REVIEW: Halloween (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Universal Pictures

The following is a review of 2018’s Halloween — Directed by David Gordon Green.

One of the challenges of being a Star Wars fan is that newcomers to the series, or those unfamiliar with the texts, tend to become confused by the order of the film series. The first film is the fourth episode. The fourth film is the first episode. Sure, the seventh film is the seventh episode, but then you suddenly have to explain where the Disney spin-off films fit in. It can be fun, but it can also be tiring. Halloween fans know this problem all too well.

Die-hard fans of this classic slasher series are used to having to explain the chronology of the mythology because this confusingly titled sequel isn’t the only film in the series that makes it hard to wrap your head around the franchise. There are now three different films titled Halloween: one of them is the original, another is a reimagined remake, and this one is a sequel to just one of the, now, eleven films in the franchise.

Much like Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, this year’s Halloween ignores a lot of films in the franchise. For H20, all but the first two films were ignored, and now, with David Gordon Green’s Halloween, they are only acknowledging the existence of the original John Carpenter-classic.

“Wait, I thought she was his sister?” is probably going to be said a lot in the theaters around the world, and for good reason. This can be confusing since many of the films have been focused on the Strode-Myers connection, but in 2018’s Halloween-film, by divorcing itself from every sequel that came before it, the filmmakers are letting go of that familial connection. They are not brother-sister. She’s just a victim of his, and he is just a grown-up monster, who Laurie has thought of as if he were the boogeyman.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween takes place 40 years after the events of the Carpenter classic of the same name. While Michael Myers has been locked up at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) has had her life ruined by her experience back in 1978. She is estranged from her daughter, Karen (played by Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (played by Andi Matichak), and she has spent the last forty years preparing for the moment when Michael Myers would escape — Laurie Strode desperately wants to kill the boogeyman.

David Gordon Green — the director of such films as Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and Stronger — has teamed up with Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and Blumhouse hoping to revitalize the franchise and pass the legend of Michael Myers on to a new generation of audiences. Having now seen the film, I think that Green succeeds at the latter but has more problems with the former.

I don’t think that Green gives new life to the franchise. I don’t think there is much new to be found here. We’ve seen Laurie Strode go toe-to-toe with Michael Myers decades after the attack before (Halloween H20: 20 Years Later), her character just hasn’t been given the full-on Sarah Connor-treatment. I don’t think it would be wrong to say that this is basically Terminator 2 meets Halloween H20.

With that having been said, Green does, indeed, succeed at passing the central story of the series on to a new generation. Not unlike J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Green’s Halloween mostly succeeds in giving a new generation their Halloween film without frustrating older audiences by telling the story with plenty of visual callbacks, reversals, and such. Green’s film doesn’t so much feel like a new and important story that needed to divorce itself from all of the sequels, as much as it just feels like an updated version of the story, which doesn’t really take many chances, for new audiences — it is a traditional, risk-free soft reboot complete with a lighter tone, dumb jokes, and cheap jump scares.

I say that it is risk-free and that it doesn’t take any chances. But there actually is one thing — a twist — revolving around a wounded character that felt contrived, to me. It happens right around the start of the third act, seemingly just for the purpose of speeding up the inevitable Strode-Myers confrontation. But the character-twist doesn’t really go anywhere, and, in the next scene, it means absolutely nothing.

Generally, I don’t think the characters work that well. Two or three characters just disappear out of nowhere, and you get the sense that, at least, two of them were designed to face off with Myers. Also, there are a couple of podcasters that refer to themselves as ‘investigative journalists,’ who kick-off the film in its opening sequence, and these two podcasters only exist to deliver exposition and to foolishly be allowed to provoke Michael Myers at Smith’s Grove.

Laurie Strode’s family also doesn’t get the characterization and spotlight they deserve. The writers clearly didn’t have any idea of what to do with the granddaughter, who only exists to introduce us to teens that Michael Myers can kill. Judy Greer, a great underappreciated actress, doesn’t get enough to do, even though she has a really great scene towards the end.

Laurie Strode is interesting, Jamie Lee Curtis is very good, and I loved whenever the film would upend our expectations and then have Laurie do what we normally see Michael do — i.e. disappearing out of nowhere, standing outside looking in. That certainly was a lot of fun. But I think it was a missed opportunity to not have Judy Greer’s character be given more room to express herself, breathe, or exist.

I clearly have a lot of gripes with the film, but there was a lot that I really liked as well. I think the final scene is very clever, and, without getting into spoilers, I will say that it gave a character that I wanted more from a truly memorable moment.

Green and his team also successfully brought Michael Myers back to life. Myers is really menacing, and I thought it was really effective how for a long time Myers was without his mask and his suit. His first on-screen kill in the film has a great tension-filled build-up, then we later get the brutal teeth-scene that you may have seen parts of in the trailer, before you get the glorious moment when Myers puts his costume back on.

I also really liked the film’s score, which was designed by Daniel Davies and the father-son duo of Cody and John Carpenter. There are a couple of really excellent updated reworkings on the original theme that really got me in the right mood, even when scenes weren’t as scary as I thought they should’ve been.

Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis take on The Shape again is, indeed, very entertaining, but the film itself left a lot to be desired for me. David Gordon Green’s Halloween-characters are weak, only made to die, or criminally underutilized. The film frustratingly doesn’t do enough with the three generations of Strode women to give the third act the oomph that it needed. David Gordon Green’s Halloween is a capable but traditional slasher sequel to a great original film, but it feels more like a homage-filled update for new audiences than the sequel long-time fans may have been craving.

6.9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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