REVIEW: Halloween [2018]

Rating: 6 out of 10.
  • Rating: R | Runtime: 106 minutes
    Release Date: October 19th, 2018 (USA)
    Studio: Universal Pictures
    Director(s): David Gordon Green
    Writer(s): Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride & David Gordon Green / John Carpenter and Debra Hill (characters)

Say goodbye to Michael and get over it.

If it worked for Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991, why shouldn’t it work for Halloween in 2018? Give the original film’s victim of an unexplainable evil the time to prepare to take it down on her own since nobody else is willing to believe her. And since Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) predator didn’t die (1978’s Halloween cliffhanger is dismissed with a couple lines of dialogue pretty much saying Michael Myers was caught and subdued shortly after), she doesn’t have to be the one sent to the insane asylum like Sarah Connor. It’s Myers (Nick Castle) who goes instead—I guess “returns” is a more apt term considering he spent fifteen years under Dr. Loomis’ care before terrorizing Haddonfield on the anniversary of murdering his teenage sister.

And if borrowing that notion was on the table, why not borrow from 2015’s Terminator Genisys too? Just like that maligned chapter retconned every sequel that utilized its IP in the years that followed T2, director David Gordon Green and his two co-writers (Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride) decide to wipe out nine films to set their story forty years after the original alone. That means removing the misguided plotline in Halloween II wherein Laurie is revealed as Michael’s other sister and thus a purposeful target even though John Carpenter and Debra Hill made it pretty explicit that she and her friends were simply the first young women he saw that reminded him of his sister. Halloween‘s beauty was its lack of intent beyond wrong place, wrong time.

Rather than erase II to remove that genetic connection and get back to the randomness of Myers’ “boogeyman” mystique, however, Green and company actually excise its chapter to ignore the fact that Laurie believed her monster was dead. They need him to be alive and out there from the moment she escapes so that she can build her life around the paranoia that he will eventually get out and hunt her again. Except that infers that he hunted her in the first place. That her friends who died were collateral damage in the process of pursuing her when that’s not at all the truth. Michael simply likes killing. He needs to kill. Is Laurie unfinished business like many believe? We honestly can’t know since she’s his sole survivor.

So they take away one convenient motivation not inferred by the first film and replace it with another all so that Laurie Strode can be set up as an empowered badass who’s off the reservation. Here’s the thing: surviving what she survived could have made her that badass without the buzzy “me versus him” tabloid fodder that gets podcast journalists Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) sniffing around for some explosive reunion. They want to make money. They want to put Laurie and Michael in a room together to see if they can be the ones who finally hear the latter speak. He never has. Not to Loomis. Not to his new doctor (Haluk Bilginer‘s Sartain) either. Past horrors have thus been dredged up for the clicks.

Just like the other sequels, 2018’s Halloween therefore forgets about the supernatural element that made the original so effective. No one fears the boogeyman here. It’s the twenty-first century. As Dave (Miles Robbins) astutely remarks, teens have a lot worse to fear. So if that’s gone, what’s left? A revenge thriller. Laurie has turned her terror into anticipation. She’s longed for Michael’s inevitable return because she wants to be the one to kill him. That’s why she raised her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) to be ready for anything and why Karen was taken away by social services and eventually distanced herself from her mother so as not to taint the upbringing of her own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). That weapons training might come in handy after all, though.

Is it a dumb reason to get the band back together? Mostly. Is it effective? I’ll admit that it is. Green’s rendition is objectively more entertaining than its predecessor, but only at the expense of ingenuity and suspense. Because nothing here is really shocking or meaningful. Myers kills a lot of people, but they’re either nameless background players caught in his path (a major shift from his more meticulous stalking in 1978) or characters introduced specifically to die in the main characters’ places. I haven’t felt the need to talk about Allyson’s boyfriend (Dylan Arnold‘s Cameron), BFF (Virginia Gardner‘s Vicky), father (Toby Huss‘ Ray), or the town’s deputy (Will Patton‘s Hawkins) because they exist as bodies to be moved around the board as distraction or fodder.

They serve their roles well with a couple genuine surprises thrown in the mix. But just like Carpenter’s installment, the stakes are low because we know nothing of substance can happen until it’s just Michael against Laurie. The climax lives up to that billing with some intense physical battles that both spotlight Myers’ superhuman strength and prove his ability to feel pain. Curtis is obviously having fun reliving memorable tropes in the opposite direction (staring at Allyson from outside the school window and vanishing after being thrown out a window to attack again) and Matichak gets to add her scream to the franchise as everyone she cares about starts dying before her eyes. With two sequels still to come, however, closure isn’t possible. Just more waiting.

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