Halloween (2018)

2 out of 5

Directed by: David Gordon Green

For what it’s worth, I was intrigued and excited enough by the 2018 Halloween to watch the entire series – I had only seen one Halloween movie previously – start to finish.  The involvement of Halloween creator John Carpenter, the interesting backing of the project as a Blumhouse production with two names more generally associated with comedy – director / co-writer David Gordon Greene and co-writer Danny McBride – the return of Jamie Lee Curtis (again, but absent from the Zombie films) and original Michael Myers Nick Castle, the good reception from a fair amount of horror sites / writers, and the fact that the film was successful enough to land two sequels…  Intrigued and excited.  And having made that circuit through every preceding flick, I felt like this was still a property with a lot of potential, as, as others have noted, the bar with most of the sequels was kept fairly low, and the concept was open enough to accept fresh takes on it.

But something about Halloween 2018 just felt lifeless to me.  There’s maybe a pun there, in that Green / McBride had collaborated with Carpenter to return Myers back to “The Shape,” as he’d been conceived of way back in 1978 – i.e. not a human, but a force of evil – but that’s not the lifelessness to which I refer.  Rather, nothing in the film feels all that inspired.  It’s stuck between remake and homage; it’s very Blumhousey in that it makes all the right horror moves and sounds but is often just a show of those moves, detached from diegetic motivation.  There’s the unfortunate tag of “been there” in how it represents Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), as this PTSD-variant version of the character had an outing in H20 – something remarked on in Brian Collins’ review as well – and just a general lack of definitive style that maps to what I mentioned above about the movie not quite being clear on what it wants to be.  I realize this criticism was also leveled at Zombie’s sequel / remake, but I think the director’s intentions – not to mention the unique look to his movies – never had me questioning what I was watching, that is: he made the “history” of his flick clear from the start, which kept me in line even as it transitioned into tributes to the original movie.  Extending that, throughout all of the various sequels, whether they were standalones or ignoring previous entries, I still knew what I was watching: a cheap cash-in; a hopeful attempt to tie the storyline together; etc.  But with 2018?  Not sure.

We’re “told” about Michael Myers’ history as a stalker/killer 40 years ago, when he’s visited by two podcast journalists in the hospital in which he’s incarcerated, but it’s presented in an offhand manner that doesn’t sell it – it’s expecting us to already know the name and know the legacy.  Which we do, and even “new” horror fans are assumedly familiar with him as an icon in the same way as Freddy and Jason, but it still felt like a weird way in to the story – half-in and half-out of being something new or something old.  This follows with the way Laurie Strode – Michael’s surviving victim – is introduced, as a recluse waiting for Michael’s inevitable escape, and who invites the journalists in for an interview only to shunt them away a couple of questions later.  (There’s a justification for this, but it feels like a rather lame attempt to link Laurie to other scenes / characters.)  From here, the movie transitions into the same flow Rob Zombie’s took: the next generation of victims mimic the steps of the characters of the first film.  So Laurie’s granddaughter (Andi Matichak) is babysitting; Michael’s transport from one facility to another has an accident and he escapes; Michael kills his way toward Haddonfield and Laurie’s family, including her daughter (Judy Greer) and her daughter’s husband (Toby Huss).  There’s also a replacement sheriff (Will Patton) and Loomis, as represented by Michael’s new doctor, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer).  Here, again, the way shots are lifted and these characters are intro- / re-introduced seems muddled – Have we all seen the original movie or not?  Do we know all these characters or not?  And when they’re new, like Will Patton’s, why are then presented to us like classic characters?  This is the problem a lot of horror movies have, in which nods to other films are considered all it takes to make a scene work, and so Green sits back with some Carpenter-styled shots (helped along by a new Carpenter score…) and clear callbacks, which makes the more interesting diversions from this setup feel like they’re floated in from a separate movie, although that separate movie is also often a generic Blumhouse slasher.  I was also rather disinterested in Green’s / James Jude Courtney’s take on Myers (Nick Castle only plays him at select moments), which lacks either a physical presence or a “psychological” one – this is not the element of force of the best Myers’ representations, and just comes across as an average guy in a mask who has a knife.

Am I wholly negative on this thing?  Well, no.  It’s a watchable horror movie.  Green / McBride (and other co-writer Jeff Fradley) concoct and stage some good scenes (which I’d note are unique to this version of Halloween) and I liked what could be called a revisionist take on a Final Girl setup.  The bones of the movie are quality, and it’s certainly professionally made, if lacking what I considered emotion throughout.  This means that I’m still intrigued by what’s to follow, as the big hurdle here was getting the ties to the original out of the way, and now that we’re past that, if we move into totally fresh territory…?  I’m interested to know what that might look like.