Halloween up to 11.
Ten films, forty years, five different continuity timelines (if you count Halloween III: Season of the Witch as its own thing), seventeen years since Busta Rhymes kicked his arse, and a sobering nine years since we last saw him onscreen (in Rob Zombie’s tonal bugger-fest Halloween II), and Michael Myers returns once more in this, the eleventh, newly-retconned sequel to John Carpenter’s seminal original film.
Ignoring every film after the 1978 original, Halloween 2018 finds a traumatised Laurie Strode (Curtis) having tooled up and prepared for decades for serial killer Michael Myers’ escape from incarceration, praying for him to do so, so she may have the opportunity to kill him. She soon gets her wish, as Michael returns to Haddonfield to wreak gruesome havoc once more.
A clear passion project from director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride (yup), Halloween is far from the latest in a long line of bad sequels, but is by no means the revolutionary franchise phoenix it has been touted as by outlets. Indeed, the optimistic opening titles feature a crushed pumpkin reforming itself, clearly showing the film’s intention. In reality, Halloween 2018 suffers from loose direction, and tonal changes which hinder the film’s overall scare-factor, but benefits from keenly executed moments of tension and a bravura last act.
The film jumps between various points of view throughout, bouncing between a crumbling Laurie Strode, a pair of British reporters, Michael Myers himself and various others. Had it focused solely on Laurie and her struggle to gain her credibility back as Michael escapes and returns then the story would have trimmed away all the useless flab the other characters only seem to exist to serve. Instead, we are given hearty doses of Curtis giving the performance of a lifetime but then segue to uninteresting side characters whom we neither know much about or care about, or are indeed too awfully stupid to engage with. And the more we see of Michael, the less dread we feel as a result. The films cuts back and forth to Michael killing at random times (although this does result in a very impressive long-take following him do so), seemingly only to offer some horror to quell the blood-lust of the horror fans in the audience while doing little to advance the story. Other than to communicate that Michael is bad.
The film’s tonal shifts also serve to detract from the tension. During brief segments of clearly-written-by-Danny McBride-comedy, the tense mood of Michael stalking and killing his prey is shattered by scenes which could easily have been cut out to keep it lean and nerve-racking. An interesting plot thread involving Michael’s doctor (the “new Loomis” according to Laurie) and Michael’s mask, while at first seeming ridiculous, promises an additional psychological factor to the film, but is then dropped almost instantly.
However, Halloween is also the cream of the current franchise crop for a variety of reasons. Curtis’s performance as the damaged Laurie is phenomenal. At once battered, but not broken, Laurie has prepared for the worst to happen and it is a wonderful feeling upon her vindication on such. It’s a fascinating portrayal of what might happen to every final girl in a horror movie after the terrible ordeal they have suffered is over and serves as an effective allegory in this day and age of the #MeToo movement.
And while the film may falter on some comedic elements, its handling of some of the horrific elements are expertly done. Michael is always portrayed as the evil being he is, and is never made the punchline of some franchise-referencing joke, as is common of most belated sequels these days. And Green’s directing is at its best during the final act, a brilliant and pulse-pounding cat-and-mouse game, with whoever is which becoming increasingly vague.
Halloween 2018 is many good things in one. It’s the second best film in the series to simply be called Halloween, the best sequel in the franchise, the best of the two franchise retcons starring Curtis, and one of the most culturally relevant horror films to come out in recent years. However, despite these accolades, the bar for all of the above was already very low, and the film is neither as tightly wound or scary enough as it could have been. It’s a competent film filling the cold lifeless mask of its predecessor very well, but not well enough to outdo it. Not by a long shot.