*. I’ve written before about how the Halloween movies constitute perhaps the most chaotic horror franchise ever. You can’t combine more than a couple of these films together into any kind of a coherent Michael Myers story. This movie, the third to be simply titled Halloween (following up John Carpenter’s 1978 original and Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake), doesn’t change this. Technically it’s a sequel to the original, taking place forty years later. But it rejects the further plot developments offered in previous sequels, including all the business about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) being Michael’s sister, and makes a couple of other changes to the back story. So really it’s a bit of a standalone.
*. Given how long-running a franchise it’s been this may have been necessary. For movies like this there are two audiences, the hardcore fans and the newbies, and I think the former is the most important. The really hardcore fans, however, are, like Laurie and Michael, getting on in years. Even Michael’s iconic mask is now lined with leathery creases. Hence both the need to stay the same (all the old, familiar faces) and reboot.
*. Judging from the film’s initial reception I think it satisfied both camps. Primarily it works as homage: There are lots of little nods to the earlier films and Michael remains the reliably non-verbal, superhuman Shape. My own response was less enthusiastic though.
*. To start with what I liked. Jamie Lee Curtis is re-energized playing Laurie as a survivalist who has been waiting to kill Michael for forty years. There’s a generational angle that isn’t developed enough but which had promise. The idea of Laurie trying to protect her family in the panic room in the basement plays on the bunker-horror theme that was so prevalent in the 2010s. And finally some of the kills are surprisingly modest but effective.
*. Now on to all I didn’t like, which is a slightly longer list.
*. It was apparently a much longer film in its rough cut and I felt like a few of the characters had been entirely abandoned on the editing room floor. What happened to Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron? He seemed like he was being set up for a messy end. Why bother with the character of Sheriff Barker? He has no role to play at all.
*. According to producer Jason Blum, he liked the idea of David Gordon Green directing because “if you’re a great director you can make a great horror movie even if you’ve never made a horror movie before.” True in theory, but I didn’t have any sense here that Green was comfortable working in the genre. There really aren’t any scary or suspenseful scenes, despite the potential being there. A good example comes when the babysitter finds Michael hiding in the closet. The timing of this entire sequence is off so it doesn’t even work as a jump scare. We know he’s in the closet, which should come as a surprise. Or take the gas station episode. What was scary about any of that?
*. I thought the script was mostly trash. A new psychiatrist character is introduced, a successor to Dr. Loomis, and he isn’t credible for a moment. His motivation is a joke. Then the rest of the story is advanced through the usual idiot-plot behaviour and coincidence. The panic room was actually a trap? Then Laurie’s plan all along was to get Michael to go down there? How does that make sense?
*. When the film isn’t paying tribute to its predecessors it’s raiding horror clichés. Rooms full of mannequins. Hiding in a bathroom stall. A hand grabbing an ankle on the basement stairs. Some commentators found the plot a new wrinkle on the final girl theme (Josephine Livingstone, writing in The New Republic, thought Laurie a Trump voter), but I thought the ending was standard fare. We’ve had kick-ass heroines enough by now not to see them as making any kind of #MeToo statement.
*. In short, once it gets going this Halloween settles down into a predictable routine, not far removed from the other films in the series. In its favour, it may be the second-best Halloween movie yet (there will, of course, be more). On the other hand, that’s not saying much.