Who is this film for, other than shareholders? The extensive production history of this third timeline reboot suggests a creative malaise that is palpable in the final product. This Halloween film lazily circles around a bunch of ideas already investigated in previous franchise entries: Laurie as an older woman who never psychologically recovered from the original attack and ruined her relationship with her child (H20). She suffers from PTSD (H20/Zombie’s Halloween II) but new media — as a proxy for bloodthirsty horror fans — remain obsessed with the case (Resurrection). Even the one novel twist, excising Halloween II (1981)’s revelation that Laurie and Myers are related, ends up being a bit half-hearted, as the movie still treats the killer and victim as soul-bound.
I guess the “big idea,” to the extent there is one, is to remake Halloween in the modern day image of prestige “elevated” horror. This franchise has been a true chameleon in mimicking the modern trends, dating back to the very first sequel, which brought in the heightened gore popularized by Friday the 13th — which itself was a part of big slasher wave that the original Halloween kicked off. The first timeline retcon, H20 and Resurrection, took clear cues from Scream; the latter even brought in some moments of found footage aesthetics. Then Rob Zombie brought the series to the gritty, torture porn-flavored mid ‘00s. Oddly, Zombie’s Halloween II obsession with the psychological fallout of a murder spree feels like a precursor to the A24/Blumhouse brand of horror as big, artful metaphor, which has subsequently influenced this new outing. (Which slashed first, the chicken or the egg?)
I wouldn’t care about the lack of direction or originality if the end-product was good, which it isn’t especially. The production values are solid enough — in fact, they’re among the best in the series’ history; it’s not as flavorful as the Zombie outings, but it has prettier nighttime footage and a better, Carpenter-co-penned soundtrack (highlighted by “The Shape Hunts Allyson” which is probably the best music cue since Carpenter’s original theme). The thrills constructed by David Gordon Green are fairly effective; probably moreso than any of the post-Cundey, pre-Zombie iterations. But it lacks any surprise or oomph. Maybe I’m just desensitized to Michael Myers at this point.
Halloween 2018 also throws in some “legacy sequel” fan service and callbacks, which is something else in vogue at time of the film’s production. There are plenty of Easter eggs and reflections of the 1978 original both big and little — the best probably being a recreation of the shot where Myers appears outside a school window, except this time it’s Laurie. For me, these little hidden bits are cute fluff and do nothing, but I understand others might be more nostalgic than me.
One unexpected wrinkle that probably would have been more expected if I had looked at Green’s filmography: This is occasionally a funny movie! Moreso than most other Halloween movies. (There are too many for me to think through to categorically say this is the funniest in the franchise, but it’s certainly in the running.) The movie pauses for 90 seconds to let two cops argue about banh mi, and it might have been the only time I smiled in the film.
The performances are almost universally a disappointment, or maybe that’s more on the writing. I’m not wild bout Curtis in grumpy, paranoid mode — H20 did a much better job balancing the various facets of Laurie’s personality. But Judy Greer’s performance as Laurie’s daughter is a catastrophe; what we’re supposed to take away from her character is unclear. Andi Matichak is thoroughly forgettable as Laurie’s granddaughter. The only performance I legitimately like is the return of Nick Castle as Myers aka The Shape; he lends the murderer an eerie, unsettling stillness that only magnifies the sense of danger.
I can’t believe that there are two follow-ups to this. I have no concept of what Green and co. have in mind to follow up this bland reboot. I’m close enough to the franchises finish line that I’ll see this thing through, though.
- Review Project: Halloween Retrospective