Skip to main content

Wasn't it her brother who murdered all those babysitters?

Halloween
(2018)

(SPOILERS) Proof that you can keep going back to the same crumbling well and there'll still be a ready and willing (nostalgic) audience to lap up the results, at least for the first weekend. The critics seemed to like this sequel to the first movie, though, which expressly wipes out Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later – which also retconned out of existence everything aside from the first two movies. Mind you, the makers would do that, since both cover similar ground, while this Halloween ends up not being noticeably all that superior.


H20 took a slicker approach, perhaps, riding the crest of the Scream wave (Kevin Williamson wrote the story). It gave Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode some degree of autonomy, in that while she’s also trauma survivor, she’s a functioning one with a successful career (her faked death and change of name deriving from initial plans to count the earlier sequels as canon). In contrast, this Laurie has become estranged from her family and barely functions outside of her survivalist basement and fortress home. You might argue turning her into an embattled Sarah Conner-in-T2 type is a smart move that takes her away from simply being someone who needs to run away from Michael Myers again forty years later. But that only works if the picture carries an abiding intelligence, if it actually wants to treat the idea seriously. Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green's screenplay only does half the time, which rather leaves one with the feeling that they’ve resurrected her for the second time to little real avail or catharsis (such that I wouldn’t be so surprised if she gets offed in the opening act of the next one too, like clockwork).


There are moments were there that more mature movie is trying to get out. The reaction of daughter Karen (the always great Judy Greer) to her telegraphs this in particular. And if Laurie's inability to function at a meal attended by granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and her boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold) is curiously truncated, Curtis manages to get across the necessary emotions. But you can't have it both ways. Laurie can't be both psychologically fractured and a kick-ass who knows how to deal with the bogeyman. And the way the picture treats her, she's whatever they needed Laurie to be at a given moment. 


She storms into her daughter's house waving a gun and warns her and hubby Toby Huss that the bus has crashed… and then leaves without even telling them Michael was on board and that's why they should be worried. The movie wants to be a "smart" slasher but repeatedly reverts to standard-issue, stupid-characters-doing-stupid-things slasher tropes. You could say that's homage, but it quickly becomes irritating and exasperating. As far as I could tell, Karen has never told her husband or daughter that she was trained to shoot guns by her mother and prepare for Michael's second coming, even though they know all about Michael… because the script requires it at that point. There's certainly no logical reason she wouldn't have, if she is as knowledgeable of her mother's psychological condition and the need for emotional development as she suggests; her "Gotcha" when she shoots Michael is satisfying, but doesn't seem motivated given what we've seen previously. 

 
The selection of teens ripe for offing was duly dissected twenty years back in the Screams, so setting up a new selection played straight but without the nuance to support them just tries the patience. There are odd choices here, such as how Cameron, despite being a complete shit, does not get offed for his behaviour; instead his beta-buddy Oscar (Drew Scheid) is dispatched for being a dweeby loser who comes on to Allyson. And there are daft moments like Myers not even bothering with Allyson when she escapes the police car, unless it’s because she's dressed as Clyde and it confuses Michael's gender priorities. Generally, there's nothing in these scenes to distinguish them from any other teen slasher movie, and they tend to drag on.


One might argue Jefferson Hall as an English "true-crime podcaster", is overplaying in the spirit of Donald Pleasance's inimitable ham as he pulls out Myers' mask and tries to get a rise out of him ("Say something!"), but it feels ridiculously hyperbolic (and somehow, that open courtyard was much more impressive/oppressive in the trailer). The same approach resurfaces more successfully later when Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer, having a lot of fun; he knows what movie he's in, it just isn't the same one the Strode family are in) suddenly decides to stab Deputy Sheriff Will Patton (sadly wasted) in the throat to prevent him finishing off Michael, and then puts on the Shatner mask himself. It's a batshit crazy turn of events, and I was almost on board with it… but of course, he's then offed a few minutes later. I’d note too that the movie feels long at 105 minutes; there's a less-is-more with these genre entries, and unless you really have a story to tell, you end up with a whole lot of padding.


The picture is, after all, a great deal of set up just to get us to Laurie's reinforced basement (somehow, that high-walled fence and gate surrounding her house doesn’t seem to be operating later), and during these scenes any semblance of conviction that Laurie knows what she is doing rapidly deserts us, She's been getting herself ready for forty years and then shows she's pretty clueless when it comes down to it; it's almost worthy of a comedy sketch; someone will doubtless do an edit of all the ways she screws up when Michael comes visiting, not to mention that it's debatable he'd have end up there if not for her impressing herself on the scenario (he didn't seem especially into unfinished business with her, particularly since she's no longer his sister). It was apparently her plan to get him into the basement all along… which is why she randomly shoots holes at him through the kitchen floor above? What if Michael had methodically taken up the floorboards? There are so many ways her plan leaks like a sieve, it's farcical. I'm not really sure about burning him either. Maybe flooding the basement with acid? That way you could wait around and be sure nothing was left. 


Green does a decent enough job with the direction, but there's nothing very iconic here. They may as well have brought back Steve Miner. His best moment is repeating Carpenter's vanishing body trick, but from the antagonist's perspective. He also delivers a suitably queasy, "He wouldn’t, would he?" as Michael idles by a crib with a crying babe in it that ranks as the movie's sickest joke (although, AvP: Requiem went there, so it isn't beyond the bounds of the mainstream). Notably, Green gives us a whole lot of bloodiness, including a particularly hilarious/risible head stomping (imagine a pulverised pumpkin – Sartain’s skull must have been paper thin), seeming oblivious to how restrained Carpenter's picture was on that score.


I’ll readily admit I don’t love the 1978 Halloween; I enjoy Pleasance lurking around in the bushes scaring people, and it does what it does effectively enough, a relentless, minimalist affair that succeeds largely on the basis of that Panaglide camerawork and Carpenter's insistent score. This is just too choppy to really flow or engage, however. And the Shape in that movie is a force; here, despite the intent to renege on Rob Zombie's white trash iteration, there's too much flirtation with showing him as an old guy. We may not see him directly, but there are far too many shots of his face as a reminder he is just a human (and is now the kind of monster who extracts teeth and then taunts his next victim with them? I suppose he's known for pulling the odd elaborate sheet trick).


I found myself continually wishing Halloween would make a detour into something more interesting, even if it was just giving us a flashback to how exactly Michael broke out of the bus, and that was down to Sartain (I’ve seen it suggested Laurie might have caused the crash, which would have been a great twist). There were, scarcely conceivably, eighty drafts of the screenplay, and you have to wonder, this is the best you could come up with?


It's nice to see Curtis as an ostensible lead again, but Green et al have failed to justify this retcon; when it's silly, it isn't sufficiently fun with it – they show a clip of Repo Man at one point, which just reminds you how much fun you could be having – and when it's serious, it doesn't have the brains to take the series to a place that warrants expunging its prior history. Carpenter's still got it when it comes to doing the score, though. For the sequel – McBride and Green initially intended to pitch two films to be shot back-to-back – they should definitely bring back babysat kid Julian (Jibrail Nantambu), who gets all the best lines and is easily the most believable character. What the series really needs is for Busta Rhymes to be retconned back into the proceedings, though.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

Call me crazy, but I don’t see America coming out in droves to see you puke.

The Hard Way (1991) (SPOILERS) It would probably be fair to suggest that Michael J Fox’s comic talents never quite earned the respect they deserved. Sure, he was the lead in two incredibly popular TV shows, but aside from one phenomenally successful movie franchise, he never quite made himself a home on the big screen. Part of that might have been down to attempts in the late ’80s to carve himself out a niche in more serious roles – Light of Day , Bright Lights, Big City , Casualties of War – roles none of his fanbase had any interest in seeing him essaying. Which makes the part of Nick Lang, in which Fox is at his comic best, rather perfect. After all, as his character, movie star Nick Lang, opines, after smashing in his TV with his People’s Choice Award – the kind of award reserved for those who fail to garner serious critical adoration – “ I’m the only one who wants me to grow up! ”

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.