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In Theaters: HALLOWEEN (2018)

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HALLOWEEN
(US - 2018)

Directed by David Gordon Green. Written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu, Omar Dorsey, Christopher Nelson, Brien Gregorie, Vince Mattis. (R, 106 mins)

For the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter's iconic 1978 classic HALLOWEEN, the franchise retcons itself, wiping away everything that happened from 1981's HALLOWEEN II to 2002's HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. It picks up in the present day, as Michael Myers (played by original "Shape" Nick Castle in fleeting glimpses before he dons the mask and James Jude Courtney takes over) is visited at an Illinois mental institution by Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), a pair of British podcasters specializing in famous killers and cold cases. Dr. Sartain (WINTER SLEEP's Haluk Bilginer, the Turkish Rade Szerbedzija), a protege of the late Dr. Loomis (played in the 1978 original by the great Donald Pleasence, who died in 1995) has taken over Michael's care and reminds them that he hasn't spoken a word in 40 years. They get no reaction out of Michael, even after showing him his old mask. They get a similar response when they visit a standoff-ish Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a self-described "basket case" who's been hobbled by PTSD since that fateful Halloween night 40 years ago, leading to two failed marriages and a fractured relationship with her mostly estranged daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who was taken away at the age of 12 when the state deemed Laurie an unfit mother. Laurie lives in a gated compound on the outskirts of Haddonfield, in a house filled with alarms, locks, and booby-traps and with a heavily-fortified panic room in the basement, accessible by a secret passageway under a kitchen counter. Karen resents the doomsday-prepping memories of her childhood, but Laurie has never been able to shake the feeling that Michael would come for her again one day.






That day inevitably arrives following the most half-assed prison transport in recent memory, as Michael and some other psych patients are moved to another facility and the bus ends up crashing, because of course it does. You'd think with someone as dangerous as Michael Myers onboard, there'd be more than one officer on the bus, and maybe a couple of cruisers from the local sheriff's department might follow along as a precaution, and they might've picked a night other than the day before Halloween, which is the same night he escaped 40 years earlier, but hey, it is what it is. The bus crashes and Michael is loose once again, making his way to Haddonfield in time for Halloween, where he sees the podcasters visiting his sister's grave and then follows them to a gas station and kills them, reclaiming his mask in the process. Michael embarks on a murder spree across Haddonfield, a town where, depending on the scene, has either one cop on duty in Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), who was on duty the same night in 1978, or a ton of guys not really doing much of anything. Everyone is aware of the events of 40 years ago, yet no one really acts with much urgency considering the town's tragic history with this night. That is, other than Hawkins and Laurie, who's been following the calls on a police scanner and can't get in touch with her granddaughter, Karen's daughter Alyson (Andi Matichak), who just left a Halloween bash after dumping her boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold), who threw her phone in a punch bowl. As Michael heads to a fateful meeting with Laurie that seems like destiny, she finally convinces Karen and her husband Ray (Toby Huss) of the danger and they all end up at her secured fortress and wait for Hawkins to track down Alyson.


Directed by indie darling-turned-journeyman David Gordon Green, who co-wrote the script with his buddies Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley (a writer on McBride's HBO series VICE PRINCIPALS), HALLOWEEN tries to position itself as both sequel and remake, with countless references and callbacks to other memorable scenes in the franchise, which reeks of trying to have it both ways by retroactively erasing all of the sequels but still re-staging well-known scenes from them. Remember when teenage Laurie looks out of her classroom window and sees Michael standing across the street looking at her? Green repeats that here with Alyson looking outside and seeing her grandmother. Remember when Loomis shoots Michael and he falls out of the window, landing on the ground and then they look down and he's gone? Repeat that here with Michael throwing Laurie out of a window, then looking down and seeing she's gone. Remember in HALLOWEEN II when Michael walks into a house and sneaks into the kitchen and steals Mrs. Elrod's butcher knife? That happens here, but in a way that emulates the re-edited TV version. Even a mid-film detour where Alyson's friend Vicky (Virginia Gardner) is babysitting a wisecracking kid (Jibrail Nantambu, who turns in the most entertaining performance) before her stoner boyfriend Dave (Miles Robbins) arrives only exists as a wink and a nod to a pair of murders from Carpenter's film. Once everyone ends up at Laurie's compound and she does a room-by-room search, we see she has a roomful of target-practice mannequins and dummies like the ones she's shown shooting out in the woods earlier. Why would she store these in a room in her house? A goddamn roomful of white-faced mannequins has no reason to exist in Laurie's house other than giving a masked Michael a way to camouflage himself among them in the darkness for a cheap, lazy jump scare. And why does she even leave the safety of the underground panic room in the first place? Oh, that's right. Because "I'm gonna finish this!"


Those are hardly the dumbest things in HALLOWEEN. You might ask "How does Michael even find Laurie's house?" and "How does he get past the gate?" and "What does Laurie do for a living, because this Batcave-like complex probably cost at least $1 million?" but nothing will prepare you for one ludicrous whopper of a third act plot twist which was when I just shook my head and muttered "Done" under my breath. For a film that sees fit to do away with the Laurie/Michael family connection established in HALLOWEEN II, which is a hokey development but it's still a movie that many people, myself included, really like, what arises with this reveal is right on par with all the Druid nonsense that came up in HALLOWEENs 5-6, which seemed at the time to be a backdoor way to somehow work in 1982's otherwise unrelated, Michael Myers-less HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (though Dr. Loomis used a story about Druids metaphorically in HALLOWEEN II). It's one thing to ask us to disregard everything that happened in all the sequels--including Laurie being killed off in a passing mention of a car accident in HALLOWEEN 4 and onscreen in HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION--but the big twist in HALLOWEEN from the masters of horror behind YOUR HIGHNESS and EASTBOUND & DOWN is so beyond the pale that it made me dismiss the entire project as egregiously ill-advised Michael Myers fan fiction on the part of Green, McBride, and horror assembly line production company Blumhouse.


That said, there's an undeniable sense of warm, nostalgic sentiment for fans to see Curtis in this role again, and she brings a credibly anguished weariness to a heroine who's been inextricably linked to an unstoppable madman and forever haunted by the events of 40 years ago. Matichak is appealing as her sympathetic granddaughter, though all the sequences with her obnoxious friends with "Dead Meat" stamped on their foreheads seem like superfluous padding (except for Cameron, who, like the kid Vicky's babysitting, just vanishes from the movie). The notion of three generations of Strode women teaming up to take on what's tantamount to a family curse is intriguing, but Green generates no scares, no suspense, and doesn't bring them together until very late in the game, and then blows it by giving the best moment not to Curtis, but to Greer. Don't get me wrong, it's a good moment, and Greer plays it perfectly, but shouldn't it have been Curtis'?  After the two Rob Zombie hillbilly horror reboot debacles, I was willing to approach HALLOWEEN 2018 with an open mind, and it gets some things right--Michael's worn, weathered, and craggy-looking mask approximating the aging of a killer who's now 63 years old, John Carpenter returning to write an updated version of his instantly-recognizable theme, an audio recording of Dr. Loomis where the guy doing a dead-on Donald Pleasence impression just nails it, especially Pleasence's inimitable pronunciation of "evil"--but at the end of the day, this is just another HALLOWEEN sequel, and it's not even a very good one, with all the rave reviews and fanboy hype once again offering irrefutable proof that horror scenesters are the easiest lays in genre fandom. John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is a landmark film that still terrifies and whose impact still resonates after 40 years. Will anyone in 2058 be looking back and wistfully reminiscing about the first time they saw David Gordon Green's HALLOWEEN 40 years ago? Will anyone even remember it 40 days from now?


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