First the trick: David Gordon Green’s Halloween sequel pretends like the last nine films in the franchise don’t exist, picking up 40 years after John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher movie as if none of that other nonsense has ever happened. Now the treat: His take reunites Michael Myers (once again, it’s Nick Castle under the mask) with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the babysitter who got away, for a final confrontation.
That makes this new Halloween an act of fan service disguised as a horror movie.
Curtis plays one of the toughest, most combat-ready grandmas ever to grace the screen, a lady who can get tossed over a balcony, fall off the roof, and still pick herself up, if it comes down to it. Karen may not appreciate her mother’s overpreparedness, but it’s sure to come in handy for Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), one of the few people Green gives us to root for in an ensemble that’s frequently introducing characters right before they get killed, or else forgetting about them entirely.
Carpenter’s original theme holds up nicely here (updated/remixed with son Cody and Daniel Davies), adding synthesizer chills to scenes in which Michael goes out stalking. That’s just one of the many hat-tips Green offers to the 1978 film.
Green has a good grasp of horror beats and timing, which is more than most studio genre films can claim (looking at you, The Nun.) Still,
Halloween 2018 is too hokey and ramshackle at the level of the script and shot to stand shoulder to shoulder with the carefully calibrated, fat-free 1978 original.
Save for a brief flashback in which the young Michael murders his topless teen sister, all sense of sexually motivated violence has been blanched from the project. The stalkings and killings are mostly well-executed – if that is the right phrase – but without any meaningful context or connection to the interchangeable victims. Many characters are hastily introduced and never seen again. The actors all pull in different directions: former
Eastender Haluk Bilginer is agreeably fruity as the crazy doctor working Michael’s case; Judy Greer delivers every line like she’s in a wacky family sitcom; Jamie Lee Curtis holds the line. The intergenerational final act, meanwhile, is spoiled by a pointless sequence in which Alyson runs through the woods, because this theme was already teased out in
It’ll do well enough for seasonal Blumhouse kicks. But it’s no
Halloween III: Season of the Witch and it certainly doesn’t warrant tossing out the previous films.
If you don’t think it’s fabulous that indie darling David Gordon Green has made a sequel to John Carpenter’s Halloween that pretends that all those other miserable sequels and remakes never happened and that Michael Myers was actually caught and institutionalised that very Halloween night in 1978 and that the lone surviving babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), ended up a profoundly damaged, twicemarried prepper waiting for the day when she could bring Michael down once and for all – well, we have nothing to talk about then, do we?
Carpenter’s Halloween might be madly overrated, but it remains the smoothest, shapeliest, and most entrancing of all dumb hack-‘em-ups
This new Halloween is the #MeToo Halloween, the one that says the body never forgets the memory of assault, and that the trauma is passed down to future generations in all sorts of unpleasant ways. Green’s Halloween doesn’t have the geographical simplicity – the elegance – of Carpenter’s. It’s a bit all over the place. But I love how he takes memorable images from the original and turns them on their heads. After a purposefully slow start, the movie builds and becomes relentless. Maybe you can’t go home again, but in the age of fanboy auteurs, you can go back to Haddonfield.
To be honest, Green has set himself a near-impossible task. On the one hand, he wants to hold the myth of Myers up for inspection, and to note its more foolish excesses. On the other hand, he yearns to reassure us that it really is a big deal. Hence the pumpkin in the opening credits, which begins as a very squashed squash and slowly inflates, ripening into bloom, with candlelight glowing through its cutout eyes and jagged grin.
Yet think of how Carpenter, so much leaner of method and more spatially aware than his successors, filled the last minute of Halloween. He showed us the danger areas where the Shape had lurked in that suburban haven: the stairs, the couch in the living room, the quiet street, the house where the story had been born. It was the best ending of its kind since Antonioni’s L’Eclisse (1962), which showed us the details of the trysting place where two lovers, now absent, used to meet in Rome: a fence, an unfinished building, a street lamp guttering to life.
One director’s vision of metaphysical vacuity had mutated into another’s pulp horror, and, in both cases, we were seized with apprehension. The Halloween of today is slick and sick, but little is left of that sleep-destroying dread.
Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.