As someone raised in a family that was dedicated to both “Halloween” the movie and Halloween the holiday, I felt giddy when I heard about the new “Halloween” movie. Michael Myers back on the big screen in a brand-new fashion—what more could I ask for?
This movie sees itself as a sort of re-canonization sequel—it erases the chronology of all the other “Halloween” movies after the original, placing itself as a sequel to that movie. Laurie and Michael are reprised by their respective actors from the original film, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle, and the legendary John Carpenter produced the movie and provided some truly excellent music for the soundtrack.
Everything seems to be in place for this movie to stand out as something special against the slew of remakes we have seen in the last couple of years. At the same time, this is just the next installment in a line of nostalgic cash-grabs to which this movie series has been prone. Twenty years ago we saw a similar movie with “Halloween H20.” But still, anything could be viewed as an improvement over the Rob Zombie “Halloween” flicks.
In the end, what we get with this movie is a lukewarm film pulled apart by two extremes. On one side is the hot stuff. The music is great, there are some awesome slasher scenes and an excellent sense of comedy. On the other side are the disappointingly cold aspects of this film. Some of the dialogue is truly awful, the performance of this dialogue is somehow even worse, the characters and script are all uninspired and the list, unfortunately, goes on.
My biggest complaint with the film is that, for a slasher flick, the violence in this movie was just subpar. Even worse, the gore feels incoherent and lacking in any sort of unity. And look! There goes my English degree running away with this review.
What I meant by that last point is that violence is a tool to be used in horror movies, and it is a tool that can be used badly. The original “Halloween” is so well-done because it knows when to show actual violence, and when to show the trail violence leaves in its wake. Or, to use another Halloween movie, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” didn’t shock me as much because the violence was excessive without ever really developing or showing any sign of creative thought, whereas the violence in John Carpenter’s other masterpiece “The Thing” is so wild, creative and ultimately fun that it sticks in our heads as only inspiring art can.
This most recent movie does not have this aspect. The kills are so run-of-the mill and barebones that I never found myself scared of Michael and what he can do—and that is a cardinal sin for a slasher movie. But there are exceptions. One exception was a really insane kill. The other was a faux long take that follows the serial killing from Michael’s perspective. This was a fun scene. I wanted more scenes like this in the movie, but I was sorely disappointed.
The other thing this movie did wrong, and why I think you—dear reader—would be better off watching the original movie from the comfort of your room, is that the script and characters really failed to deliver. The first 30 minutes of this movie are rough. The amount of wooden deliveries is truly astounding. The “Halloween” franchise has some pretty bad dialogue, but this movie easily takes the cake. It’s not just that the dialogue is bad, but the politics are also uncomfortable.
Curtis always felt like she was right on the edge of calling her millennial granddaughter a snowflake and falling into some rant about the Second Amendment. I’m glad she didn’t interact with any of the Black characters on screen because I don’t want to see how these tone-deaf writers would have handled Curtis dancing around the finer details of Stand Your Ground laws. There were only suggestions of political discourse in this movie, but just having these hints feels very uncomfortable because we don’t know what the movie’s political stances are.
Is Curtis an anti-hero who is a cautionary tale, or is she glorified for her abusive conservative choices? Are we supposed to cheer for Curtis when she waltzes through a suburban neighborhood on Halloween night with her gun in her hands? Are we supposed to laugh when a child mishandles a firearm and shoots an innocent man? It feels uncomfortable because these are achingly realistic situations with terrible consequences, and this movie just plays them off as if they are as fictional as the man in the mask.
This is a shame because the original movie always seemed to play it straight. It touched on the fears of suburban folk and explored them effectively. More importantly, it explored this fear earnestly. “Halloween” (2018), the focus-group revamp of the deadest horse in horror, does not have the opportunity to be earnest.
The teenager plotline of this “Halloween” just felt so contrived and unoriginal. The actors presented themselves exactly like how a group of adults pretending to be modern teenagers would act, resulting in unmemorable and unlikable characters who we aren’t really affected by when they leave the film. And the annoying, stuck-up characters who we should see die are just left by the wayside.
But the most unforgivable misstep in terms of character is Curtis. I’ve seen a lot of informed discourse about how this movie is special because it’s really a film about being a survivor. This could not be further from the truth. The dialogue about being a survivor is stripped down to “if you were hurt in the past you will grow to become violent in the future, and you will be justified for your violence.” And that is just lame. I see all this talk about being a survivor as just hot air that’s trying to fill up a canvas that is lacking in meaningful material.
All in all, the new “Halloween” fails in its cheesy scares and its insensitive political messages. It is better to just stick with the original.