Monday, October 22, 2018

The Shape Of Things To Come

Year: 2018
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I've already done some revisiting of previous franchise marathon entries this October, so it's only appropriate that the fun should continue with an actual movie in theaters! What a treat! We haven't seen good ole Michael Myers on this blog since we concluded our marathon with Rob Zombie's Halloween II a year late in 2016 because I could not convince myself to watch that one. And we haven't seen that pale blank face in theaters since the very same film when it was released in 2009, almost a full decade ago.

Well, here we are at a new entry that has already made so much money I wouldn't be surprised if the sequel is being rushed into theaters next weekend. That is unequivocally good, because if there's one thing I love it's a sprawling horror franchise. But as for the movie itself? Well, let's take a look.

At the very least, I'm glad Michael and Laurie are getting in on the ABBA craze.

It's Halloween, 2018. It's the only Halloween that matters other than the one back in 1978, when Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was stalked by masked murderer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) while she and her friends were babysitting. Nothing else happened in between then and now, we promise.

Laurie Strode is now a reclusive shut-in at her survivalist compound in the sticks of Haddonfield, IL. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) has gone ahead and had her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). But having a teenage child in Haddonfield is never a good idea, because Michael escapes imprisonment while being transferred to a different facility (which he's already done twice before, once in this very timeline) and immediately begins stalking around town in his good ol' Shatner mask mowing down as many passersby as he can in the process.

Laurie, Karen, the cops, and Michael's new caretaker Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) run around Haddonfield in a state of general distress while Michael wreaks as much havoc as one might expect after being cooped up for so many years.

Oh, how we've missed the big lug.

So, this is the third film in forty years to be titled Halloween. Those are some big shoes to fill, but at least the presence of Rob Zombie's remake means that it could never be the worst one. Unfortunately, this entry barely rises to the middle of the franchise ranking at large.

Halloween has certain good ideas it's working with, but it doesn't seem to have found its own personality. It's actually a lot like Halloween H20, which is now as old as the original Halloween was when it was released: We finally have Jamie Lee Curtis back to play one of her most iconic roles, but this is still a Halloween movie and we need a slate of nubile teens to be offed in the background while she does her thing. H20 very clearly had two different plot threads like this, but it wove them together with reasonable success and cemented the whole thing with a heavy dose of Kevin Williamson snark. 

In Halloween, unfortunately, the threads just unravel before your eyes. The movie can barely maintain its focus on Allyson, let alone her slate of friends, who exist in disjointed scene fragments usually in pairs but never all together. This slasher movie is really missing a unifying element, and the Halloween dance setpiece they feature early on completely fails to be that. The cast splinters off into a series of stalker vignettes which don't tie together at all, or really make much sense as to how Michael managed to get himself between them. Instead of making a mosaic, these scenes just seem like a bunch of shattered glass littered on the ground at random.

Pictured: The screenwriting process.

Even more unfortunately, none of these fragments are pulled together under a unifyied tone. We get some action hero set pieces with random shards of comic relief sprinkled in (these tend to work, actually, thanks to David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride's familiarity with comedy filmmaking, though one horny teen character in particular gets a monologue that I think is supposed to be funny but it completely odious and made me want him to die all the more), and it occasionally cuts to horror sequences of the most brutal and unrelenting variety.

To that end, I will say that this is certainly the goriest Halloween film ever made, and a lot of the kills are incredibly well-realized. As a bit of a gorehound myself, it was nice to see Michael making a play to join the big boys of gruesome slasher killing (usually he's a bit of a bore, going with a couple swipes of the kitchen knife and not much else), but the murders here seem unusually mean-spirited and difficult to watch. Slasher films are supposed to be fun, especially when the other scenes are as silly or high-octane as they are attempting to be. Halloween is kind of miserable at times, making choices that do up the full-tilt horror, but feel more in tune with Rob Zombie's take on the material. Which I hardly expect anyone was actually asking for.

A la carte, though, I can accept the gore for being a very good example of the form. And John Carpenter's new original score is full of bangers, especially the droning alarm bell of his most frequently used new theme. And I'll never complain when Jamie Lee Curtis or Judy Greer are onscreen, even though the former is stuck in a retread of a character she already pulled off twenty years ago in H20. This is the rare example of a horror movie that actually gets better as it goes along, as it pares down its cast so we can focus on three generations of Strode women, all well-performed, and all kicking ass, fighting for their lives in solidarity with one another. 

And wearing wigs like the dickens.

If the whole movie was just a home invasion with the three of them squaring off against Michael Myers, it might have been the best in the entire franchise, including the first. Unfortunately, there is far too much fat on this one, and the filmmakers - especially in the first act - seem focused on delivering scenes that are quite self-evidently shaky ideas, like tremendously misguided pre-credits sequence. 

It's one I'll almost certainly visit again at some point and re-evaluate, unlike the previous two modern entries in the franchise, but there are a lot of other ones I'd prioritize for a rewatch over it. I will be first in line for any and all sequels that Halloween spawns (and it certainly will, if that record breaking box office weekend has anything to say about it), because I think there's a good movie in there, or even a lot of good movies. This one just doesn't happen to quite hit the nail on the head, and that's fine. Almost is better than nothing, and "nothing" is what we've gotten for too long.

TL;DR: Halloween is a middling entry in the franchise with many decent highs and some tremendous lows.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1211
Reviews In This Series
Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Wallace, 1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Little, 1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard, 1988)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Chappelle, 1995)
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (Miner, 1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (Rosenthal, 2002)
Halloween (Zombie, 2007)
Halloween II (Zombie, 2009)
Halloween (Green, 2018)

8 comments:

  1. I sometimes feel like I must be imagining that Zombie's Halloween is actually good, but I swear I enjoyed it in 2007.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was very in tune with how 2007 felt at the time. I did not watch it in 2007.

      Delete
    2. So having seen H40, turns out I liked it more than either you or Tim did, but it really doesn't do the work to earn its obvious desire to be a Laurie Strode character piece/PTSD makes you stronger movie, does it?

      Delete
    3. Oh, also having just rewatched Zombie's Halloween, I do still like it, for the record!

      Delete
    4. I respect your opinion, RZ's is certainly twisted. And I think a lot of its DNA is in the new film, so that makes sense too.

      Delete
    5. The biggest problem with Rob Zombie's remake is that it's a Halloween movie. Modified a bit into just being an "original" slasher that ripped off Halloween, it would be viewed much better.

      Of course, I still think it's easily in the upper half of the franchise, but I hate 5 the way Brennan hates 07.

      I enjoyed this new one, but nearly a year later I haven't felt any desire to revisit it, content to just leave it sitting on my shelf with the rest of the franchise.

      Delete
    6. Oh, PLEASE don't get me wrong. I also hate 5.

      Delete

    7. I don't think 5 is the worst (Curse and Resurrection are both right there) but I hate it the most by far. 4 is one of my all-time favorite slashers, it ends so beautifully, and it leaves a perfectly set up canvas... Which 5 then pisses on and makes just a terrible fucking movie that... Grrrrr

      And Tina!

      Delete