The Night He Came Stumbling Home: A Review of Halloween (2018)

A film forty years in the making, Halloween unfortunately fails to make much of an impact.

Director David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to John Carpenter’s seminal slasher flick from autumn 1978 proves as dull and drab-looking as “Grandmother” Laurie Strode’s hair. The film lacks both overarching vision and particularly striking visuals (arguably, the most memorable image is an incongruous one: that giant, defiantly-unsoothing red-and-white grid painted at Smith’s Grove). It lacks characters interesting enough to fear for–or even to root for their victimization by Michael Myers. Perhaps most glaringly, it lacks the presence of Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis, replaced here by the loony, underdeveloped and unconvincing Dr. Sartain.

There are a few aspects of the film that I did appreciate. The callbacks to the original Halloween are cleverly done, and never employed in a heavy-handed manner. Terrific choreography is on display as Michael death waltzes in and out of a block of Haddonfield homes while trick-or-treaters traipse obliviously though the streets. The bits of comedy are also top-notch: Jibrail Nantambu nearly steals the whole movie in his brief appearances as Julian, a wisecracking child being babysat by Vicky, a friend of Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson.

Green’s film seems determined to overplay one major note: after living through the night of the Babysitter Murders, Jamie Lee Curtis’s final girl has transformed into a Michael-obsessed survivalist. While such a character arc is understandable, it’s also derivative: as moviegoers, we’ve seen all this before (cf. Linda Hamilton’s turn as doomsday-prepper Sarah Connor in Terminator 2). Furthermore, the extended timeline–the idea that this has been going on for forty years–skewed me towards disbelief. Such prolonged state of paranoid hyper-preparation probably would have resulted in fatal hypertension long ago. A one-woman militia movement, Laurie boasts an impressive arsenal of guns, but the elaborate booby-traps she has built into home border on the ridiculous. Her final solution for the invading Michael was maddeningly illogical (let’s just Laurie will be moving in with her daughter come tomorrow).

I found this film vastly inferior to Rob Zombie’s 2007 edition of Halloween. The shock rocker brought a stylistic flair, a certain brashness to the proceedings. By focusing on Michael’s childhood for the first third of the movie, he also endeavored to create some insight into the character. Robbed here of that backstory, as well as any sort of unfinished-family-business motivation, Michael reduces to a homicidal blank–the embodiment not of pure evil, but rather mundane mindless violence. The film does attempt to recapture the hulking rage of Zombie’s Michael, but again the timing seems off: such untiring ferocity in a now-sixtysomething psychopath strains belief (unless Sartain smuggled some HGH into the asylum, Michael at this point should be startling to shrivel up like a jack-o’-lantern in November). How ironic, then, that an ultimate lack of fight causes the most disappointment: Michael’s literally static ending is completely unsatisfying.

To no surprise, the film does leave open the possibility of another October follow-up. Such prospective sequel is not one I will be looking forward to, whether next year or decades hence.

 

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