Take Another Stab At It
There’s certainly something admirable about the Halloween franchise’s ability to take such a simple concept, and turn it into a forty year franchise, spanning nearly a dozen theatrical installments and a number of reboots. This latest, simply titled Halloween, presents itself as the definitive follow up to the original, disregarding all other installments that came before it. While the ultimate confrontation between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers is a solidly satisfying bit of fan service, it’s occasionally marred by an inconsistent tone and an unfocused narrative.
He Was the Boogeyman
While the original Halloween certainly made waves during its premiere in 1978, the violence on display was surprisingly tame in comparison to most modern horror. Thankfully, it still worked thanks to its incredibly bare-bones approach and excellent atmosphere. The new Halloween is certainly a step up in the gore department, yet typically not to a point of feeling gratuitous or tasteless. The kills are often brutal, but Myers has no need to linger on them and be needlessly sadistic; he simply does what he does and moves on to his next victim. In previous installments, Myers was typically hard to keep track of, often disappearing in between shots and showing up in places he shouldn’t be. This isn’t as prevalent here, with the audience generally having a solid grasp of his location at all times. This certainly deflates the sense of tension, yet still manages to bring out the element of surprise in a few key moments.
More Than a Rehash
The new Halloween features a number of nods to the original, though not nearly as many as one might expect in this sort of reboot. On top of that, most of the callbacks have some kind of clever twist to them and are infrequent enough to qualify as a nice dose of fan service and not a distraction from the narrative in place. While it is a direct follow up to the first film, audiences who haven’t seen the 1978 original will still be perfectly able to follow what’s happening. This is a new approach to the long-running franchise but is often marred down in its attempts to do too many things at once. In one scene, we witness the emotional impact that a traumatized Laurie Strode has had on her family, and in another, we have several minutes of (admittedly funny) comedic banter between a babysitter and the child she’s watching. These scenes both work perfectly fine on their own, but when placed so close together they make it confusing as to what this new film is trying to accomplish. Additionally, a number of subplots such as a relationship drama between Strode’s granddaughter and her new boyfriend, feel out of place and don’t seem to add much of anything to the story.
One of the more noted aspects of the original Halloween is its excellent atmosphere–despite it actually being filmed in California, it perfectly captures the chilly midwest look and feel of the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois. This latest installment does a good job at building an effective sense of atmosphere, largely through the fantastic score by John Carpenter, who once again provided the soundtrack as he did for the original. This score does a great job at elevating a number of scenes that may have otherwise felt incomplete. Additionally, Jamie Lee Curtis gives a fantastic performance in the role that started her career. She adds a layer of emotion and depth to Strode, truly bringing her to life in ways we haven’t seen before. After her encounter with Michael 40 years ago, her paranoia and trauma led her to spend her life becoming prepared – stockpiling her house with guns, traps, and safe rooms. The same paranoia that drives her family away ultimately ends up being the one thing giving her a fighting chance at finally putting an end to the evil of Michael Myers. This aspect is where Halloween truly shines–it’s just a shame it gets caught up trying to do more, instead of focusing its efforts on its best ideas.
Halloween is not a bad movie. Simply on the basis of being okay, it rises above many past installments in a long-running franchise consistently defined by universally panned installments. The vision that director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride had for another series retcon is admirable, even if it is weighed down by too many subplots and comedic scenes that feel more like studio additions than part of a singular vision. There are scenes where it all comes together beautifully, such as the final confrontation between Laurie and Michael. There’s a genuine sense of effective tension, as well as visual insight into how truly paranoid and prepared Laurie had become in the past forty years, all paying off with explosive results. Halloween manages to carry its hour-and-forty-five-minute runtime without ever feeling boring, but ultimately it doesn’t quite earn the status of the definitive follow up to the classic that defined its genre. It’s serviceable for those simply looking to watch a scary movie around Halloween, but fans of the franchise hoping for a truly unique and satisfying take on the long-running saga may be left yearning for something more.
Image retrieved from inverse.com.