In 1978 John Carpenter gave filmgoers and lovers of horror the quintessential slasher movie. It set up all the tropes and laid the foundation for future slasher movies to come. It was also one of the most terrifying movies I had ever watched and gave me many a sleepless night. Now John Carpenter, as executive producer, is teaming up once again with Jamie Lee Curtis (also doubling as executive producer) to deliver once again Halloween.
It’s present day and a couple of reporters are doing some investigative journalism and hope to learn more about the mad serial killer Michael Myers. They go to the psychiatric prison where he is being held, speak with his attending doctor, and even try to have a conversation. They are completely ignored by Michael. Only is there the slightest of flinches from Michael when one of the reporters pulls out his infamous mask. The next day Michael is boarded on to a bus, accompanied by his doctor along with other prisoners, and is to be transferred to a secure facility. It’s a hellhole according to the doctor. However, things don’t go as planned as Michael somehow manages to escape after he overpowers the guards on the bus. He makes off with a truck (after killing the driver and his young teenaged son) and finds himself at the same gas station the two reporters from the previous day. They are soon ex-reporters after Michael has his way with them. From there it’s off to the town where the object of his first film fascination, Laurie Strode as well as her daughter and granddaughter, still resides. And guess what? It’s one day from Halloween!
Meanwhile, Laurie Strode is a mess. She is not friendly, and all she can think about is being ready to face Michael. She shows no signs of having gone through any type of psycho-therapy following her first encounter with him, and instead she comes off as driven and single-minded in her quest to keep her family safe as well as rid the world of Michael Myers. Unfortunately every one else in her family thinks she’s just crazy from having lived through all of that trauma. People in the small town start to suddenly die. Is Laurie both skilled and prepared for her inevitable showdown with the murderous monster who forever changed her world?
When this movie was announced it was shared that this was going to be a direct sequel to the first movie from 1978. All of the sequels that had previously been released have been invalidated and are no longer considered to be canon. I personally found this to be an intriguing idea, but right from the very beginning we are presented with a small mystery, and that is the incarceration of Michael. When we last saw him 40 years ago he had walked away from being poked in the eye with a wire hanger, get stabbed in the chest with his own knife, shot with several bullets and then fall out of a second story window. After all of that, we are to accept that he has been in police custody all this time. Then there are a variety of callbacks to previous movies of this franchise, including an audiotape of Dr. Loomis, the man who was previously charged with Michael’s psychiatric care, and the tape is lifted fromHalloween II, as well as the revelation that Michael was in actuality Laurie’s brother. Of course that last one is immediately treated as a mere gossip in this movie, but the first one is a bit more serious because the tape actually describes what is necessary to end Michael’s existence, but again that movie where this story detail has been lifted was declared null and void, so these details appear to be there to serve merely as Easter Eggs? Had it been the gossip about Laurie and Michael being siblings then that might have been able to pass, but using the actual audio with Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis from the second movie makes that difficult to accept. Other callbacks include the manner in which Michael makes his escape, as well as some of the young friends of Laurie’s granddaughter (Allyson) in how they get set up to be eliminated. It not only plays on those same slasher horror tropes, but they play almost precisely to what we saw in the first film 40 years ago. Upon watching it all I could think in my head was “paint by numbers.”
Then, when the movie does diverge into original content, much of it is made up with useless padding involving Allyson and her dating relationship with boyfriend Cameron, including time spent at a school dance that goes on way too long and only serves as a means for Allyson to leave the school and ultimately find herself pursued by Michael. The movie has numerous items that we fondly refer to as “idiot plot,” but probably the most egregious of these comes when the police learn that Michael has escaped and is back in their town on Halloween, and yet they say nothing to the public. The children go out doing their regular trick-or-treat, and families leave their doors unlocked because they generally feel safe where they live. All I could think was that if this were anyplace else the police and news media would have delivered a huge media blitz about Michael’s return, and if not tell people to barricade themselves in their own homes to then at least leave town until Michael has been apprehended or killed. Sadly that did not happen in this movie, which only made everything that followed even more frustrating.
If there is one bright spot in all of this it is the performance of Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role as Laurie Strode. She approaches the role as someone who went through the worst possible traumatic experience ever, and is then left to her own devices without the benefit of therapy to try to put her life back together. She shows us what 40 years of living with that hell does to a person, and while her time on screen was sadly not as much as others, she did manage to dominate every moment when she was being featured. If there was ever something or someone that pulled me out of the movie watching experience, Curtis would eventually return to pull me right back in. This leads to the third act of this movie. Michael has tracked Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and also Allyson, to Laurie’s compound of a house. It’s not exactly booby-trapped, but there are modifications to this home that Laurie must have added in an attempt to try to contain Michael. As much as Michael is stalking Laurie, she is also stalking him. Good camera use in addition to appropriate dim lighting made this a thrilling sequence, but it’s almost as if the writers (David Gordon Green (also director), Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley) ran out of ideas. This sequence, and in general the movie, doesn’t have a proper ending. It also doesn’t exactly stop either; instead it just withers away before the closing credits roll.
John Carpenter created something truly original with the first Halloween, but unfortunately Green doesn’t quite get there. In his attempt at making an original movie he instead created something that was part pale imitation, part padding, and only the slightest dash of originality. The third act did give some thrills, but failed in an emotionally satisfying denouement. And except for a few poor jump-scares, there is nothing really scary about this particular horror flick. In its day, the original Halloween was absolutely terrifying, and it was largely done so with very little graphic violence. This movie never lives up to that standard. It just falls back on tropes and clichés. The only redeeming element was Jamie Lee Curtis, but even she wasn’t enough to help turn this movie around and save it.
Halloween gets 2 out of 5 carving knives.
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