On Friday, October 19, one of the most highly anticipated horror movies of the last several years will be unleashed to mass audiences, Halloween. John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween is largely considered one of the best horror movies of all time, so comparing the newest sequel to the original may not be that fair. However, by the filmmakers ignoring all the sequels in the horror franchise, and by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis reuniting to make this film, it's nearly impossible not to do so. If one were to only compare this 2018 installment to the previous sequels, it's certainly not the worst addition in the franchise, but it's not the best either.
Directed by David Gordon Green, Halloween is co-written by Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley, three artists largely known for their work in comedy. While comedians and filmmakers prone to comedy have certainly made some solid horror films, this is not one of them. John Carpenter played co-executive producer, but his magic touch felt largely absent in this installment in the horror franchise. In addition to Curtis, Halloween features a great cast: Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Toby Huss, and Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney portray The Shape, or Michael Myers.
Warning: The below film review of Halloween contains major spoilers.
Halloween starts out strong and ends fairly strong, but it's everything in the middle—the bulk of the film—that fails. If you've seen the trailer for Halloween, then you know what to expect for the beginning, and for most of the movie for that matter, as the trailer reveals way too much. The opening scene consists of two podcast hosts who have traveled from the U.K. to Haddonfield, Illinois, to interview Michael Myers at Smith's Grove Sanitarium, a detainment center for the criminally insane. In fact, the same center that Myers escaped from 40 years ago. The audience gets to see glimpses of Michael's face, and it is Nick Castle reprising his role in this scene.
Warning: The trailer below contains some graphic violence and imagery. Of course, the show hosts don't get very far in their interview, because aside from some Frankenstein-like grunts, Myers has chosen not to speak for the last 40 years. The podcasters find Michael in the courtyard of Smith's Grove. He is chained to the ground that has a checkerboard pattern, and this symbolic note is a little too obvious, but that's the theme of the entire film. One host reveals Michael's tethered mask to the killer and screams, "Say something!" Then, the Halloween title appears, backed by the famed score.
From there, we see what Laurie Strode (Curtis) has been up to, which is a whole lot of gun collecting and target practice. Halloween takes place 40 years after the date of when The Shape killed all of Laurie's friends, and she barely escaped with her life. We see that she has spent the last four decades dealing, or not dealing, with her trauma. She is battling alcoholism, describes herself as a twice-divorced basket case, and she is estranged from her daughter, Karen (Greer), who she lost custody of when her daughter was much younger.
The strongest part of this movie is how it shows how trauma and PTSD not only affects the victim but how the effects trickle down to other generations. In this case, Karen and her daughter, Allyson (Matichak). Anyone who has been traumatized or is close to someone who is dealing with trauma will likely appreciate the film's depiction of PTSD, and the very hard toll trauma takes on the victims and their loved ones. Though commendable, unfortunately, this is not enough to hold the movie together.
The story flashes back to Myers, and he is to be transported from Smith's Grove to a maximum-security prison. Smith's Grove is supposed to be a higher end facility, and they still treat their patients like garbage. So, even a prison being worse than Smith's Grove is hard to imagine. Michael's doctor, Dr. Sartain (Bilginer), studied under the late Dr. Loomis, and he insists on traveling with Myers to the prison. Michael once again escapes, this time during his transportation, though the audience isn't shown how. Instead, as seen in the trailer, we see that the prison bus has wrecked, and The Shape is free in Haddonfield on Halloween night once again.
We eventually see Michael wreak havoc on the small fictional town, and if you've seen all the other Halloween movies, or if you've watched the reveal-almost-everything trailer, then you've already witnessed these scenes before. For a film that takes pride in rebooting the franchise by ignoring all the other sequels, it spends most of the second act mimicking the very sequels it ignores for canon.
It's one thing to pay homage or give a wink to the source material, but all of the references are just too on the nose; Allyson is in class and sees Laurie outside the window, and it's a shot-for-shot scene from the original Halloween, where Strode saw Myers out her class window; a group of kids bump into Michael while trick-or-treating, and it's very similar to when Tommy bumped into The Shape outside his school in the '78 classic; Laurie Strode instructs her family to "Do as I say!," in the exact same manner that she told Tommy 40 years prior; then there is the bathroom stall scene similar to Rob Zombie's Halloween; a babysitter is murdered in a similar directional manner of Zombie's Halloween 2; and the list goes on and on and on.
Any one of these winks would have been effective, as less is often more, but by Green implementing all of them, and in an in-your-face style to boot, it just felt like a mashup of all the horror movies in the franchise. They even showed some masks that were featured in Halloween 3, the one film in the franchise that told an entirely different story that didn't involve Michael at all. However, P.J. Soles' cameo as Allyson's teacher was very welcomed and a pleasant surprise.
As Michael slashes his way through Haddonfield, leaving a trail of bodies behind him, he moves closer to Laurie's location. He moves closer to Laurie by a whole lot of happenstance and luck, and it's just too many conveniences to ignore, and it's almost comical to watch. There is a couple of scenes that are certainly scary during Myers' slashing spree, but as stated above, if you've seen the trailer or the other movies, then you know what to expect.
Then there's the overall feel of the movie. A laugh-at-loud scene is often followed by a grindhouse-like shot, filled with nasty violence. There is certainly a way to incorporate comedy into horror—movies like Cabin in the Woods, Scream, and Housebound do this effectively—but there needs to be a flow to it. Halloween felt like a stop-and-go ride that jerks the audience around, like toggling back and forth between the accelerator and the brake, rather than a roller coaster ride with the right number of loops and turns. The film felt like three different directors made it, and that they weren't allowed to communicate with one another during the process.
Aside from Laurie and Myers, there is a lack of depth for every other character in the film, and that makes it hard to care about the story when it's not focused on the two main characters. The writing felt lazy, and the movie is so rushed to get to the showdown at the end between Myers and Strode, that it glances over the middle in a half-baked way. In addition, nearly every male in the movie is either dumb, mean, or evil. While there are a few different ways to make a horror film that celebrates women empowerment, it could be argued that dumbing down the male counterparts is not the way to effectively do that.
Speaking of evil characters, Dr. Sartain, which when pronounced sounds a lot like Dr. Satan, turns out to just be a plot trick, and a needless one at that. Toward the finale, an officer is transporting Allyson and Sartain to safety, which is Laurie Strode's tricked-out home, as Allyson just escaped death via The Shape. They soon spot Myers walking the street, and without even making sure that it is, in fact, Michael, the officer runs the killer over with his car. The doctor gets out of the car, and as the officer is about to shoot Myers, Sartain stabs the officer in the neck.
Yes, it turns out that Sartain is obsessed with keeping Michael alive because he wants to see how the killer will react when he's reunited with Laurie, and this is apparently worth killing over. So, the story had one coincidence after another to get Michael closer to Laurie's house, and to seal the deal, the writers made the doctor evil to deliver the killer right to Laurie's house. This was needless because Strode was already combing the streets looking for Myers, and she already shot at him once, so they could have just had Laurie lure him or simply had Michael follow her. Instead, we get a random villain-turn by a character that we barely saw at the beginning of the film.Then there's the main event. The rematch we've all been waiting for between Strode and Myers. This was the strongest point of the movie. As most horror fans already know, once again thanks to the trailer, Laurie has made her abode a fortress filled with countless weapons and guns. Eventually, Michael smashes through the glass of the front door to try to kill Laurie, but she shoots him with a shotgun, blowing off several of his fingers.
At this point in the film, both Allyson and Karen are in the panic-room-like basement that's located below a trapdoor that the kitchen island is covering. Myers enters the house, and Laurie goes searching for him. The scariest scenes are certainly in this sequence, as we watch Laurie move from room to room in search of The Shape. At one point, our heroine is thrown off the balcony and lands where Michael did in the first Halloween, and like the original, she disappears. This was certainly an applause-worthy scene, though it would have been more effective without the dozens of previous references.
For the big ending, Myers is thrown down the basement steps, and the three women fight off Myers, allowing Allyson and Karen to escape the basement safely. It's at this time that Laurie reveals that she wasn't building a prison, a term her daughter used to describe the basement, but that she was building a trap for Myers. Strode hits a button, steel bars trap The Shape in the basement, and the entire house is set on fire. Myers is completely still as flames surround him, and then we flash-cut to the three women sitting in the back of a pickup truck that's en route to safety. The final shot is a closeup of the butcher knife that Allyson is still white-knuckling.
There is not a post-credit scene in Halloween, though with the audience not actually seeing Myers die, it almost felt like there was going to be. Perhaps, one with Myers safely out of the house and walking down the road to continue his killing spree, but that will likely happen in another sequel. Though it's been said that this will be the final horror movie in the franchise, as fans know, such promises should often be ignored because this franchise has promised that time and time again. Furthermore, as Entertainment Weekly reported, Danny McBride has already revealed that he and Green have ideas for a sequel.
Overall, though it had a few strong moments, this was a disappointing film. The idea of ignoring the sequels to wipe the slate clean largely failed because the filmmakers spent most of the movie pointing to all of the other sequels. For a slasher, it's largely unoriginal, but it's certainly better than some slashers as of late.
As a Halloween sequel, it' mediocre at best. It's certainly better than Halloween: Resurrection and The Curse of Michael Myers, but those didn't exactly set a high bar, as they are the two most panned films in the horror franchise. If you're a fan of Halloween beyond the original masterpiece, you will likely find Halloween 4 and H2O to be better sequels. If this Halloween is to be compared to the '78 classic, it doesn't hold a candle to it, and that's an understatement.When Halloween hits cable, fans of the franchise will likely get something out of it. It was nice to see Myers on-screen again with Strode, and it does entertain for the most part, though spending your hard-earned money to watch it at the theater may leave you very disappointed. Because of an inconsistent essence, being too fixated on the past films in the franchise, not finding a voice of its own, and a lack of continuity and half-baked writing throughout, Halloween is one of the most disappointing horror movies of 2018.