Twenty minutes into the 11th film of the Halloween franchise and there is a scene where a daughter is with her Mam and Dad having breakfast and there is no talk of fingering a bagel, no F Word muttered and there is a gentle and peaceful normality in the air. The closest we actually get to a swear word is when the Dad utters the word “Penis”, much to the disgust of their daughter and its here at this moment, for the majority of Halloween fans, a huge sign of relief is breathed out among the horror crowd.
Unintentionally or not, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green in that one scene alone have convinced those fans who hated every scene of Rob Zombie’s vision of Halloween, that this is a world far removed from the vulgar and crass talk that engulfed our last trip to Haddonfield. Thankfully there is no “Love Hurts”, no ghostly visions of a White horse, Halloween 2018 is a stripped back approach to the very basics of its original, where on occasions, it does come off perfectly but at the same time, the history and the need to appease the fan base weighs heavily on the proceedings.
Much like The Force Awakens, there is a desperate need here not to upset, even after they have taken the big risk of removing the brother and sister angle that has become the base of the franchise ever since the original Halloween II and while I can’t see many devotees too upset at what its being shown, there is a sense that you may want more from what is being offered. It seems that while I enjoyed the love letter of the original unfolding before my eyes, they seemed to forget the tiny important ingredient that made the original such a masterpiece….
They forgot to make Halloween 2018 scary!
This sequel though that ignores every instalment since the original, starts off brilliantly. When two podcasters decide its a good time to meet Michael Myers, 40 long years after his original murderous spree, a killer who hasn’t spoken a word and doesn’t even move an inch when they unwisely show him the mask he wore that night, especially as they visit the day before Halloween, well you’ve seen enough horror films to know that this idea is not going to go down too well.
But while everyone including the dogs (perhaps they are scared they will get eaten) are terrified by the appearance of the infamous mask, Michael stays still, a perfect response as how can you understand evil when there is nothing really to discuss. By removing the family angle, Myers returns to his purest form, a killer with no remorse, nothing more than The Shape…… Its here that I actually had chills as the film exploded to life thanks to the return of the original credits sequence, only this time of a Jack O Lantern which is squashed before slowly rising from the ashes as each frame is played out. Its an imagery that screams out “The Franchise is back” and yes, it does actually feel like you watching a true version after years of imitations.
The thrill of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis back in her signature role may have lowered after the likes of H20 and Resurrection, but her portrayal of Laurie Strode is totally different to what we have seen before. This time she never actually survived that night in 1978. The memory has haunted every inch of her life, causing marriage break ups and the loss of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who was taken away from her when she was a young child.
Its this angle that works within the film. Showing how the Final Girl never fully recovers from her ordeal is an original notion, even more so when you watch the original Halloween now and see Laurie break down and cry after Dr Loomis shoots The Bogeyman as from now on, you realise that this girl is broken, the truest victim of that unspeakable night that haunts the town. There may be echoes of Sarah Conner written into the script, but the beauty of this version of Laurie is that she always feels in control of her destiny, even when her worst nightmares come true.
Now there is a bad flip side to this as fans will probably feel that it removes the danger that Laurie is in. When she comes across just as dangerous as Michael and actually becomes the hunter while he becomes the hunted, the essence of the original Halloween is removed, hence the reason why Halloween 2018 never really hits the scare factor of its original. But can a Halloween film really be scary again? Its a huge debate and its something McBride and Green must have realised and decided to make Myers just a killing machine once more with no remorse.
Believe me, his first on-screen kill after he inevitably escapes, is probably the darkest of the entire franchise, something that even Rob Zombie would have been proud of. I actually sat there open mouthed at what I saw, it echoes Annie’s death in the original and its a scene that will surprise even the hardcore fan-base, I mean they actually went there…..wow!
How Michael gets his mask and makes his way to Haddonfield is like a written greatest hits of the franchise, which will either thrill you or leave you wanting at least some originality, but either way, it is great to see Myers back in this groove. The one shot sequence of Myers moving from house to house is the best moment of the entire film and highlights the randomness of his murderous mind, even though this does feel like a different Michael to what escaped way back in 1978.
Maybe being locked away for forty years made him more frustrated, but at times during this murderous spree, I wanted a bit more restrain and perhaps a bit more simplicity and I did miss the Carpenter approach of The Shape just looking at his prey and waiting for the right moment. Myers of 2018 just targets, kills and moves on to his next victim. If you agree with this way or not, the film at least makes you believe in the Bogeyman again, something which as a Halloween fanatic I can only be applaud and be delighted with.
Before we get to the final half hour, there are set-pieces that sparkle, The obligatory babysitting sequence is brilliant, mostly thanks to a modern child who basically says and does things we all probably would do in that situation and while that is the highlight, there is a stupid and ridiculous plot twist that at one stage, honestly threatened to derail the entire film, but thankfully its quickly resolved and soon forgotten about as soon as we get to the final confrontation between Laurie and Michael,
Now we have all been here before. Twenty years ago in fact when Laurie was his sister and went under the name Keri Tate. Now I was never a huge fan of H20, which Halloween 2018 is basically a loose remake of. The film itself is dripped in 90’s nostalgia and was born out of the success of Scream, which is way it never felt like a Halloweenflick, even though it had a pleasing last 20 minutes. Times have changed since Myers turned up at a California School. Horror fans have witnessed the likes of Josh and Paxton arrive at a Hostel, Jigsaw has turned up to play a little game, while Myers himself went all bearded and wore a hoodie. If H20 never happened and this was called H40, the film actually suits the mood and violent time we live in.
Despite showing some great restrain at the beginning, the film is violent when it wants to be and the last half hour where Laurie meets her nemesis is much meaner and darker than the film we had way back in 1998, with the final battle surpassing everything of that film bar one important factor….the resolution. No matter what you thought ofH20, watched back to back with the original Halloween and its sequel, it feels like the perfect franchise as it actually gives you an ending.
Despite Halloween 2018 doing mostly everything right, we are still left with an “is that it!” ending, that may leave a bitter aftertaste for many fans. Its not a total disaster like Halloween V, but you can see why Carpenter left his original in such an ambiguous tone, leaving you thinking that the Bogeyman is always out there…..waiting for you, in the shadows, breathing heavily. We never feel that danger here. Its like we trapped in a no win situation where McBride and Green have delivered on the majority of what they promised, but still can’t capture what made Halloween 1978 so good.
But maybe as a die-hard fan that is just me being picky. Curtis is excellent along with most of the cast even though Allyson (Andi Matichak), (Laurie’s granddaughter) is totally wasted as you sense there is more that could have been done there, especially as she excels when on screen.
Long time readers of HCF will know that Halloween is my favourite franchise of all time and while it reads like I am being negative, I’m actually not. Having sat though Busta Ryhmes doing a bit of Kung Fu on our Michael, back then I thought that was it for Halloween. To their credit, McBride and Green have massively restored the pride in the saga even more so after the Zombie efforts divided the fan base.
Its a film that will no doubt get everyone back on board, but once the excitement wears off , you just wish that they somehow they let go of their love of the past and embraced the now. Imitating previous scenes is good for one or two homages but when its littered throughout you cant help but remember how good the original was.
Much like Laurie, Halloween 2018 is haunted by its past and while it restores Myers to his natural glory and you thankful that the bogeyman is back, when you leave the cinema, a cold hard truth will hit you. Its here you realise that this much anticipated return doesn’t actually improve on the original Halloween II and that basically, its nothing more than a solid and satisfactory addition to the franchise that thankfully doesn’t have any of the Curse Of Thorn or the muttering of a Dangertainment in sight!………….