HALLOWEEN (2018) ½
R 109 mins.
2018, R 109 mins.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode / Judy Greer as Karen Strode / Andi Matichak as Allyson Strode / Will Patton as Hawkins / Virginia Gardner as Vicky / Nick Castle as The Shape / Miles Robbins as Dave / Toby Huss as Ray / Jefferson Hall as Martin
Directed by David Gordon Green / Written by Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride
to understate the relative importance that John Carpenter's 1978 horror
thriller HALLOWEEN had on its genre and on the larger movie industry as a
He all but single handedly invented the mad killer "slasher"
horror genre all on his own and, for better or worse, went on to inspire
an unending number of copycat efforts throughout the 1980s.
Without HALLOWEEN there would have definitely not been a FRIDAY
THE 13TH or NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series.
To be fair, Carpenter's pioneering horror film also spawned a long
series of increasingly mediocre sequels and the franchise as a whole has
become - since its inception - the very negative thing that it helped usher
There have been
so many countless HALLOWEEN sequels - not to mention a Rob Zombie reboot,
which had its own sequel - that I've frankly lost track over the
This brings me to the latest HALLOWEEN film, the confusingly titled
HALLOWEEN, but it should be noted from the onset that this one serves
as both a direct follow-up entry to Carpenter's late 70s original while
completely ignoring all of the confusing and bloated sequels that have
been released since.
In this respect, this new HALLOWEEN is both a sequel and a subtle
reboot of the series, making it an ultra rare rebootquel.
Compellingly, it follows the narrative of the 1978 film by catching
us up with what has happened to its young teenage heroine, Laurie Strode
(played in a then career jump-starting performance by Jamie Lee Curtis).
Yes, the series previously revisited the character in 1998's
HALLOWEEN H20, but since the mythology of that film (and the other
sequels) have been jettisoned we now have a new installment that begins
things fresh with this character, forty years after she was attacked and
nearly killed by the masked serial killer Michael Meyers.
compliment I will pay HALLOWEEN is that it wipes its own slate mostly
clean and wishes to begin things anew.
The franchise's own inherent mythology and continuity over the
decades almost would benefit from a road map at this point, which leaves
the makers here (comprised of director David Gordon Green and writers
Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) with a revitalizing creative freedom to do
fresh things within this horror sandbox.
Because we now have a direct sequel to the '78 film it also gives
Green and company an opportunity to probe the decades of tormenting
psychological impact that Laurie obviously had to deal with in the
aftermath of Meyers' attacks.
HALLOWEEN intriguingly hits the reset button in this franchise and
opens up a whole floodgate of new possibilities, but where it ultimately
fails is in the sense that it basically still adheres to many stale
slasher film troupes and flows by mostly on obligatory autopilot,
ultimately leaving the whole enterprise feeling like a somewhat squandered
The film does
have a nifty opening, though, which begins forty years after the original
and shows a pair of podcasters going to visit Meyers at
the mental institution that has been his incarcerated home since his infamous
murder spree in Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978.
He's been completely mute since then, but one of the investigative
team thinks that showing him his mask that he wore during said murders may
evoke an emotional and verbal reaction out of him (now, how low level
podcasters would able to secure evidence from a mass murder case from what
I'm assuming is police property is beyond me).
Needless to say, Meyers remains unnervingly silent, but fate steps
in when - during a bus transfer of patients - he manages to escape and
plot his return to Haddonfield to get the job done that he didn't complete
all of those years ago.
It's at this
point when we're re-introduced to the near elderly Laurie, who has spent a
majority of her life burdened by obsessive paranoia that Meyers would some
day return to reek murderous havoc.
In the subsequent years she began training her mind, body, and soul
with a Sarah Connor-like fanaticism to prepare herself for a potential
confrontation with her past attacker, which has led to her estrangement
from her own daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak).
Everyone of Laurie's family members thinks she's nuttier than a
fruitcake, but when Meyers does indeed return and begins to re-paint the
town with the blood of new victims Laurie begins to realize that she's in for the fight of her life and proceeds to secure her loved ones in her
remarkably fortified and well armed home for the bloodbath to come.
If there is one
reason to see HALLOWEEN then it would be for its empowering performance by
Curtis, who at 59-years-old has a field day returning as her legendary
scream queen persona, only this time re-envisioned as a tough talking,
booze guzzler, and militarized loose canon whose life was destroyed by
past trauma, but has pulled herself up to tackle the inevitability of a
confrontation with the madman that nearly killed her as a teenager.
It's really fertile dramatic territory for this re-branded
character, and Curtis shows great enthusiasm for portraying this rugged,
tough talking, hot tempered, but still vulnerable version of Laurie.
Her impeccably well realized performance is nicely tied with
Green's underlining handling of a fascinating thematic arc of the film,
which explores how once anxiety plagued and mentally damaged women find
inner strength to become ferociously empowered instruments of vengeance
against their past tormentors.
Like Dr. Loomis before her, the only logical choice Laurie feels in
terms of "dealing" with Meyers is to kill him.
Pure and simple.
And unlike so many innumerable slasher films that HALLOWEEN
inspired, this new version turns the female victim/prey into the trigger
In essence, Laurie has become a cold hearted avenging angel, which
makes this HALLOWEEN simmer with a surprising amount of ironic complexity.
Still, some of my
big problems with HALLOWEEN is that it pays perhaps too much faithful
homage to Carpenter's cherished classic, so much to the point that it
commits the same sins that STAR
WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS did in mimicking the look, feel, and
overall narrative trajectory of what's come before without offering up
sufficient new innovation moving forward.
There are lots of cool little references by Green here (some
subtle, some not so much) to specific scenes, dialogue exchanges, and even
shot compositions to Carpenter's film, which definitely makes
this new HALLOWEEN feel like the HALLOWEEN of old (that, and Carpenter
himself has returned to create a masterful synth-heavy score that
wonderfully echoes his past work on the franchise).
However, the problem with the explicit fan servicing that's on
display here is that it generates nostalgic feelings of deju vu in
audience members without fully engaging them with any new memorable
handling of the material.
HALLOWEEN is a faithful sequel, but it regrettably feels like a
carbon copy of the original, albeit with minor tweaks here and there.
When it boils
right down to it, this HALLOWEEN simply regurgitates the basic premise of
Meyers returning to Haddonfield to pick off innocent victims one after
another, and in the process doesn't bring much new to the table.
Instead of slyly transcending this well worn genre, Green simply is
working within its stale playbook.
That, and he's an ill fit for this material, but not because
he's a bad director (if anything, he has a splendidly eclectic resume and
seems unafraid to tackle any genre, as shown in films as far ranging from
SNOW ANGELS, UNDERTOW, JOE, PINEAPPLE
EXPRESS, and STRONGER).
Re-watching the original HALLOWEEN I was taken in with how
meticulous crafted it was and how Carpenter generated sequences of
legitimate nail biting suspense and haunting atmosphere.
Green, by unfortunate comparison, doesn't really have an affinity
here in his sequel to create a unique work with any level of similar
tension and tone.
Green's direction is workmanlike, but lacks any real personality.
There are some stylistic call-backs to Carpenter's claustrophobic compositions and nerve-wracking editing, but Green never
this HALLOWEEN compellingly his own.
Beyond that, Meyers' sadistic kills here rarely, if ever, generate
They're violent, yes, but dully so and rarely come off as
truly unnerving and frightening.
The final act of HALLOWEEN is arguably the only time in it that Green conjures up moments of lingering terror, which all culminates in what everyone in the cinema has been waiting for: An epic one-on-one donnybrook between Laurie and Meyers that ends with mostly satisfying results (granted, a shoddy and mindless plot twist that leads into this thrillingly intense climax is beyond insipid). HALLOWEEN is a difficult franchise entry to decipher; it contains elements I greatly admired, like wisely discarding years worth of wretched sequel storytelling, not to mention returning the series to its original roots in look and feel. There's a respect being paid here to Carpenter's iconic past vision, but a mournful unwillingness to tread newfangled ground. HALLOWEEN paradoxically has a conceptual freshness and tediousness to it, and it's a sequel that battles with itself. It traces the framework of Carpenter's renowned film without adding its own embellishing brushstrokes to segregate itself apart from it. And after four decades, perhaps genre fans deserve a bit more.