In 1978, the movie Halloween was released. Inspired by Hitchcock films such as Psycho, it told the story of a crazed killer on the loose stalking innocent victims on Halloween night. It became the single most successful independent film of all time, spawning a whole industry of imitators, merchandising, sequels, and remakes. Now, four decades after the original, the new Halloween (2018) picks up exactly forty years after the first movie, ignoring all sequels that came in between.
In this film, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor of Michael Myers’ killing spree in the original movie, has become a paranoid old woman, unable to let go of her trauma and constantly on the lookout for the day Michael gets free and comes after her again. She lost custody of her daughter, who she had trained to use weapons and hide in secret passageways, and has been kept away from her granddaughter for fear she will infect her with her craziness.
As in the original, maniac Michael Myers gets free from the insane asylum, forty years to the day from his previous rampage, and goes about indiscriminately killing people on Halloween night on his way to track down Laurie, the final survivor of his last killing spree. Only this time, instead of one woman, Michael finds himself in a showdown facing three generations of Strode women determined to confront his evil and to fight back.
In the 2003 documentary Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, director John Carpenter says of his original 1978 movie that the emphasis was on creating a story that didn’t tell the audience too much. The killer, Michael Myers, wore a mask that was somewhat shapeless and spent much of his time hiding in shadows. The film never spells out whether Michael is simply a deranged killer or a supernatural being. The ending is intentionally vague, leaving a suggestion that he is out there and could be anywhere. Carpenter’s view is that Halloween is a fully contained movie and sequels could only detract because the original story is all about what is not seen and the terror of the unknown. The more Michael’s story is spelled out, the less power it holds.
I wholeheartedly agree with Carpenter’s sentiments. While he did, nonetheless, write the screenplay for Halloween II (1981) and did compose the score for Halloween (2018), I think his instinct about Halloween (1978) being a fully contained film is correct. The 2018 movie takes everything that worked in the 1978 classic and does the opposite. Whereas the original showed very little blood and slowly built suspense, this film is an in your face gorefest that jumps right into violent kills as soon as Michael gets free. Whereas the original took its time to create scenes of claustrophobia and tension, this cuts right to the kill with little of the chase. Whereas the original was all about an unknown sinister force that could be lurking anywhere waiting to strike, this film was all about the armed and ready survivor waiting to strike back.
In short, this film takes a classic of atmosphere and suspense and turns it into your run of the mill, typical slasher movie. In some ways it’s more of a violent action movie than a real horror film that’s going to leave anyone wanting to sleep with his or her lights on. In a way it’s closer to being the latest entry in The Terminator franchise than it is a true successor the John Carpenter’s Halloween. Its story of female empowerment and fighting back certainly has contemporary resonance, but as an extension of Carpenter’s vision it is sorely lacking.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Master of horror John Carpenter executive produces and serves as creative consultant on this film, joining forces with cinema’s current leading producer of horror, Jason Blum (Get Out, Split, The Purge, Paranormal Activity). Inspired by Carpenter’s classic, filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride crafted a story that carves a new path from the events in the landmark 1978 film, and Green also directs.
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle
DIRECTED BY: David Gordon Green
WRITTEN BY: Jeff Fradley & Danny McBride & David Gordon Green
BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY: John Carpenter and Debra Hill