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Halloween (2018)

*1/2

by Matt Anderson

published October 17, 2018

A novel idea quickly devolves into the frustratingly familiar.

Boogeyman

The setup is intriguing.

As the action begins, a pair of investigative journalists visit Michael Myers in hopes of securing the first-ever interview with the notorious murderer for their podcast. They visit him at a grim facility that's a prison for the insane.

The fenced in and secured courtyard is a checkerboard of red and white tiles. There's also a yellow line that surrounds a space around Michael. The journalists are forbidden from crossing that line.

Michael stands with his back to the journalists. For some reason, they never bother to walk around to the other side of his squared perimeter to look him in the face. But that's in keeping with the mystique; Michael's human face is never revealed. It's always blurred or in the far background. Or covered by that creepy William Shatner mask.

And that mask is pulled out of a bag carried by one of the journalists. The other inmates in the courtyard go wild. Their primal nature comes to the fore. But Michael stands unresponsive.

It's a cool start. No doubt about it.

And it continues as the journalists attempt to coax Laurie Strode into talking about the nightmare of 40 years ago. Indeed, Michael's been imprisoned for all of those 40 years. This Halloween is a direct sequel to the 1978 original; it's as if all those other sequels and remakes never happened.

The journalists contend Laurie should confront Michael face-to-face and release herself from her pain and her own self-imposed imprisonment of paranoia. Twice-divorced and struggling to maintain a relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, Laurie needs a release. At the same time, following on the failed efforts of dozens of psychologists, the world might be able to learn something new from Michael Myers.

That's a cool idea. That's an intriguing setup.

WWSPD?

Could it be this Halloween follows through and carves out a whole new path for the horror genre?

No. Hardly.

After that terrific setup, Michael's transferred to a low-rent facility and, en route, there's a bus crash. He escapes. Mayhem follows.

It's. All. Been. Done. Before.

The bulk of Halloween is a tedious retread of all those silly mad slasher tropes. Stupid horny teenagers doing stupid things. Stupid reporters doing stupid things. Stupid policemen doing stupid things.

Why take off in the police car? Instead, go run through the dark forest without a flashlight!

Why escape the gas station restroom? Instead, duke it out with Michael and a crowbar!

From a certain point of view, Halloween is smart enough to know all of this is silly. The screenplay's by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley and David Gordon Green. They've collaborated before. On Your Highness, a stoner comedy set in the Middle Ages.

And they know how to push the buttons of fans who get into this sort of material.

For example, there's Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer, Rosewater), a student of the original's Dr. Loomis. It's a laugher when he admonishes the police, "He (Michael) is the property of the State! He must not be harmed!"

Grandma's Got Guns

This retread has its entertainment value. There's the return of John Carpenter's classic creepy score. And there's the return of Jamie Lee Curtis (the original scream queen) as Laurie.

She's a grandma with guns — both of the arsenal variety and of the toned arms type. Her character has loads of possibilities to explore, but the material here goes for a low baseline. It's a wasted opportunity on so many levels and it's all resolved in a conclusion that lacks punch.

Rightfully, there's a brief wisp of social commentary as granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, Evol) and her high school friends discuss the relative insignificance of Michael Myers' original terror spree in 1978. After all, he only killed five people. With a knife.

As it happens, following that bus crash Michael wastes no time in doubling that tally.

It's another opportunity lost. That notion about how societal norms — and the acceptance of violence — have changed over the decades is quickly buried before it's fully explored. So much more could've — and should've — been done with this unique opportunity to bring Carpenter and Curtis back into the franchise.

It's been 40 years. And yet nothing's changed in the world of mad slasher movies. It's all cheap scares, the kind intended less to frighten and more to elicit screams — at the onscreen characters for being so remarkably stupid.