David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” is yet another entry into the four-decade-long slasher franchise sure to drive continuity hounds insane. If you’re into chronology finding a link through every Halloween movie is all but impossible.
Case in point: If you’re loyal to the original order you have “Halloween” 1-6. Maybe you choose the two “H2O” movies which followed the original “Halloween” and “Halloween 2” but nothing after. Then you had Rob Zombie’s completely unconnected reboots simply titled “Halloween” and “Halloween 2”. Now we have a new line that embraces the 1978 original but dismisses everything else. So with it you have “Halloween” followed by “Halloween”. Confused yet?
For many people none of that stuff matters much. It’s weird and messy but ultimately it all comes back to the masked butcher-knife wielding antagonist Michael Myers. Green’s “Halloween” aims to bring back the original conflict between Michael and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. And what better time to do it than the 40 year anniversary of the ’78 John Carpenter classic.
Green was an unusual choice for a “Halloween” movie especially considering some of his raunchy swing-and-misses (“Pineapple Express”, “Your Highness” and “The Sitter”). But since those films he has shown a more intriguing side to his filmmaking (“Prince Avalanche”, “Joe”, and “Stronger”). So having him head a big slasher-horror franchise was intriguing.
In Green’s telling, Michael Myers was captured shortly after the murderous events of the first film (seems like something the audience should get to see but be that as it may). For 40 years since, Michael has been in an institution for the criminally insane under the care of Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), a former student of Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis with the fascination for Michael’s psychology.
During this same time, Laurie Strode has closed herself off both literally and figuratively. She is a self-described basket case with two failed marriages and a strained relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). The mental trauma and understandable paranoia has driven Laurie into seclusion on the outskirts of Haddonfield, barricaded in a fortified farmhouse full of booby-traps and firearms.
The institution schedules to transfer Michael, along with a busload of other patients, to a new facility on Halloween night. How’s that for timing? A crashed bus, a few dead bodies, and guess who is heading back to Haddonfield? And don’t worry slasher fans, Green gives his audience more than enough disposable characters to serve as Michael’s blood-soaked fodder. In fact, practically none of these characters are meaningful other than to raise Michael’s gory kill count and take screen-time away from Curtis who is very good here.
It’s impossible to deny the nostalgia for someone who loved the 1978 film. Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley are routinely calling back to the original and in many instances borrowing from the very sequels they disavow. So aside from Laurie Strode’s journey and a particularly bizarre middle act twist, much of this movie will feel familiar to franchise aficionados and for slasher fans in general. It does little to differentiate itself.
What’s worse is that the movie just isn’t that scary. It throws in a smattering of jump scares but it’s never able to maintain the tension that John Carpenter nailed so well. I only recall one scene that had me antsy. Even the big finale had all the ingredients for a tense sequence but is drawn out too long before FINALLY giving us the overdue payoff (and it is a very satisfying payoff).
It’s also hurt by the fact that Michael Myers is simply not that interesting. A lot was made of Green’s decision to wipe out Michael and Laurie’s family connection. Here Michael seems aimless, often killing for no reason other than to allow the special effects team to one-up their last kill. And the movie’s weird jabs at humor tend to disrupt the tone (I’m sorry, but potty-mouthed little kids ran their course with me long ago).
Some have called this a horror film for the #MeToo and #TimesUp era. I think that is giving the movie way too much credit. It does aim to put Laurie Strode in the Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor class. That’s a good thing and the film needed more of her. But that’s as far as the movie goes. It’s still a very basic slasher flick which is good for genre fans but it’s hardly one with a profound social conscience. Still there is definitely fun to be had.
It may sound like I’m down on “Halloween” when actually it works well enough within this 11-movie franchise. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent and the film excels when she is highlighted. But when you have framed yourself as a direct sequel to an all-time horror classic and you’ve wiped out a lot of the series history it’s easy for us to expect a little more than a standard slasher film. Especially one that is so similar to several of the sequels it set out to replace.
VERDICT – 3 STARS