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In making the decision to carve out a new Halloween timeline – in what’s arguably become the most messily handled franchise in film history – a rather bold reason is required. Pre-publicity assured us that this was the case with Undertow and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride insisting their follow-up to the 1978 original would justify ignoring the many sequels that have come since. Similarly bold reinventions have paid off handsomely before, like when Ryan Coogler pitched Sylvester Stallone with a fresh way into the Rocky saga and Creed was the niftily conceived, remarkably entertaining result. But a niggling question hangs over the entirety of Halloween H40: why?
It would be kind to call Halloween’s nine sequels and reboots patchy, truer to refer to them as mostly heinous, but there’s a fanbase regardless, even for the series’ lowest points. The inarguable highlight was 1998’s Halloween H20, a thrilling return for Jamie Lee Curtis to the role of Laurie Strode in a pacey post-Scream sequel that took a rare examination of the PTSD that would afflict the “final girl” when she becomes a woman. In Green and McBride’s new universe, another 20 years on, that chapter has been cast aside and a similar attempt at considering the after-effects of surviving a run-in with a masked killer has replaced it.
But the plot begins with a British podcast duo, keen to explore the story of Michael Myers, the real-life boogeyman who killed five people in Haddonfield, Illinois 40 years prior. They encounter him at a high-security facility and the film decides to show us more of Myers than we’re used to seeing. He’s unmasked and while we don’t see his full face, we see enough for it to feel like a departure, for superfans at least. Soon though, in a rather poorly handled set of events, Myers has escaped and makes his way to the one that got away.
Returning to the role that launched her, Curtis plays Strode as something close to a doomsdayer, whose life since that fateful night has been devoted to preparation. She’s a survivalist who’s armed, trained, ready for his return and it’s meant that the rest of her life has inevitably suffered as a result with broken marriages and a fractured relationship with her daughter, played by Judy Greer, and granddaughter, relative newcomer Andi Matichak. Although given the runtime (a pace-killing 109 minutes), there’s precious little depth afforded to her character. Admittedly, Strode was hardly a well-drawn figure in John Carpenter’s original but there’s so much potential here to explore the psychological damage of early trauma that’s tossed aside for a one-note action hero.
Halloween struggles most with justifying its existence. Given that Rob Zombie’s take on the franchise (his moderately successful remake and its disastrous sequel) had dissolved back in 2009 and given that Strode had been killed off in the regrettable Halloween: Resurrection back in 2002, there was no great need to bring back Myers yet again. This lack of commercial pressure could have led to a more radical new route but despite the aforementioned sequel amnesia, Green and McBride haven’t brought enough to the table to explain why we’re here again.
There are some effectively nasty kills (this is no PG-13 reboot) and Green’s visual eye often results in some impressive imagery but both the look of the film and the script feel confused. Green can’t seem to decide whether he wants it to be gritty and lo-fi or slick and cinematic and so ends up awkwardly between the two, anything resembling an atmosphere sorely missing. Similarly, much of the clunky dialogue is clearly the result of McBride’s comedic background but the comedy is pitched somewhere between self-referential snark and broad silliness, never truly finding its groove.
Where the film does come alive is in the final scenes, as three generations of Strode women turn the tables on Myers and there are some smart reversals along with a number of fan-serving Easter eggs. But it’s too little too late and doesn’t provide enough of a catharsis for Curtis’ long-suffering heroine. She’s solid but it’s not quite the comeback one would have hoped for, her portrayal in the shorter, sharper Halloween H20 filled with more nuance and depth.
For many, the thrill of seeing Michael Myers stalk the streets of Haddonfield will be enough to forget the many flaws. But in forgetting what came before, Green and McBride have positioned Halloween 2018 as somehow better, bolder and more necessary than those sequels and the scariest thing about it is that it really isn’t.
Source: The Guardian
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