Posted in: Review

Halloween (2018)

Having original “final girl” Laurie Strode return to the Halloween franchise after decades away is not a new idea, although given the underwhelming way it turned out in 1998’s Halloween H20, you can’t really blame director and co-writer David Gordon Green for taking another crack at it. Like H20, Green’s simply titled Halloween ignores previous series continuity to follow up directly on John Carpenter’s 1978 original, which followed deranged killer Michael Myers as he stalked a group of teenage babysitters in Haddonfield, Illinois.

Here, Michael (James Jude Courtney) has spent the past 40 years locked in an institution for the criminally insane, tended first by Dr. Samuel Loomis (the late Donald Pleasence’s character from the original movie) and, following Loomis’ death, by Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who’s become a bit too attached to his favorite patient. Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley use the somewhat cheesy device of a Serial-style investigative podcast documenting the Myers case as a way to reintroduce the major players and catch the audience up on the story.

The podcasters first attempt to talk to Michael (who remains mute after all these years), and later meet with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis, back for the first time since 2002’s franchise low point Halloween: Resurrection), who’s devoted her life to methodically preparing for Michael’s return. She lives in an isolated house that she’s turned into a fortress, and she’s estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), whose upbringing was dominated by survivalist paranoia. Curtis plays Laurie like a slightly wearier, more frayed version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a woman whose life has been consumed by anticipating an apocalypse that no one else believes in.

Laurie is right, of course, and when a bus transferring prisoners from the hospital to a new facility crashes, Michael escapes and starts making his way back to Haddonfield, intent on finishing what he started 40 years earlier (and killing a bunch of other people along the way, obviously). What follows is effective but largely familiar, as Michael takes out various expendable side characters, leading up to his final confrontation with Laurie, Karen and Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). For all Laurie’s extensive preparation, she fares only slightly better against Michael than other Halloween protagonists (including her past self, in various continuities) have, and the supporting cast is full of the same generic teens as dozens of other forgettable slasher movies.

Green attempts to portray the way that Michael’s attack has overtaken Laurie’s entire subsequent life, something that both H20 and Rob Zombie’s superior 2009 version of Halloween II took on, with varying degrees of success. Curtis brings a certain haunted quality to Laurie, but she’s frequently sidelined in favor of less interesting supporting characters, and the dynamic between her and the resentful Karen is underdeveloped. Despite its hints at exploring something deeper, Halloween is mostly just a decent horror movie, delivering the requisite jump scares and fake-outs.

Green, whose eclectic career ranges from stoner comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) to hushed dramas (All the Real Girls, Snow Angels) to the recent inspirational biopic Stronger, may seem like an odd choice to helm a horror movie, but he’s a dedicated craftsman, and he’s clearly studied Carpenter’s work closely. Green’s movie is often suspenseful and stylish, with a number of tense set pieces.

Carpenter himself returns as executive producer and to compose an updated version of his iconic musical score, alongside his son Cody and Daniel Davies. The result is a perfectly respectable addition to the Halloween franchise, an improvement over many of the disreputable sequels and a far better return for Curtis than H20 was. There’s no real reason it needs to be anything more.

Comment (1) on "Halloween (2018)"

  1. I’m a huge fan of this franchise and have been looking forward to seeing this film for months. I found it to be among the best of the sequel bunch, just behind H2O, IV and II, in that order. Of course, seeing Jamie Lee back in the role was a pleasure. I preferred her damaged but determine H2O character arch over her damaged but determined 2018 take on the same PTSD-driven neuroses. I’d like more Ripley, and less Eileen Brennan’s Jeepers Creepers cat lady. That notwithstanding, the movie provided plenty of scares, some appreciated tips of the hat, the right amount of slasher gore without being Rob Zombie-grotesque and a strong, satisfying third act. So I’d say it’s certainly worth seeing, but maybe not worth all the hype.

    What I really found interesting – and here come the spoilers – was the way the movie pushed the gender buttons. Interesting buttons to push in the era we’re hopefully surviving. How often do you see a slasher flick, and come away with an in-depth discussion about the male/female roles in modern American society. It goes without saying that this was a celebration of the strength of women, with three generations of Strodes banding together to do battle with – and of course ultimately prevailing over – pure evil. Women rock! An obvious under current – no, rip current – through the film.

    But keep a close eye on the guys and the thoroughly interesting way the three male writers and director chose to develop them. The husband/father character is perfectly nice, but spinelessly benign and ineffective (making one of the more boneheaded slasher film mistakes in the third act). Typical, and by itself, not noteworthy. But add dad to the rest of the males in the movie and a gender-bending, masculinity-minimizing theme emerges. Maybe to make the women appear even stronger, or maybe to signal the decline of the manly-man mandate that used to corse through the veins of the America male.

    Take, for example, the boy begrudgingly riding with his dad in a pickup truck heading out to do some hunting. The boy would rather be at dance class. Dance, you see, speaks to his heart. I assumed he’d survive. He’s a gentle soul who likes dance. And when was the last time a slasher film killed a 12 year old. On screen. I was wrong.

    Then there’s boyfriend #1. He and Laurie’s granddaughter go to a costume party as Bonnie & Clyde, with a twist they don’t want to reveal to her parents. She’s going as Clyde, and he’s going as Bonnie – skirt, scarf, hat, the works. It serves the plot not at all, but it certainly assists in the deconstruction of the movie’s gender roles.

    Finally, as far as I noticed, there’s boyfriend #2. Blink-and-you’ll miss-him Dave, the kid that blew up the pumpkin with the firecracker and later pops in on his girlfriend while she’s babysitting the movie’s only black character (A: one social discourse at a time, and B: he steals the show!). Anyway, Dave’s character is interesting not because the guy runs when the going gets tough – which he does, though he doesn’t get far – but because of a curious bit of casting that seems to fit the film makers’ narrative. Dave, you see, is played by Miles Robbins – son of actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon – who has a penchant for walking the red carpet in a dress. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Turns out, the guy just doesn’t like ties, doesn’t care about society’s self-imposed gender roles and finds dresses pretty comfortable.

    Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe this is a movie just about strong women, and not at all about the deconstruction of men. Or maybe the most pivotal character in this new Halloween isn’t Laurie or Michael. But instead, boyfriend #2.

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