‘Halloween’: Not Scary

Unless You’re Frightened By Self-Referential Irony

OK, seriously guys, enough with the Halloween movies. I don’t care if it’s the 40thanniversary of John Carpenter’s 1978 spook-tastic original. There have been 10 sequels and remakes so far, in a series that—like Michael Myers, its knife-wielding, blanched-masked, jumpsuited boogeyman—just won’t go away. Part of the reason this latest sequel even kind of works is because it promises to be the last. (Unless someone else wants to take a stab at it!)

The latest filmmakers don’t bother putting a number after the title. Because numbers are confusing, and just forget those other ones anyway. No one really remembers predecessors 2-6, despite colorful subtitles like “Season of the Witch,” “The Revenge of Michael Myers,” “The Curse of Michael Myers,” and “Resurrection”. We also had the glibly named “Halloween: H20” because everyone knows true terror comes from dehydration. Rob Zombie did a couple, too, although those are apparently ultraviolent and left viewers feeling gross and depressed.

Director David Gordon Green’s take on the serial killer saga thankfully won’t make you vomit. But it won’t scare you, either. This new Halloween is really more a fetish object than a horror film, starting with the opening title sequence homage (classic orange-colored font and all) that features a glowing pumpkin like the original did. This time, though, it’s a decomposed pumpkin played in reverse. Like they’re reviving a story that got rotten, right? Get it? BOO!

Yes, they brought back 59-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis to reprise the role of traumatized teen Laurie Strode. But they also brought back the equally geriatric Nick Castle, the unseen actor who played the original masked Myers and who still has no lines, shows no emotion, and mostly just walks around town in between stabbings and the odd strangling. Talk about fidelity to the source material! Let’s hope Castle will now see more of an attendance spike at his fan convention photo-signing booth.


HALLOWEEN ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer
Running time: 104 min.


 

I’m sure they would have also brought back iconic psychologist Dr. Sam Loomis (British actor Donald Pleasance, whose professional commitment and veneer of vocal sophistication classed up the first installment), but he died in 1995. So instead there’s Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who, like Loomis, obsessively observed Myers for years before the silent psycho broke out of incarceration. “So you’re the new Loomis?” asks Strode when they meet. Wink-wink! And some of the locals even talk about how Strode is actually Myers’ sister (a non-canon plot point in a couple of sequels), “but that’s just a myth.” Self-referential! How very Scream.

Even Carpenter himself is involved, serving as creative consultant and working with his son to compose new music. He nailed the film’s eerie melody in 1978, an insistently driving synthesized riff that holds its own against classic chillers like the Jaws theme and oddly gets you juiced up as much as it creeps you out. His new contributions? Not so much. But whatever: that high-pitched, spiky “doo-duh-duh-doo-duh-duh-doo-da-doo-duh-duh” stuff is totally worth the price of admission.

Can I give you a hand?

The whole point of this unnecessary exercise seems to be a #MeToo riff on fighting back against predatory men and how the horror trope of the Final Girl can become a family legacy, now that Strode has a daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) to help defeat Myers. The twist is that Strode is a bit looney, since apparently serial-killer PTSD is a real thing and causes sufferers to go full Linda Hamilton in T2. So Strode, estranged from her family, has turned her woodland house into a booby-trapped fortress with a complement of artillery and an outdoor shooting range to boot.

Sure, the body count is high, and there are a few great scares—especially one involving a backyard floodlight. But man, this ride is anything but terrifying. With a cast of kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors, and cops, plus all the petty drama and light zingers, the movie just feels overstuffed. It’s never going to be as good as the first one, and this 2018 edition knows that, so it takes the action-thriller route instead of 1978’s mystery-dread nightmare.

Carpenter’s genre masterpiece had a relatively light body count, but focused on terrorizing a trio of very horny teenage girls. Sex and violence were inextricably bound (the first murder, seen through Myers’ eyes, is all blood-covered breasts), and the supernatural corona surrounding the killer was palpable. Green’s affectionate but impotent update has too much on its mind and too little in the execution. It’s nothing but a dry hump.

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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