taken over the role of Samuel Loomis, Michael's former psychiatrist from the first film, comes across as psychotic himself, as is often said about psychiatrists. The madness is palpable.

Nick Castle, from the original, and stuntman and James Jude Courtney play as Michael Myers/ The Shape, the masked figure who stalks and kills teenage babysitters and other innocent, unfortunate men and women on Halloween night, strikes terror without uttering a word or showing his face, using weapons hammers and choppers, besides his own brute strength. Rhian Rees as Dana Haines, a true-crime British pod-caster and Aaron's partner and Jefferson Hall as Aaron Korey, a true-crime British pod-caster and Dana's partner, represent the present-day state of the media, which feeds the voyeuristic demands of its audience. That they meet the same fate as Myers’s other victims may have a hidden message somewhere. Toby Huss as Ray Nelson, Karen's husband and Allyson's father, is a non-violent, regular guy, and wins our sympathy.

If you dig blood and gore and more, entirely pointless and for the sake of blood and gore, this might be your cup of…., sorry, wrong analogy… up your street. If you are even slightly weak-hearted, don’t venture anywhere near where Halloween 2018 is playing, this Halloween or any Halloween or any other day. If you liked any of the films mentioned in the beginning of this review, or Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, book your seat now.

Rating: ***


P.S.: The two bells that rang were for Mike Myers, the Canadian actor famous for his Austin Powers series of films, and Ranbir Kapoor, popular Hindi film-star of the new millennium.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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