Halloween (2018)

Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween comes from the right place; there’s no questioning that. Throwing out every other Halloween film in the franchise except for the original from 1978, this sequel picks up 40 years after the events in the first film. It’s an attempt to tap into the source artery of the magic that made the original work. Regrettably, like the well-intended box of raisins handed out as trick or treat candy, the movie makes the gesture but misses the function of the first film almost entirely. We want an efficient little thriller about the boogeyman, we get a contemporary commentary on trauma that is peppered with scary bits.

The film begins with a cold open on a pair of half-witted British podcasters visiting Michael Myers at the Sanitarium. It’s the day before the ruby anniversary of Michael’s infamous killing spree in Haddonfield, and the investigative pair hope to get Michael to speak. In what is a pleasantly creepy moment, Michael’s original mask is pulled from a satchel, Michael is triggered, and the asylum erupts into screams, rants, and howls, and the other inmates pick up on the bad mojo and energy that has been stirred.

We next cut to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has been living with the traumatic memories of surviving the mass murder. Time has not been kind to her. Haunted by the thought that, inevitably, she will someday come face to face with Michael again. She has lived through two failed marriages, estrangement from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and has become the ultimate badass recluse with a full arsenal of weapons and a hidden panic room. Okay, so the last part is pretty cool and has some nice things about it, but… The only familial connection that Laurie has anymore is with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) who sees through the history and actually digs her trippy gramma.

“Halloween morning, Laurie is sent into weepy hysterics on news of the escape…”

Michael finally escapes in transit to another facility, and he immediately begins his journey back to Haddonfield just in time for a night of slashing on Halloween night. Halloween morning, Laurie is sent into weepy hysterics on news of the escape, unsuccessfully trying to convince her loved ones of the impending bloodbath. We are finally set to get to the titular night. That’s only after mounds of laborious development that mostly turn out to be inconsequential later on.

The stage is set, the kills begin, and yet, something is missing. There is little that is actually suspenseful, much less scary. Green is a capable director who not only knows the original film, he effortlessly references it with undeniably clever homages throughout. The problem here is the script that is bloated with the fat of unnecessary expositions and weighed down by the all too real and painful truth of trauma survivors to allow us the thrill of fear.

Thank GOD for John Carpenter’s contribution as composer. Updating the score that he originally wrote and performed, Carpenter infuses a new, even more ominous sense of inevitable doom to a brand new score.

Getting to the performances, let’s just establish right now that Jamie Lee Curtis is an elemental force of horror. The original scream queen, Curtis revisits Laurie Strode with a weathered approach recapturing why we fell in love with her all those years ago. Yet, this brilliant actress is not given enough material to really show us the arc that Laurie has made from nebbish bookworm to hardcore militia fighter. She spends the majority of the film pained and weepy. We never get to heal and reconnect with that spunky babysitter from years ago. To give a comparison; I was often reminded of Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. After being convinced of danger, Hamilton’s Sarah Connor became a brutal fighter that didn’t tolerate the disbelief around her. We as the audience were with her, validated in the knowledge that danger was imminent and we were given some glorious moments of redemption for the pain we had endured. Not so with Halloween’s Strode. After all these years, Strode has not allowed herself to become the survivor we know she is, that we knew she was all along. That is, until a few stellar moments in the final reel of the film, but at that point, we just want the suffering to stop.

“…Judy Greer as Karen is casting perfection…”

I will say that the performances across the board are strong as hell. That is, save for one Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), the “New Loomis” as Strode calls him. Hammy and ceremonial, Bilginer’s scenes border on silly. Regardless, Judy Greer as Karen is casting perfection. She is tender, yet strong, and she hits all of the right notes. I believed that she was the daughter of Laurie. Matichak’s Allyson is adequate as the granddaughter of Strode. Oddly enough the true stand out of this movie is Jibrail Nantambu as Julian. Playing this film’s Tommy Wallace, Julian is being babysat by Vicky (Virginia Gardner) one of Allyson’s friends. In what is the film’s most genuine and funny scenes the two share some hilarious banter in the film’s only comic relief. It is what the original captured in terms of the babysitter and child dynamic, and it is a standout few scenes.

It is an interesting, even admirable choice to wipe clean everything that we knew from Halloween 2 to Halloween Resurrection, ignoring Rob Zombie’s painful remakes, and starting back at the beginning. Yet this new Halloween misses most of the opportunities that this approach offers. Screenwriters Green and Danny McBride do well to turn the story into Laurie’s triumph over tragedy, but they weigh her down with too much pain and not enough resilience. Additionally, there are entirely too many loose ends, unnecessary characters, developments, and red herrings that pad what should be a lean horror suspense movie.

Should you go see Halloween? You could go either way. This is easily the best sequel in a sea of crumby sequels and remakes. David Gordon Green’s Halloween is able to graze the brass ring that 9 other sequels and remakes have tried to touch, but it still doesn’t run home with the prize.

Halloween (2018) Directed by David Gordon Green. Written by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle.

6 out of 10 stars

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