The original 1978 Halloween still remains one of the best horror films of all time and has not only spawned a franchise that is now 11 films deep but also influenced countless others in pursuit of the perfect scare. While the franchise has somewhat faltered in the past with unnecessary sequels and lackluster reboots, director David Gordon Green is hoping to breathe new life into the franchise by going back to its roots with a direct sequel that gets back to the basics of the original and ignoring everything else that came after it. And while it’s great to see a return to form for Michael Myers, Halloween is brought down by the very thing that was meant to revitalize it.
Forty years have passed since the 1978 Haddonfield murders, and a locked up Michael Myers (Nick Castle) still hasn’t said a word to anyone. Still, the high profile nature of his murders have made him highly sought after within the psychiatric and crime story communities with Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), desperately wanting to understand what motivates him but to no avail. While being transferred from a mental facility to a maximum security prison, Michael manages to escape and returns to Haddonfield, leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. Meanwhile Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has spent the past four decades preparing to face Michael once again. As the sole survivor of his Halloween massacre, Laurie has struggled with PTSD ever since and has lost her family and friends as a result. This Halloween, however, she’s no longer going to be the victim.
Halloween is meant to tap into your nostalgic feelings with plenty of callbacks and homages to the original. The opening credits show a rotten pumpkin reversing back into jack-o-lantern alongside the familiar bold orange font highlighting the cast as if to symbolize the franchise finally coming back to life. And initially that seems to be the case. Even while imprisoned, Michael Myers is an imposing figure. I liked how we’ve never given a good shot of his face. The camera is always either behind him or obscured by some object. Sometimes we see just the slightest hint of gray stubble in his beard, highlighting the fact that this is indeed a much older Michael Myers we’re dealing with, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous or terrifying. When his first on-screen kill is just a kid who was out hunting with his dad, you know that there are no limits to Michael’s brutality.
As much as I enjoyed Michael, it’s the other characters that are the main problem. While the horror genre has gotten smarter over the years, Halloween remains trapped in the past. The film relies on tired cliches and dumb decisions that ultimately get characters killed. Laurie has been preparing for Michael’s return for 40 years and yet some of the things she does leave me wonder if she learned anything at all from her first encounter with him. At one point she’s safe in her bunker in the basement below her house as Michael walks around above her with no knowledge of where she is. For one reason or another, she decides to shoot upwards through the floorboards at a Michael she can’t even see, immediately giving away her position and any element of surprise she might have had. Naturally, like all typically horror movies play out, she decides to leave the safety of her location to go up and check to see if Michael is dead.
I was disappointed with how most characters lack any common sense, and any tension that Michael may have created is lost due the sheer ridiculousness of it all. In addition, Halloween continues with the current trend of injecting humor into every situation to varying degrees of success. The film does have some genuine laughs; the interactions between Julian (Jibrail Nantambu) and his babysiter Vicky (Virginia Gardner) are hilarious and some of the best moments of the film, but there are also some jokes that fall completely flat and will make you wonder what business they had doing in a Halloween movie in the first place. “I got peanut butter on my penis” has no business being in a horror movie, period.
There are individual moments of Halloween that showcase how impactful the franchise has been and will no doubt put a smile on your face; Michael Myers, the score, the callbacks, but its reliance on the past ultimately becomes its biggest downfall. It’s the same old tricks. The film is a gruesome trip down memory lane, but it honestly does little as a satisfying horror movie.