I left Friday afternoon’s screening of David Gordon Green’s Halloween shaking my head and thinking to myself, “What in the hell has Laurie Strode done on Halloween for the past 39 years?” […]
The original Halloween (1978) is—in my humble opinion—the most beautifully shot/written/performed film in the history of cinema. The movie is packed with suspense and has a terrifying soundtrack that carries the pace of action. I listened to the latest installment’s wonderfully mixed soundtrack for about 24 hours on-and-off leading up to purchasing my ticket. Big mistake.
Halloween (2018) nails the setting, opening titles, and score but fails to be as effective with almost every other element.
This film reminds me of the feeling I had once I saw Jurassic World. I went into each with mild expectations and hoped for the best. After each conclusion, I walked outside then looked at the placard and said, “F*** off.”
Let’s first look at what makes the original picture so damn scary. As I mentioned, the soundtrack—composed entirely in three days—drives the film. It’s basically all Halloweens 4-10 have to fall back on. The theme is iconic—unmistakably the greatest theme song in the history of the horror genre. The “buzzes” and “hisses” dropped into key stalking scenes amps up the tension to the point to where, me, at 9-years old, couldn’t finish the movie the first few times I tried to sit through it.
This new attempt to recreate that tension fails miserably. You are constantly aware or at least have an idea of Myers’s location. The best scenes in the movie are when you lose track of him. It doesn’t happen but maybe twice. Once at a gas station because, duh, he needs a mechanic’s coveralls. The second and probably most effective death scene where we lose Michael is in a backyard with motion-sensor lighting. Outside of those two scenes, there isn’t the necessary tension to make this movie more than just a murder romp.
Director David Gordon Green’s vision of Haddonfield, Illinois, or, Warren County works. The film is shot beautifully for the most part. It’s really Charleston, South Carolina but I think the locale sells the Midwest. The camera effect are hip but classic techniques are most definitely put to use. (Zooms, quick cuts, etc.) However, the characters put into this Midwestern town are about the dumbest bunch assembled for any Halloween film outside of the first two. Alright, maybe not. (The Curse wins, but still.) Let’s first examine what the main characters want.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) basically spent the last 39 years building a fortress so she can finally trap and kill Michael Myers. She ruined two marriages and a daughter’s childhood with paranoia and disciplined training. Is that plot point a surprise? She wants Myers to escape—which always leads to a murdering rampage—so that she can selfishly end him. How stupid is that?
Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie’s daughter, resents her mother for the way Laurie raised Karen. She’s moved on and has a family of her own. Karen wants to keep her distance from her crazy mother.
Allyson (Andi Matichak), Karen’s daughter, is fodder. That’s it. If it were me, she’d be the star of the show. Instead, she’s portrayed as just another stupid teenager that can miraculously survive. Forgettable, unfortunately. However, I do want to see this actor in more feature-length stuff.
Then you have Michael Myers himself. Nick Castle, who portrayed the psycho-killer in the original Halloween, returns to the role for some scenes. Some other guy (James Jude Courtney) plays Myers the rest of the way. What does Michael Myers want? If ain’t broke, don’t fix it—he’s Michael Myers and he’s out for convenient blood. Keyword: convenient.
The best thing about Myers in the original film (depending on the cut) is that we have no idea why he’s stalking Laurie and her friends outside of knowing that he killed his sister on Halloween night fifteen years earlier. That’s it. Then they tried to flesh it out saying Laurie Strode is actually “Laurie Myers,” Michael’s younger sister. I never had a problem with that. I don’t think many fans did either because Halloween II (1981) is a pretty good follow-up. It’s honestly one of the best sequels ever because it completes the original “Night He Came Home.” You can look at Halloween I and II as one big movie.
The unmasked Myers at the beginning of the film looks like Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) of the Kingsguard from Game of Thrones—or a blurry Frank Langella. Take your pick. We never see a clear shot of Michael’s face but he’s old. There’s no way a man of his age can pull off the horrific kills throughout the feature. It was really hard to strain my disbelief.
Allyson, while walking with her sure-as-dead friends early on, reveals that she “thinks” that Laurie, AKA “Grandmother,” isn’t Michael’s sister and that it was just “made up.” Surprisingly enough, I didn’t check-out as soon that information was ineffectively brought to light. (I would eventually check out, but I’ll get to that bullshit later.)
How stupid do they think we Halloween purists are? This new film isn’t as insulting to the audience as it is to the characters. Laurie Strode in Halloween H20 was a far cry from the vulnerable teenager 20 years before—she was now a badass and was still effected by what she went through. She chops Myers head off and that should’ve been that. This Laurie forces the audience to think she’s a badass and traumatized, but when it comes time to throw down, Laurie’s stand versus The Shape is rather underwhelming. Laurie builds a Michael Myers-proof home that Myers easily breaks into. Could he at least have to use his brain and figure out a clever way to enter? Or maybe show us him ripping off the gated door protecting a wooden one. If you have a steel gated door, why shouldn’t the second door be made from steel. (Am I nitpicking?)
The movie drags through the first hour or so–even with the senseless killing. We open with two idiot journalists who basically want to have Michael and Laurie have a face-to-face conversation so they can record it and become famous(?). We never hear either one say, “Pulitzer,” or anything. Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer)—“New Loomis”—tells the journalists multiple times during their visit to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium that Myers doesn’t speak, yet they stupidly persist. The male journalist (Jefferson Hall) tries to lure Michael by pulling out his 40-year old mask. Michael, who looks 70, pays him no mind.
I checked-out about the time that New Loomis murders Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) with a switchblade scalpel in front of Myers to see what it’s like to simply be a murderer. Sartain says something to the extent of, “So this is how it feels?” or some dumb shit like that before actually removing Myers’s mask and briefly wearing it himself. All of this happens following Hawkins hitting Myers with his SUV. It was so “Ben Tramer,” or stupid, depending on those who remember Tramer’s tragic and super-abrupt end in Halloween II (1981).
The two journalists who open the film serve no purpose but to deliver Michael his mask that he finds in the trunk of a car once he’s murdered practically everyone at a gas station. By the way, that sequence is probably my favorite death scene in the movie. Not the journalists’ brutal end but the subtle death of the mechanic whose coveralls become The Shape’s. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. It happens in the background while no one in the gas station garage manages to notice. All the other deaths are in-your-face—not too gruesome, but not too surprising.
So, let’s talk about the body count. Going in, I figured no one was safe. It’s a slasher flick. Maybe one person usually survives and my money was on Allyson over everyone else. Why? Well, for starters, if Blumhouse wants to keep the train rolling (spoiler: they obviously do) have the granddaughter remain as the final piece of the puzzle. Guess what, Michael Myers has not one but three Strodes to eliminate for whatever reason. (Revenge, I guess?) Laurie, Kitty—er, I mean, Karen, and Allyson survive. For die-hard fans of the entire franchise, this is a great conclusion. For a guy like me who argues there’s no place like Haddonfield ’78, it’s a safe conclusion but not fitting. Green’s vision of the final battle was different, that’s for sure. After seeing the Blumhouse Halloween once, I was underwhelmed. Will take in a second screening? Who am I kidding? Of course, I will.
At the end of the day, the smartest character is the little boy Vicky (Virginia Gardner) babysits, Julian (Jibrail Nantambu). He’s maybe on screen for five or six minutes in total. Michael Myers hides in his closet. Julian alerts Vicky, who goes and checks it out. Surprise, Michael’s home and Julian gets the hell out of there while Vicky eats shit. Due to the fact that Myers (and I’m not kidding) brutally kills a little boy to kick off the killing spree early on, Julian was also suspect for a horrible end. He runs—which is the smartest thing anyone does in the movie because, well, who wouldn’t run (aside from the dumb-dumbs littered throughout the movie that make no attempt to flee)?
Am I disappointed? I guess so. As a fan of the first two Halloween films, do I want them to make another one? Of course. Why not? Michael Myers is the best of the best when it comes to the slasher genre. Freddy can’t get you in the real world and Jason is a total idiot. I’m aging myself here because there hasn’t been a Friday the 13th or a Nightmare on Elm Street film in some time. Maybe this new Halloween film proves why. There’s not much more you can do but recycle horror movies. Chew ‘em up, and then spit ‘em out. Then chew again and so on. It Follows is the most “original” horror film I’ve seen in 20 years because the tone and ambiance of John Carpenter’s Halloween lurks throughout.
In conclusion, why even call Blumhouse’s Halloween “Halloween?” I would’ve been content calling it “Michael Myers” or “Meet the Strodes” in the same vein as a Rocky Balboa or Fast and Furious (2009). There are now technically three films named Halloween. Not that it’s confusing or anything. If you think about it, all three are distinctively different from a visual perspective yet the 2007 and 2018 versions take a lot from the O.G.’s template for freaking us out.
If you’re easily freaked out by cheap jump scares, Halloween (2018) is for you. If you go into the film looking to discover a new wave of terror, forget it. I’m not saying that the latest installment lacks creativity, it just lacks the key element of not knowing who’s Michael Myers next victim will be. Will I see this movie again? Probably. There’s got to be some stuff I’m missing. Until then, I’ll continue to roll my eyes if anyone tells me Blumhouse’s Halloween is anything more than just another murder romp.