Michael Myers is back to his murderous ways again with this latest installment in the Halloween franchise that forgoes all of its previous movies with the exception of the 1978 slasher classic. The idea of positioning Halloween (confusingly, the third film in the series with that title) as a direct sequel set 40 years after the original is one of several potentially rewarding concepts that went into the development of this newest entry. Unfortunately, these decisions are overridden by the same trite storytelling techniques that we’ve seen countless times both in this series and in other slasher films for the past four decades.
We’re re-introduced to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as a grandmother who is still traumatized from her initial run-in with Michael Myers but who has also been actively preparing for what she sees as his inevitable return. We learn that this fixation with the masked killer cost her two marriages and the relationships with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). When the prison bus that’s transporting Myers (played by both Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) crashes, Laurie seeks to protect her family at all costs as the seemingly unstoppable evil descends upon Haddonfield once again.
Director David Gordon Green has helmed both independent dramas and mainstream comedies in his prolific career, but his inexperience with horror is evident early on in Halloween. Whereas John Carpenter sets things up brilliantly with an unforgettable opening in the 1978 original, Green isn’t as successful in creating the same kind of chilly atmosphere that’s integral for scary movies to function. To his credit, he does cleverly invert some key moments from its predecessor for the sake of juxtaposition, but there aren’t enough new ideas that stand independent from the ones that Carpenter developed all those years ago.
It’s a shame that the script, co-written by Green with Jeff Fradley and comedic actor Danny McBride, relies so heavily on the kinds of well-worn cliches that they’d probably be better off skewering instead of embracing. Any of the comedy that does turn up, like two cops bickering about banh mi sandwiches as they wait for Myers to appear, feels forced and completely inorganic to the scenarios that arise from the plot. There is a meta moment, when a hapless teen unwittingly asks Michael, “Have you ever really liked a girl and you just couldn’t have her?” that hints at a much more self-aware and potentially fun film that could have been.
Instead, we’re treated to the same setups and slayings that I suppose are integral to this genre, but each death seems to have less meaning as the runtime moves along. In the 1978 original, Michael kills five people; here, I lost count about 30 minutes in. It doesn’t help that the editing is particularly slap-dash and unexpectedly sloppy in places; I counted multiple instances in which the lines that an actor was speaking didn’t match with the movement of their mouth. Fans of this series may respond positively to this newest entry that also could reboot the franchise, but for more casual moviegoers, Halloween is likely to come across as a rather hollow experience.
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July 11 • Foellinger Theatre