New 'Halloween' Lets Michael Myers Escape For One More Killing Spree
Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode to face her fears one last time
"Halloween II" (1981)
"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" (1982)
Forty years ago John Carpenter made “Halloween” and helped define the modern slasher film. Now he has produced a sequel that erases all the other films that have come in between.
“Halloween” introduced audiences to Michael Myers in 1978. As a child, he stabbed his sister to death then as an adult, he donned an old William Shatner mask to kill three teenagers one Halloween night. Silent and unrelenting, nothing could kill him, which leads Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the original final girl, to dub him the boogeyman.
“Halloween II” picked up immediately after the original ended. But then “Halloween III” went off on a wildly different tangent that abandoned Michael Myers in favor of an anthology approach that would just use Halloween night as the thread tying the films together. But that got abandoned too. Curtis would return in two more sequels and then Rob Zombie would lamely reboot it in 2007.
Now, along comes a sequel that refuses to add any number or subtitle so we confusingly just have another “Halloween” but it’s set 40 years later so the same amount of time has passed in real life and in Laurie’s on-screen life. And the film simply pretends that none of the other films (most notably the direct follow up of “Halloween II”) ever happened. Considering how bad most of those films were that’s not entirely a bad thing, although “Halloween II” was probably the best of the lot.
So this new “Halloween” film opens with a pair of British documentary filmmakers coming to interview Michael Myers who has remained silent for 40 years, locked up in a criminal mental institution. The perfect ambiguity of the ending in the first film is now ruined by the fact that Michael didn’t just disappear from the scene of the crime, he was picked up and mundanely processed through the courts and locked up.
Loomis (played in multiple films by Donald Pleasance), the doctor who had been treating Michael in the first film, is long dead. Now Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has taken over. The touchy-feely filmmakers also interview Laurie Strode (Curtis returning for one more stab at the role). They try to make her see Michael as a human being who needs to be understood, but she won’t have any of that compassion crap. He’s a killer and evil, and she wants to see him dead.
As you might expect, Michael is being transferred to a new facility and guess what? He escapes to prove those nice Brits fatally wrong. Once again, it’s Halloween night, and Michael is off on a more excessive killing spree (after one teenager points out that by today’s standards killing three teenagers really isn’t that bad) and a final showdown with Strode.
“Halloween 2018” is like “The Force Awakens” of the “Halloween” franchise. It’s a film that allows a fan of the franchise to breathe a sigh of relief because finally there’s a film that doesn’t suck, and you can actually say you had fun watching it. It also takes time to pay a lot of fan service because it knows who it needs to please.
Directed by David Gordon Green, and written by Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, this new “Halloween” does not come close to matching Carpenter’s original film for craftsmanship or innovation. Audiences need to remember that when Carpenter made “Halloween,” that boogeyman killer and final girl weren’t the tropes that they are today. When it came out, it had the power to scare people, and it revealed Carpenter as a stylish, smart director.
Green’s film doesn’t innovate in any way but he pays a nice homage to the original film with some fun casting and visual references. At times, it plays like a comedy as it addresses horror tropes, but it never does so in a way that’s meant to parody its source material. It’s more like a meta nod and wink. So the film will likely play better for those who know at least the first film well.
The kills have a gory flair and are even occasionally shot with some cleverness. Curtis gets to do her take on “The Terminator’s” Linda Hamilton as she faces off against The Shape. There's a vague attempt at some sort of realism as it paints Strode as suffering from a kind of PTSD from the violent attack she suffered as a teenager. So in a way, Green tries to ground the film in the real horrors of violence. But those ideas don't get much traction.
Green is an odd choice to direct, but then his career has taken some weird turns. He made his mark on the indie scene with his graceful and heartfelt “George Washington” but then moved to silly comedies like “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness” before returning to more serious drama and now horror. He has some visual style but doesn’t seem to have a natural flair for horror or building tension. He picks up the pace in the final act but the film never feels taut the way the first one did.
“Halloween 2018” proves entertaining if not actually clever and original. And although it seems designed to bring the franchise to a close (Carpenter has said that he never wanted any sequels), we will likely see more of Michael Myers if this film does well at the box office.
Take a listen to the new Cinema Junkie Podcast 152 where a number of people recall Carpenter's "Halloween" as the first film to scare them.