“Halloween” is a well crafted, albeit predictable piece of homage

Michael Myers Halloween

It gets to a point with some of these larger than life franchises’ where you begin to wonder if all interesting new avenues have already been explored and we’re just spinning our wheels. We live in the relatively new era of the “soft reboot”, where for silly reasons of their own, studios have shunned away from the now sticky term “remake”. Some of the greatest films of all time are remakes after all, but the word conjured nausea in recent years, so new entries in franchises such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park (now Jurassic World), and now with Halloween are cashing in on familiarity while promising a return to the grassroots of what made people love the franchises to begin with. The franchises often decide to scrap sequels made in the past, to make it easier on screenwriters (and audiences, supposedly) with continuity.

This Halloween iteration has decided to throw away something near 6 films worth of development. That’s not to say the decision is without merit, as all of the Halloween sequels are of varying degree of quality. Halloween H20 also threw away all of the sequels except the original Halloween II. So that means this is the second time we’re wiping the slate clean, which in my screening was already causing audience confusion in working through the logistics of it all; but I digress. Just know this, 2018’s Halloween is a direct sequel chronologically to John Carpenter’s original 1978 film. All of those other movies for the sake of this story, never happened. Are you still there?

So we’re 40 years removed from the events that took place in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night. We’re immediately introduced to two true crime pod-casters — Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) and Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) — who have taken vast interest in the events of that night. We see them pay Michael a visit at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, bearing a surprise gift in hopes to get Michael to engage with them, to speak for what we assume would be the first time in over 40 years. Michael’s new primary caregiver at the facility, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) ensures the investigators that just because Michael has remained, he is still very aware and very dangerous. The pair do not get the results desired, and soon venture off to catch up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in hopes to gather some sort of context for their investigation.

Laurie is an old woman now, 40 years from the first film would put her pushing nearly 60 years old. She’s closed herself away from the world, on a vast piece of woodland, in a house that’s been modified into seemingly a protective fortress. Michael’s nihilistic killing spree from all those years ago, changed Laurie’s path dramatically. Her worldview is as nihilistic as Michael’s rage; everything is meaningless, we should all prepare for the worst. The sibling thread in this one is scraped, as that was introduced in Carpenter’s original sequel (which Carpenter has since acknowledged being booze inspired). Instead, there seems to be a vague connection between Michael and Laurie running purely on a primal level. They’ve evolved torn from the same menacing cloth, which only motive separates their drive. When Michael escapes from incarceration after a bus crash en route to a new prison, Laurie arms herself for a hunt with an arsenal stout enough to defeat a hefty militia.

What’s frustrating for me is that we’re expected to simply care about Laurie’s desire to personally bring Michael to his mortal fate, simply based on nostalgia. Sure, we’re visually given all we need to see that Laurie has dedicated her entire life to a fateful face to face with the ultimate evil again one day. Yet we’re not told how Laurie obtained all of these weapons and resources. We do gain the knowledge that Laurie has a daughter, one that was taken away from her long ago. Why? Well because she’s crazy, clearly, I guess. What about the father? How did children services find Laurie? We do meet Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who is resentful of her mother’s obsession with her darkened past. Karen’s own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, who is terrific) sympathizes more with her grandmother, aching for a closer relationship that she has seem to have been deprived from. Allyson, in one callback moment, sees her grandmother across the street, staring menacingly into her classroom window while she’s in class. Soon after the two share perhaps the most genuine moment of the film. Laurie hands her granddaughter a fat stack of cash, tells her to venture down the road less traveled with it, and don’t worry about what your mother thinks.

Frustration lies heavy in the potential of the story that is never met. Karen’s background is worth exploring for far more runtime, and her daughter Allyson is hinted in the film’s conclusion to have possibly been succumbed within to viciousness, but we’ll never know. The fact of the matter is that Halloween plays out, beat for beat, exactly the way you would expect. Every character you think will die by the hand of The Shape, does, and vice versa. There are some interesting threads introduced, most notably the turn that Michael’s caregiver Dr. Sartain takes in the 2nd act, yet it’s soon squandered.

As for the part of the movie we all came here for, it’s just quite frankly not very scary. With how it typically goes, trailers have ruined the best bits of the film. And aside from these moments, most of the other moments of horror and brutality are telegraphed to the point of ineffectiveness. Part of me cannot help but wonder how much merit holds in the fact that this is David Gordon Green‘s first outing with horror. Such monster expectations can almost never be met with a debut of this magnitude into the genre. And while Green has moments that show promise, the pieces never come together into a collective piece.  So what are we left with? A very expensive, admittedly great looking Halloween fan film. It’s not to say there isn’t enough here to make the ticket worth your buck. A standout set piece in the middle plays with motion detection lights that I thought was brilliant. The final 20 minutes are where the bulk of the film’s tension lives, even if I felt the payoff was feeble and brief. Halloween isn’t nearly bad enough to hate, nor is it great enough to be heralded along side the trailblazing original film. It simply exists, an ordinary retread and perhaps a reminder that this well has run desert dry.