I was extremely affected by the excitement around Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green’s new take on the Halloween franchise. After the first try at Laurie Strode’s revenge against her monstrous brother Michael Myers in H2O was ruined by the need for the franchise to keep going, McBride and Green seemed to promise the movie that both Laurie and we deserved – even after the mess of Rob Zombie’s take on the franchise. Sadly, Halloween is not that movie.
After a promising trailer, which showed some genuine artistry that the series has sorely lacked since the John Carpenter’s classic, it turns out that the 2018 version of Halloween is at war with itself. There are two movies fighting for our attention here. The first, and by far the most compelling, is the revenge of Laurie Strode: this version of Halloween cuts away the dead weight of all but the first movie, erasing the familial connection between Laurie and Michael in a move that doesn’t add much to or take away from the movie as a whole.
Anchored from a frayed yet powerful performance from Jamie Lee Curtis, Laurie has spent the last four decades years preparing for Michael’s inevitable return (he was recaptured off-screen and sent back to the mental hospital he escaped from in the first movie, where he has resided in a state of apparent catatonia since). Laurie has become a warrior in their time apart, a crack shot with a variety of guns, and has turned her whole house into a combination of fortress and trap for Michael. Her actions have taken a toll on her relationship with her daughter, played by a grossly underserved expositionary Judy Greer, and her granddaughter, both of whom keep telling her to get over it already in great gluts of lopsided character work.
This part of the movie is great, but then Halloween takes a break from things like motivation, characterization, and proper drama to become a clone of the first movie. That’s right – it’s not a Halloween movie unless Michael struts about a suburban neighbourhood killing people at will. Green is a good director, but he never gets to put his own stylistic stamp on proceedings because of his reverence of Carpenter’s voyeuristic camera moves and slavish dedication to the original. The fact is that Michael’s rampage isn’t scary at all – it just feels like Green and McBride are ticking off motifs from the first movie in a Solo-like fashion. While this is definitely a subjective opinion, I didn’t give a shit about the teenage characters who make up the body count for this part of the story – I just wanted to get back to Laurie’s revenge, but she is a step behind for most of the movie, meaning that we have to wait a silly amount of time until the satisfying climax. And that time isn’t even spent well, as we while away a good hour of the movie on poorly-drawn teens wrapped up in barely plot-relevant action.
Yet even in the Laurie storyline there is a huge mistake. The first act of the movie’s job is to set Laurie up as someone who could take on Michael, a woman obsessed with beating the bogeyman. She even follows the bus that is taking Michael to a new facility. Of course, Michael escapes but instead of running into Laurie who was preparing for this eventuality, she goes and makes a scene in front of her estranged family instead leaving the opportunity open for Michael to escape and come back to Haddonfield. It doesn’t make any sense that this would happen, given the Laurie set up by the first act of this movie, and that is at the heart of why this Halloween movie is nothing more than another diminished return to the franchise. Laurie could have been a powerful look at abuse and trauma, but instead turned into a functional backseat to what should have been her own story.
There is a great movie in here, one about an abuse victim conquering her abuser, but it gets lost in the noise of yet more teens we don’t care about getting murdered for reasons that are never given.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image courtesy of Spin)