Nary a more maligned horror series exists than the one started by John Carpenter in 1978. Halloween started off as an incredibly original slasher with an iconic killer. It became lost, misdirected and laughable. Navigating its story line feels like the Super Mario Brothers warp room. Danny McBride, otherwise known as Kenny Powers, exclaimed “enough!”. McBride wrote a screenplay and subsequently convinced Hollywood to completely retcon the entire sequel series in favor of a new continuity. His film tells the story of what really happened after the events in Haddonfield Illinois in 1978, Halloween night.
Directed by David Gordon Green, Halloween 2018 sets out to right the wrongs of the past. McBride and Green went to Blumhouse Productions to pitch John Carpenter and Jason Blum. John Carpenter disliked the direction that Rob Zombie chose for the story. Accordingly, Carpenter wanted to produce another film with his image of the iconic character. Blumhouse agreed to green-light the project. To be successful the film required one crucial element. Key to this new production would be re-casting Jamie Lee Curtis in the role of Laurie Strode.
Halloween – 40 Years Later
After the events of 1978, authorities somehow apprehended Michael Myers. Michael has been imprisoned in Smith’s Grove mental institution for 40 years. The film never bothers to explain how any of this occurred, considering Michael Myers disappeared at the end of the 1978 original. Back in Haddonfield, Laurie Strode still reels from the events 40 years prior. However, Laurie is not a victim. She has been preparing for Michael’s return.
Laurie fought her demons for years with alcohol. She trained in preparation for Michael’s return. Not only did she train herself, but also her daughter, Karen to. She taught Karen at a young age to use firearms. Eventually Laurie’s mania causes her daughter to be taken away by social services. To this day she remains alienated from her family, but she is sworn to protect her grand-daughter, Allyson.
When Laurie receives news that Michael escaped, she prepares for the final conflict.
The Return of Jamie Lee Curtis… For the second time
Bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back ends up being the strongest move that the producers make. This marks the second time that Jamie Lee Curtis reimagines the role of Laurie Strode in support of a retcon. The last time she shouldered this burden was Halloween: H20. I vaguely remember the same rhetoric about fixing the sins of the past, and that brining Jamie Lee Curtis back would elevate the franchise back into the stratosphere. I also remember being let down.
This time Laurie Strode has more in common Sarah Conners from the Terminator than the victim of the original films. Laurie prepares traps and she stockpiles weapons. She converts her home into a veritable fortress designed explicitly to kill Michael Myers. Jamie Lee Curtis not only proves to be believable in the role, but the only thing that feels truly authentic about the film.
Silly Sub-Plots and Ridiculous Coincidences
For an effort so intent on fixing the sins of the past, this film has its share of ludicrous moments. Let’s start with the podcasters. The introduction of the film shows two investigative podcasters heading to Smith’s Grove to interview Michael Myers. There, Dr. Ranbir Sartain, a former student of Dr. Loomis, leads them to Michael. Inexplicably, one of the podcasters presents Michael’s original mask and beckons Michael to speak. Respectfully, Michael declines the offer.
Flash forward to Halloween. The podcasters are traveling back to whatever rock they live under when they make a pit-stop at a gas station. Lo and behold, Michael just so happens to pull into the same gas station at that very moment. After stealthily dispatching the gas station attendant and the mechanic, he murders both podcasters. In a moment of fortuitous serendipity, Michael scores his 40 year old mask and a swank pair of coveralls. Happy Halloween!
In the most ludicrous moment, Deputy Frank Hawkins, via a solid performance by Will Patton, hunts for Michael. Allyson and Dr. Sartain ride along in the squad-car. Upon finding Michael walking down the street, Hawkins goes straight for the kill, hitting Michael Myers with the car. As they inspect the body, Dr. Sartain pulls some kind of James Bond knife out of his coat and stabs Hawkins in the neck, killing him. Sartain later explains his mutiny by telling Allyson that he planned Michael’s escape so that he could study him in the wild. I sprained my eyeballs when they rolled.
Halloween 2018 – Recovering a Franchise
Halloween 2018 tries to rekindle the past by shedding a litany of questionable decisions made over many sequels. That being said, the producers wanted carry forward a kernel of the look and feel from the original 1978 film. Danny McBride was quoted, “But we’re really trying to take it back to what John Carpenter originally started with and what was so horrifying about it.”
Little Tributes to Halloween’s Past
Halloween does a decent job of providing fan service with a wink and a nod. During the confrontation, Michael throws Laurie Strode over the balcony to the ground. Just like Dr. Loomis did in ’78, Michael looks down upon her. As he looks away for a moment, Laurie disappears. After killing the baby sitter, Michael once again gives the inquisitive head tilt of a Labrador Retriever. Michael still loves displaying his Halloween handiwork in fancy ways. In one of the more clever throw-backs, all three of the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks can be seen patrolling the streets for candy. These all amount to little pre-wrapped “fun-sized” treats for the franchise fans.
Does Halloween 2018 have it where it counts?
Apart from the nods to the past, Halloween 2018 feels a bit underwhelming. Michael again poses a silent and brutal threat, but he lacks the panache he carried in the previous films. I found myself wanting for “The Shape” to subtly appear in the darkness only to evaporate like a ghost. Michael mostly dances front and center for all to see. In only one occasion does the audience not know exactly where he is. Laurie! Look behind the mannequins! Michael’s movements felt a lot more Jason Voorhees than Michael Myers.
But, at least he looks like Michael Myers. The costume department made sure not to deviate too far from the proven formula. Let’s be honest, other sequels couldn’t get this right, so it deserves some credit. Additionally, Halloween 2018 visually pleases in several areas. The technical execution and camera work demonstrates competence. Much of the action takes place in poorly lit areas, however the night shooting actually pops in many instances with interesting back-lighting. In an iconic moment, Michael stands silently, trapped and waiting for the flames to consume him.
Malevolent Dark is not impressed
After the watching this film the first time in the theater, I clearly remember an overwhelming feeling of being underwhelmed. After all the hype and all the talk about getting back to the roots of the series, I could only feel disappointed. Quite frankly, Halloween offers nothing new to the franchise. The entirety of the film feels like a giant set-up to get Michael to Laurie’s Thunderdome for a huge cathartic moment. Almost every character in the film feels like a cardboard cutout being setup only to be be torn down. It simply fills the space between the opening frame and the last 20 minutes with dead-meat for the slaughter.
I fail to see the glowing admiration for this film. The original Halloween II, the film that Halloween 2018 tries to replace, outperforms this film across the board. I am going to say this out loud because readers of Malevolent Dark need to hear this: Halloween 2018 pales in comparison to BOTH Rob Zombie reboots. I wanted you to hear it from me first.
However, in the grand scheme of things, the film is not terrible, it’s just disappointing. Yes, problems plague the franchise, but at least they tried to build a mythology around the characters. Without a purpose and without motivation, a silent hulking killer becomes rather boring. The decision to bring Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode gave Halloween 2018 enough air to get off the ground, but it still couldn’t overcome its burden.
People looking for a low-stakes slasher will probably have a fine time with Halloween 2018. However, huge fans of the franchise should be disappointed. Halloween 2018 is nothing to write “Samhain” in blood over.
Halloween 2018 - A Cheap Trick, and Uninspired Treat - Malevolent Dark
Director: David Gordon Green
Date Created: 2018-01-01 00:00