Halloween Has Some Thrills, But Mostly Missteps

The recent sequel is a fun yet uneven follow up to Carpenter’s masterpiece

Halloween Has Some Thrills, But Mostly Missteps

Brandon Coon, Adviser

As far as horror film go, few top John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. Shot by a green filmmaker on a shoestring budget, Carpenter managed to create a terrifying slasher film that redefined the horror film. Ever see a horror film with a final girl (who is a pure and virginal protagonist), a murder from the killer’s POV, or and ending where the killer was still out there? All these tropes that define modern horror stem from Carpenter’s original. Halloween 2018 tries to pick up where Halloween 1978 left off, ignoring seven sequels and two reboots, so it can offer a follow up that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the original. While this film offers some genuinely clever moments, it ultimately fails to offer a satisfying horror experience.

The film sees the return of the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the protagonist of the first Halloween. Unlike the confident, self-assured Laurie that Curtis played in Halloween H20, this Laurie lives in constant paranoia and drinks to escape her survivor’s guilt forty years after her encounter with Michael Myers. Her fear has turned her into hardened survivalist: she lives in a gated compound and is armed to the teeth. We learn that she has spent her adult life preparing for Michael Myers to escape incarceration and come after her again, even to the point where she has alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and is kept away from her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). There is a particularly heartbreaking scene where Laurie crashes a family celebration for Allyson’s induction into National Honor Society (which happens in October for some reason) only to have a breakdown while her estranged family watches. Laurie’s tension between being a tough-as-nails fighter and an emotionally fragile victim is one of the things the film gets absolutely right.

It’s obvious what happens next: Michael Myers escapes just as Laurie predicted, he starts a murder spree, Michael tries to kill Allyson (the spiritual successor of her grandmother), and Laurie goes full Granbo in a climactic battle in order to protect Allyson. These story beats are cliche, predictable, and some of the best moments of the film. When Halloween 2018 is trying to recreate the feeling of Halloween 1978 through familiar beats and homages, the film feels thrilling. Nick Castle also returns as The Shape (i.e., Michael Myers once he’s in the mask), and while we don’t see much more of his face than grey stubble and a scarred left eye, he is still terrifying. This is an old man in his seventies who, like Laurie, refuses to move on, but while Laurie refused to forget her trauma, Myers struggled with the absence of trauma. The first shot of the film–the one heavily marketed in the trailers–shows a British podcaster (Jefferson Hall) who wants to give the Myers case the Serial ​treatment holding the iconic mask and yelling at Myers to look at it while Myers refuses. This is not a man trying to resist temptation, as it’s clear from his body language and the dialogue around him that this is a man biding his time, waiting like a coiled cobra to strike and not play his hand too early. These moments give us the Michael Myers of the original, the frighteningly patient and intelligent killer who doesn’t just kill the young babysitter but spends the entire day stalking her and killing her friends until she is at her most defenseless.

While the predictable beats of the film are its highlights the connective tissue between theses beats–how Michael escapes, how he starts his murder spree, how Michael encounters Allyson and Laurie–are a mess. The film tries too hard for style over substance, which results in the story being uneven and, at times, hokey. Take the first scene: Michael Myers being chained to a giant outdoor checkerboard is a great visual, but for a series (mostly) grounded in reality, it looks like a scene out of Batman: Arkham Asylum rather than a Halloween film. It makes no sense. Then when the podcaster shows him the mask, he’s doing it behind Michael Myers instead of in front of him. While it’s a great shot, it makes no sense.