The season of scares, creative cosplay, and candy-induced hallucinations is upon us and with that comes the newest batch of Halloween movies to grace our multiplexes. Not so coincidentally the latest film to arrive happens to actually be a Halloween movie. The Halloween franchise has somehow managed to last longer than any of its 80’s horror companions, but that doesn’t say much about its quality.
While remakes of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street have come and gone, the strange success, or continued persistence, of Halloween movies may best be attributed to its willingness to ignore continuity. Laurie Strode is dead and resurrected over the course of 4 films. Michael Myers apparently isn’t the only one that can pull off that trick. She has a niece, a son, and now with this new movie a daughter, but every one of those stories is independent of the others. Perhaps keeping audiences confused is an asset.
Rob Zombie had his take with the world of Haddonfield, but it was an acquired style that deviated from the subtle tension and slow build of anxiety John Carpenter created with his films. It works well enough, but the atmosphere and terror in the 1978 Halloween, as well as the second, has yet to be replicated. I think this recent addition comes pretty damn close.
In Halloween, directed by David Gordon Green, Michael Myers has been residing in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium for the last 40 years. He has been studied and written about since the night he escaped and killed several teenagers. He does not communicate with anyone. Not even his psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), can get Michael to open up.
Meanwhile Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has become a paranoid recluse living alone on the outskirts of town. She is estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her family. When a pair of journalists attempt to get testimony from Laurie and Michael about that fateful evening so long ago, it sets off a series of events that causes Michael to escape and seek out the babysitter that eluded him. Laurie has anticipated crossing paths with Michael again and will stop at nothing to protect her family and get revenge. Will she be strong enough or is Michael truly the definition of evil incarnate?
I enjoyed how this movie starts, establishing the world of Laurie Strode after four decades and giving her PTSD, which she has learned to live with. In this timeline the killer was caught almost immediately, but for her that conflict has never been resolved. She hopes one day that she can face her ultimate fear of the man that ruined everything for her. Still in spite of all those setbacks, she did have relationships and a daughter. Life for Laurie is an almost insurmountable hurdle that prevents her from finding happiness or reconnecting with her family.
Another part I believe this movie gets right is the portrayal of Michael Myers. Nick Castle returns for the less physical scenes and brings back the menacing style he created. He even helps James Jude Courtney embody the role perfectly. Whenever Myers is on screen, I am constantly analyzing his every move and terrified of what he does next. His ability to confuse and torment his victims is as clever as it is nail-biting. It can oftentimes elicit an unintended smile or chuckle depending on the naivety of the unsuspecting victim. It’s why this movie can be both scary and fun, which is exactly what you want from a Halloween movie.
The journey of both Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and when they will inevitably encounter each other is the real captivating arch, but unfortunately this movie tends to veer away from that story and add tangents that don’t service the narrative. Those moments detract from the momentum and you never quite get your footing about what to focus on. One side story is the life of Allyson, Lori’s granddaughter. Her and her high school friends embark on unnecessary scenes of hormonal conflict; but when placed in the context of this movie and what it’s trying to accomplish, it feels like homage is taking precedent over story.
I’m fine with a sequel paying homage to its predecessors. Still I’d rather the movie stand on its own as a unique film. I think there is unique elements in there. They just come too late to make a difference.
John Carpenter returns to assist in the music. His son Cody is also involved along with Daniel A. Davies. How much or little John provided is difficult to say because outside of the beginning and ending there are only a few moments I would say had sounds that resembled the Halloween score. In fact the score as a whole is more an interpretation of the original and not always for the better. I don’t find electric guitar sounds to be particularly scary so when it’s introduced in intense moments it pulls me out of the movie.
The writing isn’t terrible, but there are a lot of exposition lines that could have been removed. They happen so often that they turn into verbal winks to the audience and, again, take you out of the scene. Upon further reflection I began to notice poorly constructed plot points that get us from A to B without justifying them.
I don’t believe the path that Michael Myers takes to retrieve his mask and get to Laurie Strode is done so in a way that makes sense. It can be forgivable for the eventual payoff, but the time it takes to get there is not a good use of these characters. I also don’t think Judy Greer or any of the other costars have enough to do despite taking up so many scenes. If the movie insists upon giving us new characters to care about, it should do it in a meaningful way. I think I would have ignored these writing mishaps if the direction of the film were better handled.
I do wish the movie had used the journalists more for the purposes of exposition and to get more nods to the original film. There was after all more than one survivor from 1978. Laurie was a great babysitter and saved Tommy and Lindsey. It would have been nice if they interviewed them for their project and maybe other people from that time. Similar to how The Blair Witch Project started and interviewed townspeople to further explain how that myth grew.
It could have worked considering the subject of Michael Myers is a 40 year old topic that didn’t involve celebrities like Charles Manson. So his story is probably a small footnote in history. It’s a missed opportunity, in the era of podcasts, and would have further modernized the narrative while reconnecting emotionally with the past film.
Despite my obvious criticisms, I still think Halloween, H40 unofficially, is a worthy sequel for the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode saga. Jamie Lee Curtis is the real star of this movie and gives as much as she gets against Michael Myers. The little nods to previous films sprinkled in the background are fun to look out for. One particular scene involving a boy and his babysitter is very entertaining. If this is where the franchise ends, Jamie can rest assured that she gave Laurie a proper sendoff. I recommend seeing this in the theater and getting a kick out of Michael Myers scaring modern day teenagers. I also recommend checking your closets when you get home just to be safe.
Synopsis: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Virginia Gardner
Runtime: 1 Hour, 46 Minutes