Halloween (2018)

Halloween (2018) Cover

Though refreshingly entertaining, Halloween isn’t for everyone, but it isn’t meant to be. Filled with captivating cinematography, fun actors, and entertaining direction, there is a lot to like here. Director David Gordon Green feels like he gets what is supposed to make the franchise fun and entertaining, and it almost worked for me.

What is most fascinating about the franchise is just how cavalier it is with continuity. The Halloween franchise has had a large series of sequels as well as full reboots that are followed by Halloween (2018) which is a sequel with selective continuity from only the original films. Kind of. Halloween describes its own continuity and rewrites its history via exposition dialog and describes a series of events that don’t appear to have happened in any film.

It’s Superman Returns weird, but don’t worry about it, David Gordon Green doesn’t. The movie doesn’t suffer because of it. Just try not to think about it. I was able to not worry about it till after the movie and I’m still okay with it because this movie is cohesive. I don’t need it to make sense in the context of literally 40 years of films. I know there are some people that do need that, so just be aware. If you need to, think of it as a new reboot that starts with Michael Meyer’s second killing spree and writes its own prequel out in exposition.

Believe it or not, I love these kinds of mental gymnastics.

Honestly, though, that’s the most interesting part of the story outside of the element of being part revenge film from the perspective of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode. Michael Meyers, a 40-year-old boogie man who has never said a word, is set free on Halloween night to kill again as his counterpart, his one-time victim Laurie Strode, hunts him down after spending her whole life in preparation for this confrontation. It’s fine. In fact, it’s downright fun for a concept.

Let’s be brutally honest here, this franchise isn’t about the plot. The audience is here for the slashing. They’re here for a steady build of uncomfortable tension punctuated with brutal murders depicted with creative directing. You will get that in spades. If that’s all you want out of a good slasher, you’ll get it and that aspect is well done. There are very few jump-scares, and those jump-scares are more there for fun than to scare you. The film wants its premise to be what’s scary, and so the murders tend to be more fetishized by the director than surprising.

My issues with Halloween come more from the character of Michael Meyers himself rather than from anything else about the story, but I’ll wait to talk about that later.

First, I want to praise the cast. I love Jamie Lee Curtis. Her film choices lately just leave me giddy and excited, and I’ve especially enjoyed her in the Scream Queens tv show. She plays Laurie Strode with a somber tone. There are a few nods to the franchise, but fewer than you’d expect in this type of film that is trying to play off its history. Other standouts for me include Will Patton as Officer Hawkins and Haluk Bilginer as Dr. Sartain. Their strong performances are important as their characters have the most interaction and history with Laurie Strode and Michael Meyers, and they act primarily as the lens for what the audience understands and feels.

Despite all of these great elements, the passionate directing, the amazing cast, and the deeply fascinating relationship with its franchise, Halloween just didn’t work for me. To me, a person who doesn’t speak for 40 years and whose only actions when they’re free to act are endless thoughtless murder isn’t evil. They’re not even a person. They’re a plot device or a machine. The film’s dialog regularly asks the audience to try and give motivation to Meyers with one hand and with the other hand it tells us that he is such pure evil that he has no motivation. You can’t have it both ways. But more importantly, you especially can’t have it the latter. Pure evil isn’t mindlessly killing people one at a time in order. There’s no method or motive to it. That’s at best nature, but at worst… it’s built entirely on an unhelpful understanding of mental illness.

I get what they want, too. They want to prey on that feeling you got when you were ten years old and telling stories about escaped mental patients down the street. That was a cool feeling… when you were ten. As a secondary objective, they want to appeal to the part of you that wants to live only for a minute inside of Michael Meyers and enjoy what he’s doing. It’s why the film doesn’t use its jump scares for the murders but takes just enough time with each kill to let the brutality of it sink in. But I’m not ten and I don’t have any desire to spend even a moment in Michael Meyers’ shoes, and so Halloween just didn’t work for me.

Even with that criticism, though, I will say that the end was still incredibly entertaining as the style of movie shifts dramatically.

Overall the latest Halloween is as pure of a slasher as you can get, but this, unfortunately, can’t and won’t appeal to everyone. Its purity makes it incapable of rising above the slasher genre and finding anything truly deeper beyond its offerings. Its lack of anything deep to say about its subject is part of that purity. I will say this, it’s one of the very best examples of what it is.

Final Verdict:An entertaining slasher, but it doesn't rise above slashers as a genre.
Rating:B-