What Is Halloween?
Michael Myers is back. The masked killer who murdered his sister — then 15 years later, a group of teens — has been in prison for 40 years. But he escapes the night before Halloween and makes his way back to Haddonfield, where he has plans for Laurie Strode, the girl that got away.
Changing the Narrative
The new Halloween takes an unusual approach to the sequel business, picking up the many films that followed John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, and throwing them out the upstairs window and onto the grass below. The new chapter, a direct sequel to the original, connects with heroine Laurie Strode precisely 40 years after Michael Myers massacred her friends during what’s now called “The Babysitter Murders.”
And it’s a very different Laurie we meet today. One who has been bruised, battered, and broken by that tragedy. Retreating into herself, Laurie has spent four decades waiting for the killer to come home, imprisoning herself in a heavily secured compound, building up an arsenal, alienating two husbands, and having her daughter removed from her care. She calls herself a “basket case,” but Laurie knows what’s coming, and she’s determined to be ready — and will do whatever it takes to protect her family.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t spend nearly enough time on her story. The first half instead focuses on a pair of English podcasters recording a Serial-style podcast about the events of that fateful Halloween night. The pair visits the now 60-something Michael in prison to talk to him, and provoke him, in a scene that looks amazing — Myers chained up in a courtyard, on what looks like a giant red chess set, and surrounded by equally sick individuals — but sadly plays a little silly.
So when we should be learning about Laurie’s PTSD, and the way in which her pain and grief has affected both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Mattichak), we’re instead listening to the podcasters’ unnecessary exposition — and watching them enable Michael to reclaim his mask and return home in a contrived and clumsy fashion.
The first half of the film is all over the place, checking in on Laurie but also introducing doctors, police officers, horny teenagers, and members of the Strode clan. The film gives them little time to establish themselves and make their mark on the audience before the killing begins.
And begin it does. The second half of the flick follows Michael on a gruesome killing spree as he journeys back to Haddonfield, and towards Laurie and her girls. But director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley take an unusual approach to those kills, choosing to show the aftermath of much of his mayhem rather than the acts themselves. Their finest moment is a riveting tracking shot that follows Myers in and out of houses as he delivers brutal death, sometimes offscreen.
The filmmakers have filled the film with Easter eggs, with new Halloween echoing and shadowing the original, frequently poking fun at it, and using the audience’s knowledge of that celluloid history to great effect. It’s a very funny flick, with Green and McBride putting their comedy skills to good use, and the jokes rarely feel out of place. Though the way in which Allyson loses her phone is pretty painful. And not in a good way.
Unfortunately, the movie builds and builds towards that final face-off between good and evil, but fails to stick the landing. The sight of three generations of Strodes doing battle with ‘The Shape’ oftentimes feels silly and underwhelming when it should have us on our feet.
Is Halloween Good?
When dealing with Laurie, Halloween is terrific. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a career-best performance as a woman who has been driven mad by both the events of October 31st, and the fact that no one will believe what she knows to be true: that Michael Myers will return.
Her interactions with her daughter and granddaughter, the way in which she has passed on her paranoia and neuroses, and the exploration of that generational trauma, is genuinely affecting.
The narrative also features dopey teens, dumb journalists, and eccentric doctors, however. These characters annoy, frustrate, and slow proceedings down so that the film feels like every one of its 109 minutes. The new Halloween is a solid sequel, but one that lacks both the simplicity and efficiency of its predecessor.
Halloween was reviewed at Fantastic Fest and hits screens October 19.