What is there to say about a sequel to a movie I spent 2000 words tearing down a day ago? Reaction to my review of Halloween (1978) has not surprisingly been negative. I would say Michael Myers is more beloved in Haddonfield, Illinois than I am among horror movie aficionados today, but I meant what I said, I don’t care for the faulty premises of John Carpenter’s supposed masterpiece.
Halloween 2018 does away with nearly all of what has come before it and after the 1978 original. In this timeline, Michael Myers, aka ‘The Shape,’ portrayed by James Jude Courtney has been locked away for 40 years and studied by Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who carried on the work taken up by Dr Loomis (the late Donald Pleasance) years earlier after Loomis passed away. In that time, he’s learned almost nothing from Michael who does not speak.
Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has spent the past 40 years readying herself for the day Michael escapes the asylum, something she feels is inevitable. The film layers in the backstory of Michael and Laurie with the lamest possible device, a true crime podcast dedicated to providing exposition for those who haven’t bothered to watch the first movie. The podcasters, played by Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees are merely cannon fodder for Michael’s eventual escape, a way of padding the body count while placing the film in a modern context.
No surprise that Michael escapes while being transported from his current facility to a new, supposedly more secure facility. Whoever had the sense of humor to transfer Michael Myers on the day before the 40 anniversary of his famed massacre should probably be fired. Of course, we know that Michael is headed back to Haddonfield where he will search for Laurie Strode and her family on a path of revenge(?). Still upset about getting stabbed by Laurie, I assume.
Is he there to kill Laurie though? How does he know that Laurie Strode is still around? Oh, there’s a twist that kind of explains this aspect but it’s rather lame and predictable. I will say however, Michael’s first kills upon arriving in Haddonfield carry a bit of a surprise and shock factor. Director David Gordon Green does a much better job of making Michael menacing as opposed to laughable. At no time does Michael pull his now I am here, now I am not schtick that I found so silly in the first movie.
This version of Michael Myers has a purpose, he’s here to kill and while he is somewhat picky over who he decides to kill, the initial random murders have more tension and suspense than what is generated in the first movie, aside from the late third act where the original comes close to reaching the supposed classic status some have placed upon it. That’s not to say that the new Halloween comes any closer to being a classic, just that a few things about this version improve on the most obvious flaws of the original.
Jamie Lee Curtis has, in press materials for Halloween 2018, made allusions to her Laurie Strode as a heroine for the #MeToo movement. I’m in no position to argue that point. Laurie is a woman who was stalked and nearly killed by a crazed maniac and the attack wrecked much of her life afterward, consuming her and her family and affecting the lives of two generations of Strode women after her, Laurie’s daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
The allegorical connection to #MeToo is strong even if we have to assume it from Jamie Lee Curtis’ interviews and not from anything in the actual movie. The movie itself doesn’t dwell much on the relationship of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode as anything other than hunter and the hunted. That, plus we still don’t actually no what drives Michael Myers as a killer. Carpenter’s allegorical notion was Michael Myers as a figure of urban menace invading small town America but that is also an assumed metaphor, as the movie is far too narrowly drawn for us to get that metaphor without Carpenter plainly stating it after the fact.
The new Halloween lacks the focus of the first film. I may not think the original is a classic but Carpenter does have a narrative focus that this film lacks. There is some fat on this one, such as everything to do with Laurie’s granddaughter. We suffer scenes of her and a boyfriend who has nothing to do with the plot and a plot for two male teen characters who exist solely to pad the film’s body count.
I mentioned the podcasters already and how clumsy and unnecessary they are. I will admit, their death scenes had a gruesome, fearsomeness that nearly redeems the way the film uses them as a cheap form of exposition. Green, much like Carpenter, has a solid instinct for these kill scenes where inevitability and timing coalesce to raise the dread level. Why Michael Myers felt the need to show-off with a set of busted teeth is weird but also par for the course in the bizarre portrayal of Michael Myers. At least he didn’t throw a bed sheet over himself like a wacky, psychotic prankster.
Halloween 2018 still stinks about as much as the original but in slightly different ways. Where the first film irked me with continuity errors that ruined what little good there was in the final act and in Carpenter’s skillful direction, Halloween 2018 is disappointing for narrative shortcuts, like exposition podcast and narrative flab like the boyfriend subplot. Neither film gets around to making Michael Myers a believable character. He’s fearsome but he remains an obtuse figure whose motivation is nebulous at and negligible at worst.
If the filmmakers don’t care why Michael Myers does what he does, then why should I care