It’s the horror sequel we’ve been waiting for – but was it worth the wait? Halloween fan Christian Guiltenane offers his verdict….
To say I was beside myself with glee that a new Halloween movie was being made, is an understatement. When I was kid I couldn’t get enough of Michael Myers stabbing and slashing pretty teens across Haddonfield. The idea of a tall brooding silent ghoul stomping around zombie-like and killing people for no reason, was one of the most terrifying things I could ever imagine. Not just because something like that could happen for real, but also the image of Michael lurking in the shadows in the first film was so haunting that it was – and still is – pretty hard to shake off.
The first John Carpenter-directed movie was an amazing exercise in suspense and tension as we watched Michael Myers return to Haddonfield after years of incarceration for killing his teenage sister. Jamie Lee Curtis was Laurie Strode, the innocent young girl whose life was turned upside down as the crazed killer savaged her friends and tried to butcher her too. The follow up (co-written by Carpenter) wasn’t bad either, carrying on directly from the cliff-hanger ending of the first one. However, this time round, it lacked the charm and creepiness of its predecessor and introduced the kind of lame notion that Michael and Laurie were siblings! Humph!.
The third instalment unwisely gave Myers a rest, instead focusing on a lunatic toymaker who wants to kill kids with Halloween masks. But the next sequel – The Return of Michael Myers – brought the series back to life and saw Michael break out of an asylum to stalk his niece Jamie (Laurie’s daughter), culminating in an ending that is reminiscent and as shocking as the original.
Sadly, the fifth and sixth instalments were abysmal, as they attempted to suggest that Michael’s murderous tendencies were because of some nonsense cult, while H20, a reboot that came after the success of Scream, was a hoot but a little too glossy and lacking in depth to tickle my fancy. The much-maligned Halloween Resurrection actually took a funny and clever approach to the series and killed off Laurie Stroude in a sensational way in act one. Sadly, the critics ripped it apart and it bombed at the box office.
A few years later hairy gorewhore Rob Zombie rebooted the series and retold the original film in a much more brutal and scary way, focusing in act one on young Myers and how he descended into becoming a bloodthirsty monster. Also, in this version Michael looks FUCKING INSANE, played by 6ft 8 wrestler Tyler Mane, who gives the role a much more menacing and terrifying presence. Zombie’s unnecessary sequel was kind of good too, if you try to ignore the scenes featuring Michael’s ghostly mum, but on the whole the brutal kills, gritty energy and Michael looking scary as fuck make this a great entry in the series.
Which brings us to Halloween 2018. As we know, the filmmakers at Blumhouse said they wanted to forget about all the other films in the series and wanted this to be seen as the direct sequel to Carpenter’s first flick. They also explained that they were ditching all the nonsense about Michael being Laurie’s brother, so that we saw him once again and as a motivation-less bloodthirsty killing machine. Meanwhile Jamie Lee Curtis had said that she was playing Laurie as woman suffering from PTSD following the traumatic events of Halloween 1978. So what can we expect from this eagerly anticipated new instalment?
Let’s find out – here we present the best and worst things about the new Halloween.
- The new film opens with two British podcasters visiting Michael at Smiths Grove asylum and it is during this first scene that alarm bells ring. Although we never see his face, we are shown parts of Michael that I didn’t want to see. No, not little Mikey! As far as I am concerned, Michael is at his most terrifying when he is all Shatner-ed up in his mask. I didn’t want to see that he is a 61 year old follicly-challenged psycho. But in various shots we see the back of his head, his wispy hair which gives too much away of Michael! Also, when the podcasters discuss Michael’s incarceration with his doctor he is suddenly humanised and we no longer think of him as the mad bad mindless slash and stalker we have grown to love over the years.
- Laurie Strode was the innocent young virgin dreaming of a date with Ben Tramer in the first film but in 2018, she’s totally pissed and cannot get over what Michael did to her 40 years ago. So in this flick she becomes the Charles Bronson vigilante final girl who is ready to finish off the man who ruined her life. She can shoot guns, has a panic room, is good with gadgets and never smiles, which doesn’t make for too sympathetic a character. Although we have a series of bland Napoleon Dynamite-esque emo kids to watch die later in the film, the emphasis on the plot seems to be more about Laurie’s revenge more than the idea of an insane Michael causing havoc on his favourite holiday.
- The volatile relationship between Laurie and daughter feels too grounded in realism. All the talk about Karen being taken away by social services as a kid makes this feel more like a gritty Mike Leigh film than a ‘how-many-people-will-Michael-kill’ slasher-athon. Sure, we want rounded characters but we don’t want too much kitchen sink drama in a Halloween movie.
- The younger characters are initially set up as the ones we expect to make it through to the end, but they are so thinly written and underused that you kind of don’t care about any of them. Even Alison, Laurie’s granddaughter, is pretty bland and not endearing enough for us to care whether she lives or dies.
- After Alison and her boyfriend Cameron have a fight, Alison is left to roam the streets aimlessly, while her cheating beau doesn’t get a great send off. In fact, he just disappears from the storyline altogether. Actor Dylan Arnold must have been gutted not to make the Halloween kill count.
- In the first film, we never really saw too much off Michael, as he lurked in the shadows. But for a lot of the second act, we join him on a walking tour of Haddonfield, as he finds his bearings. Sadly, it’s not a particularly exciting journey. Even when he kills a couple of townsfolk randoms, it’s shot in a pedestrian way and lacks excitement or emotional bite because they are folks we haven’t really met before. What’s worse is that we linger way too long on Michael’s mask. In the original film and in Rob Zombie’s entry, we had a lot of scenes where Michael was lurking eerily in the background, which made him more of an ominous shape. This time round we see his masked face way too much and we just see him as a man in mask.
- With Dr Loomis dead and buried, we have a new doctor in the house – Dr Sartain who has been studying Michael for forty years. Sadly, this character is so ridiculous and hammy that it jars spectacularly with the tone of the rest of the film. Not only does he look a bit like Einstein he’s also saddled with a jokey European accent that renders him totally unbelievable. Later in the film, in a scene in which it is suggested that his relationship with Michael is slightly skewed, it feels like a kooky slightly campy twist that is totally out of line with the rest of the dour vigilante story.
- The relatively short middlessection sees Michael go on the rampage in the town, most notably the brilliant scene in which Vicky is babysitting wise-ass Julian. However, the final act collapses beneath its dull revenge plot. Set at Laurie’s Home Alone-style booby-trapped house, Laurie and her daughter arm themselves with an arsenal of guns and await Michael’s arrival. When he does show up, having offed two stupid policemen off-camera in a spectacular fashion, we then proceed to watch Laurie wander through a dark house trying to find Michael. It’s a long, uneventful scene and lacks really tension because now Laurie is a trained revenger.
- However, the final scene is the one that disappoints most. With the Strode family finally in control, they booby trap – yes BOOBY TRAP – Michael into the basement, where all these ludicrous contraptions that Laurie has set up around the room spring into action and start roasting him. Yeah, we’ve seen him set on fire before in Halloween 2, but it feels like a big dull cop out that Laurie didn’t get to do what Tommy Jarvis did in Friday 13th Part 4 and thwack the motherfucker to death in a flurry of machete hits. A dull, unsatisfying ending from a film that promised so much.
- The Halloween films have always attracted audiences because we like to watch Michael Myers slice his way through sexy young things. But this film is unbalanced and sets Laurie up as the main protagonist. It feels as if its less about getting ghoulish thrills from a knife wielding maniac and more to do with Laurie righting wrongs of the past, which ultimately makes it less of a horror hoot than it could have been.
But it wasn’t all bad….
- The music is just fantastic. Retweaked by John Carpenter and his son, it is clearly the film series’ most familiar and reliable characters and is just as ominous and unsettling as ever. A classic score.
- Having Jamie Lee Curtis back in the cast is a great touch, it’s a shame Laurie had to be a cold, vengeful misery in a bad wiry grey wig. It would have been nice to have seen a bit of light and shade. In the end all we had was a dour old biddy with a penchant for guns, gadgets and roasting Myers’ ass!
- The kills are pretty cool. The lead up to the murders of the British podcasters was pretty tense stuff, though not as graphically brutal as expected or hoped. However the most brutal deaths appear off camera so we merely see the aftermath of Michael’s handiwork – the guy in the garage’s injuries look gross, as does the cop’s whose face is hollowed out. The most gruesome death is that of Doctor Sartain, whose icky head crush is a gory sight to be hold.
- Best scene has to be the one where Vicky is babysitting sassy Julian. It’s tense, scary, funny and satisfyingly cliched.
- While most of the characters are pretty one note and flat, Julian and Vicky are a hoot and steal their handful of scenes. Vicky is gorgeous and sassy while Julian is a wiseass who gives as good as he gets. And they’re both very likeable which makes them very easy to feel for. Sadly, they’re totally underused in the film and Julian – by far the best character in the film – is just written out in such a cruelly dismissive way.
The movie has already made millions at the box off and reviews have been favourable so will no doubt lead to a sequel. But for a Halloween connoisseur like myself, this was – oddly – one of the least satisfying sequels. It was not only very clinical and a little pedestrian, it also felt a little incohesive, like it was made up of three different films stitched together. Not the worst in the series but certainly not the best. Shame. Watch the trailer and you’ll pretty much have seen the whole flick.