Review: “Halloween” Profound In Its Ambivalence To Thrills

John Carpenter’s Halloween is rebooted in David Gordon Green’s sequel to the seminal 1978 slasher classic. Forgetting the umpteen other films in the franchise, this 2018 effort seeks to begin afresh 40 years after Michael Myers’ killing spree.

Halloween - 2018 - David Gordon GreenHere’s another Halloween movie. The latest in a long-running franchise that began with 1978’s seminal horror classic; a milestone in the slasher genre. A fire-starter. A terrifying widescreen nightmare made at a time when belligerent filmmakers were enjoying a new sense of liberation. We’re no longer in that era. And 2018’s Halloween is a glaring reminder.

It is a sequel but not a follow-on from Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween: Resurrection from 2002 (then the eighth film in the series) nor a continuation of Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot. Rather, in this age of the “re-imagining”, the team that brought us Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter, have chucked every other Halloween movie apart from John Carpenter’s original onto the scrapheap. Their pet project sees a new interpretation of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode’s journey after the babysitter killer famously fell out of that bedroom window and mysteriously disappeared.

More nostalgic homage than modernisation, Halloween’s re-imagination believes the addition of investigative podcasters is enough to give its decidedly well-worn cliches a contemporary lick of paint. Not so. The path we take is still tread with the same old boots (once worn by John Carpenter before his influential slasher’s conventions became the formula) with some of its most annoying habits (read: once fun, sparked by an appreciation of audience expectation, now eye-rolling in their tiresome familiarity) intact.

As the film moves agreeably swiftly to its showpiece finale, I wondered if even the filmmakers themselves forgot their contemporary smartphone-using, connected generation remit by discarding not just the podcasters but entire characters along the way with not even a dismissive stab to the back courtesy of Halloween’s inexpressive, mask-wearing villain.

While David Gordon Green would like us to think he’s leapt forward into the late 2010s with his present day version, much of Michael Myers’ outing here feels oddly rusted and as aged as its geriatric villain. For example, everything related to high school kids and they’re angsty, hormonal relationships is cut from stereotypes, leaving us apathetic to their demise. This could be forgiven if Green had the capacity to subvert our expectation or inject some invention into his set pieces, but it’s largely number-crunching stuff aside from a couple of superficial twists (a pleasing one involving Myers’ “new Loomis”, Dr. Ranbir Sartain).

Jibrail Nantambu’s cameo as Julian, a little boy whom one of the characters babysits, is a surprising stand out, the pint-sized actor giving the film its funniest moments which satisfying cut through its limited tension. Yet, what this character further underlines is the fact 2018’s Halloween is made by a team best known for comedy. It’s where they’re obviously at home. The likes of John Landis, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson have proven how comedy and horror can work harmoniously. Green and co have shown how detrimental it can be when the scares simply aren’t there.

Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween 2018

And perhaps that’s Halloween’s biggest flaw. It isn’t scary. Green’s limitations as a horror director are too often glaring. The potential of a scene involving a horny teenager, Myers and a motion-triggered security light going on and off, could have been great. In the Your Highness director’s hands, it’s instantly forgettable. Pleasingly, Myers isn’t the cartoon caricature he became in the later sequels but neither is he a particularly unnerving proposition. His complete lack of motivation is like an amnesiac great white shark snapping blindly at bluehead wrasse unknowing whether it’s hungry, bored or both. It was enigmatically unsettling in Carpenter’s original; an incomprehensible lunacy borne of a creeping appetite for blood (and wonderfully exhibited in the original film by the camera holding on Myers marvelling at the dead body he’s just impaled to a door).

Here, that same sense of ambiguity to Myers’ actions lacks the profound malignancy Carpenter discovered so effectively. It’s particularly striking – and disappointing – because of its counterpoint: an angry, prepared, well-armed former victim in Laurie Strode Mark II. The power balance might well have shifted completely. It saps the suspense Green tries to build; Myers is less an empty shell of pure evil and more like an out of control angle grinder mangling unlucky victims who randomly happen across its flashing blade. Did I just liken Green’s Michael Myers to a malevolent power tool? Yes, I did.

Halloween’s reincarnation had promise. Starting out with investigative journalists, a wet-behind-the-ears pair trying to antagonise the main players for a juicy expose, is an interesting premise. But it’s discarded quickly. A bit like “the boyfriend” after he’s served his purpose (by putting Laurie’s granddaughter’s mobile phone out of commission). Plaudits, for example, must also go to developing Laurie Strode into an interesting progression of that fragile high school nerd of 1978. The psychological damage of her night surviving the knife-slashing killer has left her in a sort of hermit state, alienated from her daughter, and holed up in a fenced-in compound with metal bars across doors instead of simple bolts. She’s now like one of those kooky, New World Order survivalists, it seems.

Some of the homages to the original will strike a chord with fans, and Myers’ long-time doctor (played by Haluk Bilginer) provides a few of the film’s better moments which are otherwise monopolised by the evergreen Jamie Lee Curtis. Otherwise, this Halloween is an unfortunate mishmash of ideas that is critically short of hair-raising thrill.

halloween 2018, film review, two stars

Written by Dan Stephens

Halloween - 2018 - David Gordon GreenDirected by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle
Released: 2018 / Genre: Horror
Country: USA / IMDB
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Halloween is currently in UK cinemas.

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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