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

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ (or Zootopia as our American cousins refer to it; the European title change being nothing to do with U2, but down to a Danish zoo, it seems, which still doesn’t explain the German title, though) creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). It’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

So credit’s due to co-directors Byron Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (of The Simpsons, Futurama, and latterly, the great until it kind of rests on its laurels Wreck-It-Ralph) and Jared Bush (presumably one of the th…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

"Predalien" The Alien-Predator-verse ranked
Fox got in there with the shared universe thing long before the current trend. Fortunately for us, once they had their taste of it, they concluded it wasn’t for them. But still, the Predator and Alien franchises are now forever interconnected, and it better justifies a ranking if you have more than six entries on it. So please, enjoy this rundown of the “Predalien”-verse. SPOILERS ensue…
11. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
An almost wilfully wrongheaded desecration of both series’ legacies that attempts to make up for AVP’s relative prurience by being as transgressive as possible. Chestbursters explode from small children! Predaliens impregnate pregnant mothers! Maternity wards of babies are munched (off-screen admittedly)! It’s as bad taste as possible, and that’s without the aesthetic disconnect of the Predalien itself, the stupidest idea the series has seen (and that includes the newborn), one that was approved/encouraged by ra…