The new, much-discussed Halloween—a direct sequel to the 1978 original that, to the chagrin of many, completely ignores the franchise’s admittedly bumpy continuity—has issues. The plotting flails all over the place, it often ignores the most interesting elements, among others, and we’ll get to that. But what matters more than anything else, however, is that it’s goddamn lot of fun. I watched the whole thing with a goofy, shit-eating grin plastered across my face and I want to do it again. Soon.
Director/writer David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and writer Danny McBride (This is the End) may seem like an odd pair to revamp the classic slasher franchise, but they’re both huge horror fans and their affection for the Shape is readily apparent. While it never explores any new territory, they breathe a good bit of life into a saga that has, had some ups and downs over the years.
Halloween 2018 picks up 40 years after the events on John Carpenter’s 1978 original. Michael Myers has been cooped up in mental institution and hasn’t said a word. On her end, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has spent the last four decades coping with the trauma of seeing her friends butchered and almost being murdered herself. It’s a wound that never healed, informed every facet of her life since, and drove her to become a borderline reclusive survivalist, preparing for the inevitable coming confrontation with pure evil. All the surrounding plot mechanics serve to facilitate the two iconic characters meeting one last (?) time. It’s simple, but effective.
Green and McBride put their comedy chops to good use in Halloween. It’s not the big, crass humor of the movies they’re most known for, but they pepper the script with well-timed laughs and provide the audience with moments to release the tension with nervous giggles. This is definitely the kind of movie where someone in the crowd often yells, “Don’t go in there!”
More than anything, Halloween delivers a solid tense, giddy slasher. It hits all of the genre beats, the John Carpenter-penned score should give fans chills, and it ups the ante exponentially when it comes to the gore. For all the death and stabbing, the original is largely bloodless, which is not the case here. There’s straight up gushy brutality for the gore hounds in the peanut gallery, though for the most part, it hangs it’s hat on pressure and tension rather than relying on splatter to do the job. We get a few wink, winks and fan service moments, but they’re restrained and unobtrusive and serve the larger narrative—what’s there will please fans, but it also fits naturally into the story and never feels forced.
While Green and company offer a loving addition to the cannon, the most intriguing pieces of Halloween too often fall by the wayside. I’m here all day for this doomsday prepper/survivalist version of Laurie Strode. This trauma, this horrific event, defines her life and haunts every moment since, and Jamie Lee Curtis plays her as tough and driven and wounded and held together with duct tape, determination, and a borderline drinking problem—an element included elsewhere in the saga. Laurie became the “crazy lady” the townsfolk all whisper about in hushed tones when they happen to see her on the street.
But there’s a so much left unexplored, to the film’s detriment. We see the impact this has on her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and even her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), and witness pieces of their strained relationships. The idea of the rippling effects of trauma, felt through generations is fascinating and would add layers and dept. While there are hints, Halloween eschews these concerns for more run-of-the-mill teens-in-peril trappings. And that’s fine, but it’s a missed opportunity to make something special and unique.
I would have loved to see more of Laurie coping with her scars, even after all these years. Or more with Laurie and Karen, Karen and Allyson, Laurie and Allison. When I think about Halloween, those are the things I come back to, but these dynamics and relationships wind up glossed over for more typical horror markers. (I can’t help but wonder what this would look like from a female director, writer, or creative team, especially in this regard.)
Don’t get me wrong, Halloween, while not without issues—it’s uneven and full of missed opportunities—is a murder-happy slasher crowd-pleaser. Tense, gory, and full of nervous laughter, you can do much worse than spending 106 minutes with grim, loaded-for-bear Laurie Strode. I’ll gladly watch more of these , but I’ll also hope for more when I do. [Grade: B]