Film Review: Halloween

Familiar Fright Film Comes Out Slashing

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
“Avon calling.”
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In a world awash in sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, the familiar slasher flick Halloween manages to be that most rare of beasts: the sequel reboot. Unlike 2007’s Halloween, which was Rob Zombie’s straight-up reboot of John Carpenter’s 1978 original, this third film to wear the monicker is a direct sequel to the original. It kills off all the intervening films (Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween and Halloween II) and their often contradictory storylines (not to mention their scrum of Roman and Arabic numerals) and picks up where the 1978 classic left off. In other words, Halloween isn’t a remake of Halloween or even a remake of Halloween—it’s actually an all-new take on Halloween II, but one unrelated to Halloween II … or Halloween II, for that matter. Got it?

Seems that masked serial killer Michael Myers has spent the last 40 years chained up in some high-security mental institution after being blasted off the balcony of the Doyle house by his psychologist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), and leaving a six-foot dent in the front lawn. As this year’s Halloween looms, a pair of podcasters (it’s 2018, everybody!) arrive to interview Michael Myers at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. True to form Michael refuses to speak—even when taunted with his trademark mask and a few mentions of “the one that got away,” teenaged babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Soon after the interview, Michael Myers is bused off to a maximum security prison—which, if you know anything about the nature of such things, results in a crashed bus and an escaped killer.

You would think that news of Michael Myers’ escape and inevitable return to Haddonfield, site of his 1978 killing spree, would hit Laurie Strode (Curtis, back in the role that made her famous) particularly hard. Instead, she greets it with something close to giddy anticipation. Seems that—aside from getting drunk, weathering a divorce and dealing with a lot of PTSD—Laurie has spent the four decades since “The Night He Came Home” training herself to be a badass survivalist and plotting various ways to kill Michael. This is what she’s been waiting for her entire life. Of course that paranoid, “Linda Hamilton in
T2” attitude has only isolated Laurie from her resentful daughter (Judy Greer) and her confused granddaughter (Andi Matichak).

Needless to say, Curtis is ferocious as the alternately isolated and determined Laurie Strode. Her burning desire to kill Michael gives
Halloween the sort of proactive edge you don’t see in a lot of stereotypical slasher flicks. The impending third-act showdown between Laurie and Michael lends a good deal of tension to the proceedings—which is good, because much of what takes place in the middle of the film feels awfully familiar. Writer-director David Gordon Green (the man behind such indie dramas as George Washington, All The Real Girls and Prince Avalanche) and co-writer Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down,” “Vice Principals”) have done a lot of commendable work here. (They previously collaborated on the stoner comedies Pineapple Express and Your Highness.) Halloween is better written and better directed than a lot of its slapdash horror compatriots. And, of all the sequels/reboots/sequels to the reboots, it’s certainly the closest in tone to Carpenter’s 1978 effort. The filmmakers aren’t trying to reinvent the jump scare here. They’ve simply taken the classic formula and given it a modern-day spit-shine—addressing the lingering affects of trauma and grief, adding a dash of feminine power and turning its passive victims (well, one of them anyway) into well-armed fighters. It’s the kind of film that casual fright fans will soak up in droves.

Halloween is probably neither innovative enough nor respectfully retro enough, however, to really satisfy the hardcore horror aficionados in the audience. The plot, complete with retconned timeline, mirrors 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later in a number of ways. (Laurie had a son in that one, but still). The kills here are a memorable highlight (impressive work for a sixtysomething slasher), but the characters (other than Laurie’s immediate family) are thinly written and do all the usual dumb horror movie stuff in order to get killed and up the film’s body count. Green and McBride’s script never bothers to tackle the whys and wherefores of Michael Myers and his unstoppable killing abilities. That’s certainly in keeping with Carpenter’s blank slate mythology. It’s a tough line to walk. Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween II, by way of contrast, went into all sorts of details about poor Michael Myers’ traumatized backstory—which basically killed the film’s momentum, robbed its masked murderer of his mystery and burdened audiences with information they didn’t want or need.

Make no bones about it:
Halloween is a well-constructed slasher film. There’s very little it does very wrong. This movie has got energy, style, a couple of fresh ideas and a bunch of gruesome murders. It’s good, all right; but it’s not great. Should it be? Does it have to be? Can you enjoy this one on its own bloody merits, or will the tiny missteps (slow buildup, dumb cops, self-referential jokes, predictable outcome) kill your enjoyment altogether?
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