Film Reviews

The New Halloween Does the Impossible – It Makes Michael Myers Scary Again

This October, we’re challenging ourselves to watch at least one horror movie a day. Today’s theme is modern slashers.

If you want my completely spoiler-free opinion: the new Halloween is bit ragged around the edges but delivers where it matters. It does what I assumed to be impossible – it makes Michael Myers scary again. Also, yes, John Carpenter’s updated musical score for the movie is amazing, reverent to his original music in some places, playfully experimental with it in others. So, go see the new Halloween fresh and completely spoiler-free. Come back later to read the rest of this. Or, if minor spoilers don’t bother you, keep reading now.

If you want my completely spoiler-lite opinion: 40 years later and Michael Myers is still doing it. Set him on fire. Run him over with a car. Shoot him in the heart. Cut his freakin’ head off! Doesn’t matter. He keeps coming back, at least until the profits run dry. Now, despite being old enough to have his own AARP card, slasher’s original bogeyman has returned to stalk the world’s most unruly of menaces: babysitters.

Except babysitters are far from Michael’s only target in the new Halloween, Blumhouse’s surprisingly strong requel (part-sequel, part-reboot.) Blumhouse, working from a script by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, has wiped the slate clean and thrown out all the sequels, good and bad. As far as they’re concerned, you can now draw a straight line between Halloween ‘78 and Halloween 2018.

If you know your Shamrock jingle from your Curse of Thorn, this can make the new Halloween slightly jarring. Without going into spoilers, there are things Michael does in this movie which he hasn’t really done on film in forty years. However, there’s also a welcome simplicity to it all.

As explained in a walk-and-talk exposition scene with this film’s generally likable teenagers (spoiler: when they start dying, you miss them): Michael killed five people four decades ago. He’s been locked up ever since. Laurie Strode is the only survivor. Anyone who says she’s secretly his younger sister doesn’t know what they’re talking about, searching in vain for an explanation that does not exist. Michael killed those people for no reason.

Green and McBride take that as their marching order: their Michael Myers, who eventually escapes during a prison/asylum transfer, isn’t a moralistic killer slashing through the sinning teenagers of the world like a God-fearing Reaganite nor is he simply hacking his way through all obstacles while en route to purging his own blood line. Instead, he’s a mindless, heat-seeking missile launched into a world where his target is every human possible. Man. Woman. Child. Nothing, other than a weeping infant, appears to be off-limits for him. By stripping him of even the hint of reasoning mind, they’ve restored Michael to being a truly scary movie monster, one who mechanically progresses from house to house and murders with the inhuman efficiency of a Terminator

Even if Michael has been stripped of reason, the film itself has to have some larger point. There has to be an actual story here, and that falls to Jamie Lee Curtis doing her best Linda Hamilton T2 impression, playing this new Laurie as a buff, emotionally damaged badass who has turned militaristic in anticipation of the oncoming and inevitable battle. Judy Greer is around as her daughter who was raised to be a bit of a soldier because the state took her away. Andi Matichak, who probably has more screen time than both of them, is the granddaughter who just wishes they could be closer. If you think the script is going to pass up the opportunity to eventually have three generation of Strode women face off together against Michael you haven’t been paying attention to the trailers.

Or publicity stills.

That’s because while this new Halloween may borrow the title fonts and some of the cinematic tricks from its 1978 predecessor (not as much killer pov as you’re expecting) its message is squarely aimed at 2018 concerns. This is a post-#MeToo horror movie and it shows. Laurie is a victim of assault, and it has ruined her entire adult life. She’s now a woman who prays every night for Michael to escape from the insane asylum just so she can kill him, but when she finally drives down to the insane asylum to confront him she drowns in a puddle of her own tears, unable to even leave her own car. Mustering the courage to face him is going to be harder than she expected.

That does give the film a somewhat similar shape to Jamie Lee’s H20 – you’re mostly waiting for the final showdown between Michael and Laurie. The script has to jump through a couple of really questionable hoops to make it happen, but once it does it’s frightening, tense, and surprisingly uplifting.

POST-CREDIT ALERT

There is no post-credits scene, but there is an audio easter egg. SPOILER: It’s just the sound of Michael breathing under the mask.

Here’s What Else We’ve Watched So Far:

 

 

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17 comments

  1. I am glad to hear it is a critical success. Unfortunately this does mean there will be carpenter-less sequels to it with Buster Rhymes or someoneone similar squeezing more cash out of us on the back of this film

    1. Yes, in success there will be likely lesser sequels, and like Resurrection following H20 they will invalidate this movie’s hint of finality. But, let’s give them some credit – they’re 2, maybe 3 sequels away from a Busta Rhymes-equivalent starring role. Have to hit the desperation button for that to happen, and given the box office tracking I don’t think Universal and Blumhouse are going to associate Halloween with “desperate” anytime soon.

  2. I’m really glad to hear its doing well, and that its scary again, and glad to see Carpenter stepping back into the fray with this iconic character. I’ve been watching the original, which they show every Halloween of course. I never get tired of watching it every year, (despite the dated clothing and language).

    I’ll have to go see this if I can manage the time.

    Have you been watching Eli Roth’s new Horror documentary on AMC, called History of Horror, about the roots of the genre. Last week it was zombies, which i enjoyed, but this Sunday will be about Slashers, and there will be interviews with some of our top favorite directors, including you know who. (If you don’t have cable you can watch the episodes on AMC.com.)

      1. Thanks. It’s been a bit more an undertaking than we anticipated. Real life gets in the way. Haven’t had any time to do any of the more usual stuff on the site, like box office and industry news reactions. I’ve also had to ignore some other non-horror movies or TV shows, like Netflix’s Big Mouth, at least for now. But I’m liking simply having a more set schedule, knowing exactly what’s going to be written today, tomorrow, and the day after. Plus, horror movies!

        I can preview that tomorrow we’ll be running Dead Alive, as per your request, and then later in the day I wrote a film history thing about how William Castle, king of the B-movies, somehow ended up producing Rosemary’s Baby, king of the arthouse horror movie. At some point, I hope to write something about The Haunting of Hill House.

    1. If you’ve seen all the other Halloweens, there are definitely parts of the new Halloween which feel familiar. The opening recalls Halloween 4, for example, and so on. But outside of the Rob Zombie movies I’ve never seen a Michael Myers this intimidating (without having to be played by a giant WWE wrestler like the Zombie movies) nor this unmistakably angry.

      Haven’t watched Eli Roth’s doc yet. It’s on the list, though. I’m more of a slasher fan than zombie, but there are already so many documentaries about that. I will definitely be interested to see what Eli Roth does with it.

  3. The Terminator 2 references are pretty valid. As much as I love that movie, I didn’t really get hung up on comparing it as such. If anything, I thought that the film didn’t focus on Laurie as much as it should have. But it still delivered on the rematch I came for.

    1. Yeah, it’s not an exact T2 replica. Similar in some ways, different in others (for one thing, T2 Sarah Conner would have been so laser-focused on Michael she never would have had her hands shake or breathe as heavily/nervously as Laurie does in this movie). I just used that as a shorthand reference point. Also, it should be noted, T2 is my favorite movie of all time. So, I might be more inclined to see it in other movies.

      The backstory I’ve heard, which Jamie Lee Curtis has now told multiple times, is she took this project precisely because Laurie isn’t in it as much. She read the script and liked that these other Strode women were in it as much as if not more than her. It was only once she got to the set that she realized how emotionally draining the film was going to be on her. Something like, she went there with a smile on her face and thoughts of finishing her sides in 5 days; she left crying, but also grateful to have had the experience. It definitely shows in her performance – how much emotion she puts into it – but, like you, I walked away wishing there had been more of her.

  4. See, I didn’t find it frightening at all. Gorey does not equal scary. There was no tension built because they had already shown all the tense parts in all the trailers for the film. The original built tension and that’s why it was so scary.
    And, there was no triumphant feeling for Laurie Strode.We didn’t see Michael Myers die which, in the world of horror films, means that he isn’t dead (also because they were already contracted for two more films before this one was even released). So, having Laurie even in this one felt useless because the ONLY ending for Laurie Strode is to kill her demon.
    There seemed to be three different, good story lines. Each could have been flushed out to make a good story, but that didn’t happen. (I go further into this in my review on my page, if you care to read).
    I had such high hopes going into this film and I really wanted to like it, but I just left feeling frustrated and disappointed.

    1. “I had such high hopes going into this film and I really wanted to like it, but I just left feeling frustrated and disappointed.”

      And I had the opposite. Even with all the buzz from the festivals, I remained skeptical that the 11th Halloween movie – and 3rd in the last 40 years to simply be called Halloween – could really deliver much. Maybe that’s why I responded to this heat-seeking mission version of Michael – because it struck me as something new. The tension is not there as it is in the original, you’re right, and the gore is overdone. Didn’t need the sight of that one man’s head being kicked in. But he just seems so unstoppable and menacing in a way I’m not quite used to.

      But I get where you’re coming from. There’s a lot going on in this movie, not all of it good, and if you watched the trailers or allow the “well, there’s just going to be a sequel so none of this matters” thinking to cloud things it’s easy to walk away disappointed. I actually think H20 did a better job of defining the exact moment Laurie decides to take a stand. That film plays into the inherent tension of what’s going to happen next but also the adrenaline rush of finally seeing Laurie turn back, holding her ax, and taking the fight back to Michael. However, I also think this new Halloween’s actual ending with the three Strode women facing him in that house is among the better Rah-Rah moments in franchise history.

      I’ll have to come over to your page to check out your review.

    1. Yes, Judy Greer’s funny husband, maybe don’t rush outside without a weapon to inspect the mysteriously stopped and silent police car. It’s not like Laurie hadn’t already given you a revolver to use for protection. Even leaving that aside, simply don’t go outside. Stay in. Call Laurie for advice. Use any of her wide variety of security cameras or floodlights.

      That being said, I loved that actor’s performance, and he was great on Halt & Catch Fire and Outcast.

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