David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills

When David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween dropped I didn’t quite believe that talk of an entire trilogy was true because we’ve heard that one before. As such, there were things that felt unwieldy, strange and open ended in the narrative that are explored further and deeper in Halloween Kills, a film that is getting some serious bad mojo out there in internet land. Well, it’s certainly not perfect, but I still enjoyed it for what it was: an expansion on the 1978 Halloween night and Myers lore with a whole circus tent of new characters, comic relief asides, callbacks, fresh themes and a surprising amount of actors from Carpenter’s original film returning once again. It’s hectic, it’s cluttered, at times it feels like far too much is going on but there’s also this feverish momentum to it as Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie and her whole band frantically run about trying to track down Michael and kill him. There’s her daughter Karen played by the always lovely Judy Greer and granddaughter Allyson played by Andi Matichak, a wonderful actress who creates a character you care about and is the emotional lynchpin of this new vision, I like the dynamic between the three of them that is given more room to develop here. Will Patton returns as Haddonfield’s toughest Sheriff’s Deputy, it’s always nice to see him and I’m not sure what’s spoiler territory or not in mentioning who shows up but none of it seems to really be a secret, they are kind of hit and miss across the board. Anthony Michael Hall is oddly stilted and stiff as grown up Tommy Doyle (where’s the 78 Doyle actor?) , while Kyle Richards is utterly sensational reprising her role as now adult Lindsay Wallace, she has become a terrific actress, a beautiful woman and the closest the film gets to a true retro Scream Queen, she rocks it in the single most suspenseful Michael sequence I’ve seen in these intense new visions. Equally effective is the wonderful Robert Longstreet as adult Lonnie Elam, exuding the same gritty humanity he brought to Mike Flanagan’s Haunting Of Hill House and Midnight Mass. This might be the most ambitious Halloween sequel we’ve seen yet and, naturally, not all of it works or clicks into place in a way that feels earned and organic, but look back at each instalment in the canon and you’ll find films that aren’t perfect, are rough around the edges but to a true diehard fan of this franchise (raises hand) all have some lovable quality or aspect that can be enjoyed and held dear. Except for for Resurrection, fuck that movie right up it’s Jack o’ lantern ass. But Kills is a sequel with a lot of inspiration and heart for the Myers mythos, the overarching Haddonfield saga and the slasher motif. There’s a sequence in the film where Haddonfield’s residents are whipped up into an angry, frenzied mob trying to hunt down Michael, but they become a maniacal, non thinking rabble with tunnel vision instead of carefully examining their situation and forming a tactical, realistic plan. I see a lot of that on the interwebs, where one bad review snowballs into a fervour of keyboard mashing until a big dumb mob forms to rip the film a new one. But did that first guy even see the thing, or form a focused, logical assessment of why the film is bad? Did you, dear critic, even read that before suiting up and joining the ranks? If you saw Halloween Kills and genuinely thought it was a bad film and can concisely articulate for us why it didn’t work for you, then carry on. But don’t just pitch your voice in tune with the din because that’s the way the fish are swimming, because that doesn’t make you cool, babe, it just makes you boring. I for one got a lot of enjoyment from the film, both in that special nostalgic spooky way the original two films made me feel and in a fascinating expansion of lore sensibility too. It’s not a perfect film and maybe not even a great one, but it sure works as an effective, formidable and entertaining chapter of the Michael Myers legacy for me.

-Nate Hill

Marvel’s Ant Man & The Wasp

Among all the razzle dazzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my favourite series going right now has to be Ant Man. There’s something so relatable about the underdog superhero who’s just a regular guy with a criminal record and a daughter to raise and isn’t some alien from way out there or a snarky billionaire. I love all the quantum realm elements, the trippy SciFi surrealism reminds me of 80’s stuff like Joe Dante or Spielberg and the large/small scale action sequences are hilarious, played up even more in Ant Man & The Wasp, a sequel that blasts further into new ideas, develops the characters more and has a lot more fun than the already brilliant first outing, or at least I did anyways. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is under house arrest for two years after an unauthorized trip to Germany, which provides both obstacles and a running joke when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) need him to wear the Ant Man suit once again and help them find Pym’s missing wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) who got herself stuck in the Quantum Realm decades before. Pretty much everyone is back for the ride again, including Scott’s merry band of thieves (TI, Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian), his ex wife (Judy Greer) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale) as well as others. I loved this film because nowhere in it is there a sense of menace or an edge, usually something I embrace in superhero movies, but I was looking for something light, feel-good and benign. Even the antagonists are on the easygoing side; Laurence Fishburne is a salty old colleague of Pym’s, Walton Goggins plays his black market tech dealer with that frivolous southern charm and even Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost, who’s in a perpetual state of (wait for it) ‘molecular disequilibrium’, is just a damaged girl trying to make things right. We won’t speak of the jarring mid credits sequence that now has me demanding an Ant Man 3, which better happen soon. These first two and particularly this one are pleasant, gung-ho SciFi comedies that make the most of terrific visual effects, Rudd’s natural charisma and a retro feel. Something about Douglas and Pfeiffer flying around in Ant suits together and blasting through the quantum realm just has me missing the same sort of films they used to star in in their heyday. This is a throwback to that sort of thing, and I love it to bits.

-Nate Hill

David Gordon Green’s Halloween

David Gordon Green’s update on John Carpenter’s Halloween is currently slashing its way through theatres, and aside from a few nit-picky asides, it’s a winner, both in terms of a genuinely scary horror and as the long awaited sequel to a film that practically reinvented the printing press of the horror landscape.

The new Halloween is sleek, vicious, aesthetically pleasing and brings back Michael Myers to do far more killing than he ever did the first time around, as this takes place in a universe bereft of any other sequels, an interesting choice which gives the it a fresh, immediate vibe. Also back is Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, who has calcified into a paranoid, blunt realist who doesn’t so much worry if Michael will come home, but just somehow knows it in her bones. Judy Greer is fantastic as her estranged daughter Karen, Toby Huss provides great comic relief as her husband and Andi Matichak is a sensational find as Laurie’s granddaughter Alyson, who echoes both the resilience and vulnerability we remember in Laurie when she was her age. Will Patton also kicks ass as the Haddonfield Sheriff’s deputy, always great to see him.

It’s nice to see references that aren’t overt or forced, but woven into the narrative almost seamlessly and with purpose. Many instances feel serendipitous, and as the infamous classroom scene always intones and reiterates here, fate is an inexorable bitch from which there is no escape. Green and his team have lovingly made Michael the relentless stalking Shape we fondly remember, using fluid tracking shots, lingering suspense, mounting dread and those classical music cues to herald his arrival on the fringes of nocturnal suburbia like a monster in a bad dream. There are impeccably orchestrated scares involving a closet and a motion sensor light that are impressively effective and nerve shredding. There were a few things that felt dumb, like the extended involvement of a Dr. Loomis proxy called Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who at first is welcome until his arc gets inexplicably loopy, as well as some ham fisted writing for Alyson’s male friends, one of whom is so irritating I wish they’d casted an actor who looked and sounded like less of a ripe cheese, but oh well, at least he’s short lived.

Now, my favourite thing about the film: that beautiful score, and I’m not just referring to the original jangly tune. Carpenter himself, his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies worked together to not only rework the iconic theme a bit but compose swaths of new stuff, atmospheric passages and nightmarish synths that are instantly worthy of the main theme. This is definitely the best sequel since the original Halloween 2, which can be considered a companion piece to Carpenter’s first anyways as he reportedly directed chunks of it. This feels like a slasher should, but it’s also smart, deliriously stylish and scary in that elemental way where it’s not the violence itself that haunts the experience, but the spaces in between where Michael is lurking with intent and the suspense builds. That’s what Halloween is about.

-Nate Hill

Marvel’s Ant Man

In a world of gargantuan Marvel Movie phenomena, it’s nice to see the little guy get some love amidst titans, superheroes and demigods, and by little guy I mean Ant Man, who I recently heard referred to as the underdog of Marvel movie protagonists, and that he is, given adorable slacker charm by Paul Rudd, who couldn’t have been cast better. From InnerSpace to Antibody (first rounds on me if anyone’s heard of that one), the concept of people shrinking down to minuscule size has been a staple of cinema since before The Borrowers said they were doing it before it was cool, and this one, although stubbornly an MCU entry, functions better as a loving throwback to the kind of old school Sci-Fi bliss you’d find someone like Dennis Quaid, Jeff Bridges or Michael Douglas headlining in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Speaking of Douglas, he’s in this, as Dr. Hank Pym, a fancy scientist who should star in his own spinoff/crossover called Honey I Shrunk Paul Rudd, because that’s more or less what happens. Rudd is petty thief Scott Lang, a middle aged dude who acts like he’s twelve until a little fatherly guidance from Pym and a *lot* of snazzy metaphysical science turns him into a microscopic hero. Of course the technology is coveted by a sinister rival scientist, played by Corey Stoll and set set up for this summers sequel as the super villain The Wasp. What I loved so much about this is it knows how to have fun and utilize the potential of it’s premise so effectively. All the scenes involving shrinking have a thoughtful innovation, absurd sense of humour (the toy train crash jump cut killed me) and warped, trippy style. The third act sees a scary malfunction in which he literally can’t stop shrinking and starts to lose himself in molecular infinity, which is probably the coolest or at least most original Sci-fi set piece of any Marvel flick. Joining Rudd and Douglas is whip smart scientist Evangeline Lily (Kate from LOST), and the cast is thick with excellent talent including the lovely Judy Greer as Rudd’s exasperated wife, Bobby Cannavle as her new cop boyfriend, Michael Pena, TI and David Dastmalchian as Rudd’s merry band of thieves, with work from John Slattery and Hayley Atwell to remind us we’re in the Marvel Universe, and a cameo from oddball entertainer Greg Turkington (Baskin Robbins always knows) to remind us this is also a departure for the MCU into something a little more delightfully bizarre. A rockin good time.

-Nate Hill