John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is the kind of movie that aspiring filmmakers wish they could have made. Made on a shoestring budget while still tense and exhilarating the film is a bona fide classic.
Studios have been trying to recapture that lightning for the past 40 years and have failed. This latest installment got people’s hopes up with Carpenter (returning for the first time since “Halloween III” almost 35-five years ago) composing the score and star Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role from the original film.
Director David Gordon Green earned the blessing of all involved going in, so how did the film turn out? Well, it’s ridiculous. Ridiculous, camp and manufactured when the original movie was more grounded and creepier.
Laurie Strode (Curtis) has been reliving the events of Michael Myers’ rampage all of those from decades ago. She has become a recluse, stockpiling weapons and training–waiting for Michael to escape and come back. Her eccentricities have led to her being estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) and ruining her life.
There’s a lot to like here. For one, Curtis is excellent. She commands the screen in every scene she’s in and she’s clearly fired up. Judy Greer’s performance is spotty, but her character is fascinating. She has been trained most of her life for this killer that may never show up, never allowing her to have an actual relationship with her mother. A major component of her life is defined by this tragedy that happened before she was born.
Andi Matichak also gives a strong performance as Strode’s granddaughter, but it can be argued that her character is underwritten. Her acting choices are reminiscent of Curtis’ in the original movie, and that’s fine, but by the time the climax rolls around she has nothing to do.
The callbacks to the first movie were infuriating. It’s possible that someone who has never seen the first “Halloween” would never notice, but for everyone else it’s almost impossible to avoid. The movie never truly chooses to stand on its own two legs.
There’s a scene about midway through, featuring Allyson’s two friends and their encounter with Michael Meyers and it plays out beat for beat like a set-piece from the original 1978 film. The biggest problem with the callbacks is that the 1978 “Halloween” works the best as just one good movie, as opposed to a series.
Michael Myers is more brutal here than he has been in prior sequels, but this is undercut by all of the film’s wacky supporting characters and the inconsistent tone. It’s really easy to predict who dies in this movie, just look for who is written the wackiest or the most over the top.
Is the character primarily comic relief, introduced into the film saying mostly goofy nonsense, like Ray (Toby Huss), Allyson’s father? Dead. Are there two British podcasters who say ridiculous things like “can you point me to the loooo? I’m sorry, I meant bathroom!” Dead. Is there a little boy who says to his dad, “I love hunting with you, dad, but I want to focus on my daaaancing?” He dies, too.
“Halloween” would have likely been improved upon if it had gone full camp. Green clearly seems more comfortable writing those kinds of characters.
The movie is well directed. David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride were clearly deeply invested in making this movie good–which makes the fact that this movie is bad all the more infuriating. It’s not boring, either; it’s likely fun with friends and a big crowd. The original film from 1978 was more than that though, and it’s clear this new iteration wanted to be more than that, too.