“Halloween” (2018) Review: Jamie Lee Cortese on Jamie Lee Curtis

… Not that Jamie Lee…

In 2015, I was at a small costume store and saw a mother point out a Michael Myers mask to her young son and say, “Look! It’s Freddy from Friday the 13th!” I semi-subtly pointed it out to my dad about a minute later, saying, “Look! It’s Michael Myers from Halloween!” to clear up the confusion amongst the surrounding patrons.

        Perhaps it was inevitable, given my name, that I would not only work toward “carving out” (pun intended) a career in film (and TV, and theatre, and… pretty much anything entertainment-related) as an actor (and writer, and director…), but also love horror movies. I first got into horror by watching Svengoolie on Saturday nights… which you can read about here!

        Perhaps you’re wondering, as countless others have asked me during my lifetime, “Do you like Jamie Lee Curtis?” As a matter of fact… yes! I first saw her in Freaky Friday, so my first impression of the “scream queen” was actually via comedy. I was a little more inclined to pay attention to her work due to the similarities in our names, but I still respect her skills just as much as if my name were “Holly” or “Christy” (both of which almost were). I’ve heard every Activia joke under the sun. I roll my eyes at them… not because I’m embarrassed, but because there are much more interesting things about Jamie Lee Curtis that these people could reference. If you’re going to make a joke about someone’s name, remember that we’ve been hearing these our whole lives. So step up your game and make good humor choices.

Listen to Jamie Lee C. (either one)!

When Scream Queens, the slasher comedy TV show, invited those excited about the premiere to #RushScreamQueens and cosplay as one of the characters, which of the college sorority sisters did I decide to emulate? None. I went with Dean Cathy Munsch, played by Jamie Lee Curtis.

It’s uncanny how much of this outfit I already owned…

When the upcoming film, An Acceptable Loss (formerly The Pages), was shooting, I was an (unpaid) extra, and the crew, once they found out my name, lamented the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis had just recently wrapped filming and wasn’t on set.

        My point being: I embrace the many coincidental connections between Jamie Lee Cortese and Jamie Lee Curtis.

        I will avoid major spoilers for Halloween (2018), but from this point on, all other Halloween films are fair game! You have been warned!

        I didn’t actually see the original Halloween all the way through until October 29, 2015, when it was shown in theaters as a one-night-only event, which included a featurette beforehand about the film. I went in knowing very little about it besides the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis starred in it, Michael Myers was the serial killer antagonist in the William Shatner mask with a knife, and it had that thrilling theme. Despite my love of horror, I hadn’t really seen any slasher movies besides Scream, which, of course, heavily references Halloween. I had vague ideas of what it might contain given its label as a “slasher movie,” but I know better than to judge a movie by its genre. Thus, I didn’t have many expectations, good or bad, and most of the film was a surprise. A pleasant surprise: I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and characters the entire time, especially Laurie Strode. When Laurie first armed herself to attack Michael Myers, I felt that thrill I feel whenever a horror protagonist does more than just scream or run (and, often, fall over). In fact, my fellow audience members that night were reacting right along with me, even though many of them had no doubt seen the movie before. But even if I’d been home alone watching it on TV late at night, I still would’ve cheered Laurie on, yelled at her when she dropped the knife, gasped when Michael Myers sat up, and gasped when he disappeared.

        Given all of this and more… where else would I be the night of October 18, 2018, except at a theater’s first showing of Halloween (2018)?

10.18.2018 Jamie Lee Halloween (2018) Poster

The night SHE came to the movies!

My experience seeing Halloween (2018) for the first time had certain parallels to my experience seeing Halloween (1978) for the first time. Having seen the latter, I knew that first story about Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. I’d seen commercials for this latest story and at least one trailer. I kept loose tabs on the release date, but I wanted to avoid anything that would spoil the movie. So, I walked into the theater with slightly more knowledge than when I had three years before, but was still just as excited and just as ready for surprises. And, just like three years ago, my fellow audience members were along for the ride with me. Since it was the theater’s first screening, unless someone had seen an advance screening or specifically researched spoilers, no one knew quite what was coming. Reactions were raw and genuine.

        My reaction as the closing credits began to roll?

        … When can I see it again?

        My favorite films in any genre are generally ones that are undeniably and infectiously fun––– and I count “truly terrifying horror movies” as fun, because the emotional roller coaster and catharsis of feeling those emotions can certainly be fun––– and/or have a strong emotional through line.

        Halloween (2018) fits both criteria. As far as the horror aspect, the tension builds throughout the film, until you can cut it with a knife… or stab it. There’s suspense and dread, relaxed at certain moments with humor, which serve to make the coming scares catch you off guard. But there are also sudden scares: some comedic fake outs, and some leading into scary sequences. Some deaths are shown onscreen, while others are only shown in the gruesome aftermath. There are many ways to scare an audience––– and Halloween (2018) uses every tool (including that hammer seen in some of the trailers). On Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare; Halloween (2018) will give you many good scares.

        Halloween (2018) definitely has a dose of humor, and I like it. I know some people really hate it when “serious” movies have humor, but the way I see it, in real, everyday life, many people have a sense of humor. And when serious situations arise, some people still have a sardonic sense of humor. I know I do when I’m in an unfavorable situation. Humor in a horror film doesn’t bother me.

        In case you haven’t heard from all the promotional materials for this movie, Halloween (2018) continues the story from Halloween (1978)… and that’s it. None of the sequels, not even Halloween II, ever happened in this version of Haddonfield, Illinois.

If you’re a Halloween franchise fan, you’ll have no trouble finding nods to various other Halloween films all over the place. If you’ve only seen the first Halloween, you’re right on track to see this one. If you haven’t, I’d still say you could see this one and enjoy it pretty fully. There are a lot of clever parallels to Halloween (1978) in Halloween (2018), but they’re not distracting. In fact, many of them actually add to the story and its impact. So, although you can catch up on Laurie Strode’s story without necessarily seeing what happened to her forty years ago that set her on this path, seeing the film that started it all will give this latest entry even more punch.

        To be clear: there’s no Curse of Thorn. Michael Myers is not Laurie’s brother, so cancel that Myers family reunion. And, of course, Laurie Strode, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis, is still alive. She has a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and a granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).

        This is where I get to the “second reason” why I may love a movie. How long can one traumatic event in your life affect you? Can you ever “get over it,” especially if you have no closure? Should you even try to get closure? This doesn’t sound like “slasher movie” material, does it? And yet, Halloween (2018) confronts its characters and us with these tough questions.

        Laurie Strode’s encounter with Michael Myers lasted one day, with the most traumatic parts happening for a short time at night. During that short time, three of her friends were slaughtered, and she was very nearly number four. (Number five, counting the mechanic.) She fought back, and, with the help of Dr. Loomis, escaped with her life. By the next morning, it was all over. But, just as Michael Myers’ knife left a scar on her arm, Michael Myers the Boogeyman left scars on her mind. Laurie left her mark on Michael Myers, too, as we see his eye’s scarred from when she stabbed him with a wire hanger, and his mask has a hole from when she pierced it with a knitting needle.

It’s like you’re unraveling a big cable-knit sweater, that Laurie keeps knitting… and knitting… and knitting…

There are so many aspects of this film’s story alone that one could focus on. Every review or other type of reflection piece will be different, because every viewer, reviewer, and fan will have something that grabbed them. What grabbed me was Laurie Strode. I’m going to state what may be a controversial horror opinion: I like it when I’m interested in the protagonists just as much as I am in the antagonists. Michael Myers has proven to be a character who will be remembered, studied, paid homage to, cosplayed, and parodied for generations to come. Laurie Strode, in my view, proves the same, especially after seeing Halloween (2018). Laurie Strode as we were introduced to her in Halloween (1978) is a great, well-drawn character, leaving a strong enough impact to return for three sequels already.

        Halloween (2018) shows Laurie as a much more extreme version of who she was on that fateful Haddonfield Halloween night forty years ago. The protective babysitter who agreed to babysit an additional child is now an overprotective parent and grandparent who warns children passing her on the street to go home in hopes of saving them. The smart, resourceful survivor who doesn’t just run, but fights back, is now an obsessed, heavily prepared warrior who will hunt down the hunter.

A promise Laurie will keep for forty years.

Her toughness that drove her to turn the weapon that was just used on her against the monster who used it is still there, now amplified. However, that toughness is also like the scar tissue on her arm: it’s tough, all right, but it covers a deep wound that has healed in a messy way. Laurie Strode is someone who was hit with a train of trauma, and has had to not only rebuild herself, by herself, but fortify herself, both literally and metaphorically, to ensure that when it happens again, she’s ready to defend herself and those around her.

Laurie’s upgraded from knitting needles.

But underneath that scar tissue are still those deep wounds. Past those fortifications is still a teenager scared of the Boogeyman coming back to get her. We see Laurie try to get closure, and we see that scar tissue get ripped off, exposing the wounds and letting them bleed all over again. Laurie’s prepared herself in every conceivable way for a final confrontation with Michael Myers. But there are some ways in which one can never prepare oneself to face the cause of one’s trauma all over again.

        And the characters around Laurie pose many versions of the same question… “Why?” Why does one night define Laurie’s entire life? Why can’t Laurie get over it and move on? With all of the consequences this obsession has wreaked in her life, why continue? Is it worth it?

        While I hope there’s a negligible number of people who’ve experienced attempted murder, I believe we’ve all had bad things happen to us that we wish hadn’t. Things that we want to prevent from happening to us again. Things that, I hope, we want to prevent from happening to others. And we know that such efforts often are worth it.

        Though preparation can only take you so far, there’s still one key difference this go-round: Laurie’s less scared than before. She has a score to settle. More importantly, she has people to protect. And now, she finally can. That thrill I felt when she armed herself the first time was back, now amplified, as Laurie Strode leaped into action.

And I’ve waited for this! Go, Laurie, go!

Writers David Gordon Green (who also directed the film), Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride have made a well-done film that delivers on both scary and story. They brought about this version of Laurie, and Jamie Lee Curtis did a superb job bringing her to life. Halloween (2018) is definitely a film I’ll be adding to my collection and sharing with others.

        Look: entertainment of any kind is subjective. One person’s powerful narrative is another person’s melodrama. One person’s “That’s how I talk!” is another person’s “I’ve never heard anyone talk like that.” One person’s nightmare is another person’s insomnia cure.

        Do I recommend Halloween (2018)? Absolutely. Without a doubt. 140%. (That’s 100% plus the forty years it took for this sequel to come to fruition.)

        … And if there’s a sequel, I hope I get wind of an audition or casting call. And not just because of my name. Have the Halloween people call my people!

… Not THAT “people”…

So this Halloween, make good choices. See Halloween (2018).

        … Just maybe don’t eat Activia beforehand.

Listen to Jamie Lee C. (either one)!

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