Horror fans. At heart, we're easily pleased, according to some anyway. And we're an optimistic lot, at least when it comes to films that aren't cynical remakes. Time and time again, we have been given assurances about remakes and reboots. This time they're going to get things right. It's going back to the spirit of the original. This will be a film for the fans. And that's what we were told with Halloween. Indeed, early word on the film was fantastic, and a lot of fans are very happy with it. I am just not too sure what they have seen in it that I have missed.
Here's the plot. When a couple of true-crime podcasters get to visit Michael Myers in the sanitarium that has been his home for forty years they do their best to get a reaction from him, seemingly to no avail. The podcasters then go to visit Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis returning to her iconic role), now living a sheltered existence, staying locked inside her own home, to the detriment of her relationship with her daughter (Karen, played by Judy Greer) and her granddaughter (Allyson, played by Andi Matichak). And it's only a short while from then until Michael *gasp* escapes and *shock* heads to find Laurie once again.
Okay, there's something off about Halloween that I can't put my finger on. Something to do with the way that those involved insisted it would work as a sequel to the original film, while ignoring all of the other movies that came along after it, yet not quite nailing a consistent tone throughout, not seeming to handle the manners of Michael correctly, and not managing to give fans a finale worthy of the wait. What should have been a potential last hurrah ends up instead being a bit of an eye-roll and a shrug.
Director David Gordon Green doesn't do a bad job when he allows himself time away from the main characters and plotting. That one tracking shot, shown in preview clips that were used to advertise the movie, is pretty great, allowing us to watch Michael mingle with unwitting trick or treaters as he wanders around and commits a couple of impressively short 'n' sharp kills. And there's a decent sequence that features a scared child and a babysitter who assumes that it's all down to imaginary terrors. Unfortunately, Green does worse with a number of scenes that seem to warp the characters for the sake of a fresh start in the series. The script, co-written by the director with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, has just as many silly moments as many of the other sequels it is so desperate to erase from the canon, and, worst of all, it doesn't do justice to the characters that deserve better treatment. Those characters would fare a lot worse if they weren't played by such good actors. And did I mention that everything is kicked off this time by true-crime podcasters? Yes, it may lack Busta Rhymes and webcams, but let's not pretend that this isn't as gimmicky and mistakingly attempting to be trendy in the same way as, oh, Halloween: Resurrection was. Things lift up when scenes don't feel like they're either reacting to trends or dishing up fan-service but, sadly, most of the film seems to be stuck in those two camps.
The cast help immensely, and it goes without saying that Curtis gives another great performance. Greer is good, although playing the overly-tense character that she's been stuck with many times before, and Matichak is a likeable younger potential final girl who could easily carry on the Strode legacy, as far as I'm concerned. The wonderful Will Patton is . . . wonderful, if sorely underused, in the role of Officer Hawkins, and Haluk Bilginer tries to fill a Loomis-shaped gap, but is let down by the writing in the second half. Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, and Drew Scheid all do well as teens who may find themselves in peril, and Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees are those pesky podcasters.
Is this a bad horror movie? No. There are some good kills, and an attempt to craft some iconic Myers moments. It just isn't a masterpiece, not in comparison to many other horror movies and not even in comparison to the preceding films that those involved view as lesser instalments in the series. A lot of the characters here do typically dumb stuff to get themselves in a position to be picked off, a number of moments feel like they bring the luggage of the other movies that have been ignored/discarded, and the ending doesn't feel true to the characters.
But that doesn't matter whenever Michael grasps hat knife handle and starts walking towards his next victim while that classic music plays. Because us horror fans, well, we're easily pleased sometimes. I know I am.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can get it here.