By Mark Ziobro
The new horror feature directed by David Gordon Green is an homage to the dead soul of a film that remains – 40 years later – on a list of my top 25 favorite films of all time. Watching the 1978 “Halloween” I was introduced to what would become known as the ‘slasher’ genre, but one done with wit, grace, and class. The 2018 production, regrettably, is none of those things. This effort feels more of a cash grab than even more obvious franchise elongations such as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” or any of the latest iteration of Marvel films. It’s horror but it’s not. It’s “Halloween” but it’s not. It’s Michael Myers in name only.
Fans may love it. In fact many in the audience at the screening I attended did. They cheered the homages, reveled at the nods to the the first entry, and laughed at the film’s many jokes used to break the tension. And herein lies the problem: there was no tension to break to begin with. “Halloween” starts as a tale of a deranged psychopath in late middle age (Myers) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who can’t let the crimes he committed against her and her friends from 40 years pass. “Every night I’ve prayed that he would escape,” she half whispers. “So I can kill him.”
“Halloween” is an obtuse film to analyze because it waltzes in and out of genres so rapidly that it never feels like any one. You’re never afraid – not really. There’s nothing here that answers for an authentic jump scare or tension building scene of suspense. There are kills (the film’s most graphic a head stomp as Michael crushes a man’s skull), but the film doesn’t feel gory.
Of last year’s “Jigsaw,” I said the film “may fulfill the base requirements for fans of the franchise but leaves in its wake an empty shell.” The same can be said here. If you’re looking for Myers to kill a bunch of people on Halloween night, here you go. If you’re looking for something that does for horror what the first film did, you’ll probably, like me, be tempted to walk out halfway through. The slasher film is dead; at least in any way that invokes fear through the tactics of suspense, atmosphere, or set-up. “Halloween” feels like an action movie, a survival movie, a parody movie, and a family drama. So little time is devoted to each of these areas that it doesn’t even really feel like a film at all.
The film stars solid talent that belonged in a better film. Lee Curtis is a joy to watch, seeming every bit the heroine survivalist captured so well by Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” Her daughter is played by a pleasing Judy Greer who has believable angst against a mother that taught her only to be afraid. She has a daughter, played by Andi Matichak, and a husband, played by Toby Huss, who are all competent. We even get an appearance by Will Patton as a town sheriff and Nick Castle, who played Myers inside the costume in the film’s genesis.
There are even times – such as a tense dinner that Strode attends with her estranged family – that borders on excellent. Perhaps if Green had spent time making this the film’s focus, the film would have itself been excellent. Green is a gifted director, helmed two of my favorite Indie features (“All the Real Girls,” “Joe”), but I do not know what he is doing here. “Halloween” feels like a storyboard that got swept up in the wind and put back together by an intern from a comedy studio next door that the film’s producers the proceeded to release without edit.
If it feels like I’m being hard on “Halloween” and purposefully vague, it’s because I am and I need to. The franchise’s fans will certainly not want spoilers, and those looking for a reason to see it will want to know it why it doesn’t work, not what Michael, Laurie, et al do during the film. Incidentally they don’t really do anything of note. There are also a few plot twists that are simply and utterly mind boggling and just cause one to pause at minimum, and at worst through their hands up in the air in befuddlement. “Halloween is an exercise in frustration; it’s opening credits, which mirror the original in feel and graphics, quickly devolves into its a horror/slapstick/confused collage that is, under it all, just irritating to watch.
The bottom line: Fans of the “Halloween” franchise will certainly want to see this film as- Michael Myers is a horror icon that’s haunted our imagination for 40 years. If you’re obsessed with all things “Halloween,” you will likely cheer, and laugh, and applaud the film’s homage crammed stylings. But if you’re a fan of the first film, and what it did for cinema and the horror picture;- this is not the movie for you. You should probably satisfy your curiosity and go. I expect, like me, you will leave wholly disappointed.
Mark Ziobro is a cinema lover and movie critic for The Movie Buff (www.themoviebuff.net).