REVIEW: “Halloween” (2018)

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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.

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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).

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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

3-stars

20 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Halloween” (2018)

  1. That’s exactly right. The biggest offense is the lack of scares. Also, using audience reaction as a proxy – there were no palpable gasps followed by laughter, and there wasn’t applause at the end. The TIFF reaction seems to be an outlier.

    • Absolutely. I didn’t find it the least bit tense other than one scene (involving a bed sheet and I’ll leave it there). I know it is being treated by many as a fresh entry into the slasher genre, but I found it to be pretty by-the-books in many regards.

    • My experience on opening day was filled with big audience reactions and finished with applause, something I don’t often experience in a film theatre anymore. Now, it could be that it was opening day and thus filled with the most hardcore of fans, but it didn’t seem that way at least by those that were around me. Personally I wasn’t scared by it but I’ve also been watching horror films for 30 years and very little scares me anymore but based on those around me in the theater, the scares were effective. The humor landed, toenail kid got huge laughs at multiple points, and the violence and gore kept ratcheting up in ways that were disturbing for the audience (and even me as a veteran of the torture porn era).

      I do wonder if my audience hadn’t been so in to it, if I come away with a lesser opinion of it but I suppose that will have to wait until later when I watch it at home.

      • That reaction mirrors the excitement I have heard others had. I like the franchise in a nostalgic sense but certainly isn’t what you would call a hardcore fan. I do wonder if the crowd reactions would have influenced me. It is fun watching a movie in that environment.

      • Admittedly, I am a huge fan of the franchise and like nearly everything in it (sans the crap Rob Zombie films) even when they are utter garbage. This one though just did right by the franchise for me. It understoond that Michael was just a force of evil, albeit one that is human and bleeds, and eliminated all the extra add on to his character. No sister connection, no cults, no trailer trash backstory, just evil. I also loved what they did with Laurie, not just making her in to a bad ass but showing that the trauma of 40 years ago has deeply effected her and her family. This I think is where the #metoo comparissons come from and honestly it is an interesting approach, which I do think, per Jamie Lee Curtis’s interviews recently, was an intentional one.

        I also very much liked the outright tributes to the rest of the franchise entries. It showed to me that these people knew what the series meant to everyone but there was only one way to move forward and that was to wash everything since the original away. There was a respect for the series itself but more importantly, respect for the fans of the series by people that cared about both.

        Anyway, shame you didn’t like it as much but too each their own.

      • My little brother adores the series with the exception of the Zombie movies. I do agree that the callbacks are fun more times than not. And I do love Curtis and what they do with her character. I just wanted more of her. There would be large gaps where she was nowhere to be found. Instead we were spending time with side characters that amounted to nothing more than bodies for Michael to slaughter.

        As for the sister connection, I actually liked that. For me it gave Michael motive and reason however twisted for what he was doing. I like that psychology better than (as Loomis called him) pure aimless indiscriminate evil. I do agree that the cult stuff was really really bad…LOL.

        As for the #MeToo connection. That is absolutely what they were going for with Curtis but I’m just not so sure the movie has as much to say about it as it’s being heralded for. But as you said, to each their own. That’s what makes these things so much fun to talk about!

  2. My friend canceled out on the media screening on me last minute and I almost didn’t go thinking I would be scared on my own – needless to say – not even once. nada. zilch. nothing. At times I was almost bored. And the ridiculousness of what parents are going to leave their child at a high school dance knowing Myers is after them – and Myers is what now, in his 70’s and survives a bus crash, beat up, ran over, stabbed and shot more times than I could count, and just keeps on going – like nothing happened. uuuggghhh… The saving grace for me was the wonderful Halloween music from the original = and then very end.. but hey a sequel is on order so I can Myers can truly live forever! 🙂

    • And it’s funny, I thought this was supposed to be a fresh installment when it actually felt much the same. Admittedly I have a sentimental spot for this goofy genre wish is the only reason this didn’t score a tick lower.

  3. I have thoughts of seeing it as I’m a fan of the original film as I heard this is the closest thing to what John Carpenter has done and he is involved with the film’s score. Plus, It acts as a partial homage to the original and as a sequel.

    • I truly love the original as well. For my money this one isn’t in the same league as the ‘78 classic. Curtis is fantastic. I wish they gave her a little more screen time.

  4. I agree with you on it not being scary, I still really liked it though for the atmosphere. And that smart ass kid Allyson’s friend was babysitting. He was great.

    • See, I actually thought the kid was ridiculous and stripped the entire scene of any intensity. But as I wrote, the potty-mouthed children thing ran its course with me long ago.

  5. This is an excellent review that succinctly points out some of the more problematic aspects of the film.

    I think Halloween (2018) occupies a strange middle ground between the sense of mystery that permeated Carpenter’s film, and the streak of sadism that defined many of its imitators.

    You can find out more in my review below:

    https://sgsonfilm.net/2018/10/29/review-halloween-2018/

    If you find the piece to your liking, then please comment and follow.

    • Thanks so much. That’s very well put. This one does fall somewhere in the middle with nothing profoundly differentiating it from either the first or the latter sequels.

      I’ll definitely check out your review. Thanks for the link.

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