Movie Review: Halloween

The latest installment of Halloween is directed by David Gordon Green. As an homage to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic slasher flick, there’s a title sequence set to his original theme music. A smashed jack-o-lantern slowly creeps back into its original form. Sadly, this attempt at a reboot fails to breathe life back into the series.

John Carpenter first introduced slasher fans to Michael Myers forty years ago. Since then, the white-masked stalker—also referred to by die-hard fans as The Shape—has been slashing flesh into ribbons over the course of nine other sequels. Some of them, departing from what made the original scary, meandered into the occult. Others were merely gruesome and violent, but not fearsome. Each one struggled to meet the level of critical success as the original.

Green follows in previous directors’ footsteps in failure. The story itself is familiar and unremarkable. Set in the present day, heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the sole survivor of the Shape’s 1978 Halloween night killing spree in Haddonfield, Illinois. Since then, Laurie has become a grandmother: she has an adult daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and a teenaged granddaughter named Allyson (Andi Matichak). For the past forty years, Laurie has been obsessed with what she believes to be the inevitable return of Michael Myers. In preparation, she has outfitted her home with all manner of defenses and accumulated a cache of guns. It’s not long before Laurie’s worst fears come true. News gets out that Michael Myers escaped during a prisoner transport, and she prepares her daughter and granddaughter to survive the violent night that’s sure to ensue.

Unfortunately, the gruesome and violent ends that The Shape exacts on his victims are watered down by questionable tonal decisions. Audiences will laugh more than they scream, perhaps explained by the fact that Green spent most of his career making comedies like Pineapple Express and dramas like Stronger. Inexplicably, there are scenes of humor scattered throughout the film, like the interaction between a potty-mouthed child and his babysitter. Then there’s the scene between two sheriffs who banter about banh mi. Somehow, the director thought that these belonged in a horror flick. There were time and place for comic relief, but viewers may wonder at times if they’ve accidentally switched to one of the Wayans brothers’ spoof flicks.

There are other distracting gaffes as well. The Shape is rarely ever shown as just a figure off in the distance. Instead, Green chooses to place him in plain sight. And when there’s a gripping chase scene between The Shape and Allyson, her blood-curdling screams are wasted because Green doesn’t allow the tension to build.

All of this takes away from the strengths of the movie. The Shape becomes fearsome again thanks to Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney, both of whom share the role. Jamie Lee Curtis, returning as Laurie, is intense and inhabits the film just as vividly as her nemesis. There were a few other glimmers of promise coming from the story too. Green’s experience with drama might’ve come in handy in exploring Dr. Sartain’s (Haluk Bilginer) obsession with the psychology of Michael Myers, or when the investigative journalists push for Laurie to talk to the killer.

Ultimately, Halloween disappoints new and existing audiences alike. It might have succeeded if it had delivered on the classic’s atmosphere, or if it forged forward with its own story. Strange directorial decisions mar the experience instead. Existing devotees might be excited at another chance to see a well-acted Michael Myers, or to hear Carpenter’s score again. The movie certainly won’t attract many new fans though. Those searching for more than a few jump scares can look elsewhere.

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