US (2018) Dir. David Gordon Green
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of a modern horror classic, John Carpenter’s Halloween was resurrected, in the process pretending that the numerous sequels and remakes that were released over the last four decades didn’t happen. That would posit this film as a direct sequel to the original, yet made confusing by having the same title!
Crime podcasters Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) visit the Smith’s Grove Psychiatric Hospital where Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) has been a patient for 40 years. Aaron shows Myers the original mask he wore during his killing spree in 1978. The next day, Myers and other patients are being transferred to a different facility when their bus crashes, and Myers escapes.
Myers tracks the podcasters down at a truck stop, kills them, reclaims his mask, then heads for Haddonfield, Illinois, the location of his murders and where the only survivor, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) still resides. Now a reclusive alcoholic, Laurie panics when she learns of Myer’s release and tries to warn her family, but due to their strained relationship, they think Laurie is paranoid and don’t believe they are in danger.
I suppose we can’t blame Hollywood bean counters for wanting to commemorate the release of such a seminal horror film like Halloween, but whether they should have done is subject to personal opinion. In 1998, to mark 20 years, Halloween H20 was released although this was following on from Halloween II, before the series was rebooted by Rob Zombie in 2007 for two films.
Some might feel dragging Myers out of the mothballs one more time might be a stretch too far, but in fact, the idea for an intended standalone film entitled Halloween Returns was originally proposed in 2015. Issues over ownership of the rights played a part in the delay of production, until the idea to go full circle and return the story to its roots saw things move forward, which brings us to this review.
A major problem with continuing a franchise that started a whole new subgenre is the originality has gone which a fresh coat of paint can’t disguise unless the story is riveting. Halloween doesn’t have an overarching plot or episodic narrative beyond discerning Michael Myers’ motive, therefore each film is essentially tells the same story. This is evident here as it is once again Myers vs. Strode, with the anniversary aspect being its only real pass.
By ignoring the events of the sequels which I have not seen, this film allows people who only know the original to jump into this without missing anything. The opening segment with the podcasters is simply a conduit for bringing Myers back into the real world and Laurie’s life. Now a grandmother, Laurie has turned her house into an uber secure hideout, with surveillance cameras, underground shelters, an entire arsenal of guns and other weapons, and so on.
Laurie is also a bag of nerves and has been drinking, which led to the state taking her daughter Karen away when she was 12. Now a other herself, Karen (Judy Greer) is a bit of an optimist, telling Laurie there is no evil in the world, only love and positivity, words which come back to bite her in a big way. Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) has been in touch with Laurie behind her mother’s back, sharing more of her feisty DNA than Karen’s hippy-esque hope.
What brings the film down a bit is the subplot featuring Allyson and her teen friends, telling the usual story of the cheating boyfriend, the nerdy pal with a crush on Allyson, and the party girl babysitter also with the dickhead boyfriend. This is the part of the film where the audience will be on Myers’ side when he resumes his killing activities, taking out this bunch of obnoxious twerps.
Karen only admits Laurie was right when the murders start in earnest and Allyson is still out at the school Halloween party without her phone. With Sheriff Hawkins (Will Patton) the only one to believe Laurie, they put the neighbourhood on lockdown, whilst Hawkins has Myer’s psychiatrist Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) to help bring in Myers. There is a nice twist involving the doctor to give this story a bit of intrigue and additional terror but sadly, it is brief.
You can probably guess how things play out with three generations of Strode women now in Myers’ sights, but the real treat for long term fans are the callbacks to the 1978 original. Not all are obvious so it pays to keep your eyes peeled to the minutiae, whilst the blatant ones have become staples of the franchise. What hasn’t changed is Myers being a relentless and cold killing machine, his victim list this time being random for the sake of spilling blood.
Director David Gordon Green earned John Carpenter’s approval of the direction of this film after disliking Rob Zombie’s take on Myers, but unlike Carpenter, delivers essentially another modern day slasher movie. That said, there are some nice moments, including a great shot of Myers’ reflection in a window which made him look like a ghost inside the house which was particularly effective, and the kills are wonderfully gruesome.
Resuming the Laurie role for the fifth time, Jamie Lee Curtis carries the weight of the world on her shoulders as the cautious matriarch but her inner resolve and fortitude in the wake of being ready for 40 years has turned Laurie into a kick ass granny! Like his predecessors under the mask, James Jude Courtney manages to create a compelling antagonist, his stoic body language proving suitably menacing.
Halloween isn’t a bad film to mark this milestone anniversary for the franchise but sadly doesn’t feel essential either. With the first of two sequels currently in the cinemas, it is hard not to be cynical about the true reason for its existence. Decently gory and a cute throwback but hardly exceptional unfortunately.