Review: Michael Myers deserves more in the new ‘Halloween’
When one thinks of the quintessential film serial killers, several names come to mind: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Leatherface, etc. However, one name that definitively has secured a place among the great horror movie characters is Michael Myers, “The Shape,” who returned to the big screen in September in this year’s reboot of the 1978 horror movie classic “Halloween.”
In 2018’s “Halloween,” Michael Myers escapes forty years after he was imprisoned for the mass murder of teenage babysitters on Halloween night, locates his infamous white face mask and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to finish what he started — namely, killing Laurie Strode, the only one of his targets to escape in 1978. Laurie and her family find themselves under attack once more, but this time, Laurie’s knowledge of how Michael acts might just give them a fighting chance.
The new “Halloween” was directed by David Gordon Green, known for “Pineapple Express” and “Our Brand is Crisis.” Green’s history with comedies is evident throughout “Halloween,” as there are several funny moments that act as catharsis within the slasher movie. He utilizes several 1970s horror movie stock characters with tact and self-awareness: the dimwitted boyfriend, the oblivious father, the cheater. These character tropes are both familiar and lovable, and they add a well-needed break from the gore of the film. Green is able to ensure the viewer is never without something to look at or someone for whom to root, making it easy to remain invested in the 104-minute-long movie.
Yet, even Green’s directorial tact has problems compensating for a script that tries too hard to be both original and true to the 1978 film at once. Green, Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride obviously wrote the script paying homage to what was so iconic of the first film: there are several murders that are almost carbon copies of Michael’s killings in 1978, and there is persistent reference to the Boogeyman that little Tommy Doyle saw the night Laurie babysat him. If the film remained this true to the original “Halloween” — a movie that was made so scary by its realism and subtlety — the entire film could have been a successful and terrifying cinematic experience.
However, Green, Fradley and McBride made several choices that deviate from the original story that took me out of the world of Michael Myers and negatively impacted the film as a whole. For instance, the “twist” of “Halloween” was evident to me before the opening credits began. By the time the big reveal occurred, there was no surprise value. Green must have been aware of this because he attempted to make up for it with a subsequent gory murder. This is a trend of 2018 “Halloween”: whenever the movie is losing momentum, there is a quick cutaway to a dead body, mutilated in a way that is overly gruesome, even by Michael Myers’ standards. To me, this seems lazy. You cannot make up for lackluster writing with shock value — at least not easily.
“Halloween” also disregards the mythology and lore established in the franchise by previous films, using only the first film as any sort of reference to inform the plot of the 2018 sequel. For example, Laurie Strode, who had been established as the long-lost sister of Myers in “Halloween II,” is of no relation to the serial killer in the new film. This choice was a tactical one made by the writers, who spoke last year about how the familial connection between Myers and Strode made the killer less scary. In many ways, this decision works for the new “Halloween:” the timeline and extraneous developments to the franchise added by the 10 follow-up films are removed, and the story could have been streamlined. However, in many other ways, the choice removes part of what was so beloved about the “Halloween” franchise. For people like myself who grew up watching the “Halloween” movies every fall, Laurie Strode will always be the sister of Michael Myers, the practically superhuman killer who came back every October 31st to terrorize the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. It is difficult to forget this mythology when watching the new “Halloween,” and the movie has some trouble distancing itself from other sequels.
Jamie Lee Curtis has no trouble resuming the role of Laurie Strode, and she is somehow able to substantiate the lackluster script. In the 2018 “Halloween,” Laurie suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of Michael Myers’ 1978 attack. It is evident that Michael’s attack has completely defined her life: she has built her house into a “cage,” lost connection with her daughter and has devolved into alcoholism. Now that Myers has escaped from prison, Laurie is ready to fight back. Curtis plays this role well and without exaggeration. She is a no-nonsense woman who has had her life commandeered by a man, and she wants it back by any means necessary.
There is no doubt that Curtis is the true star of “Halloween,” a fact that makes it somewhat difficult to pay attention to the storylines that do not focus on her. Andi Matichak does a great job as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson, struggling to make sense of her family history and connect with Laurie, but storylines involving Allyson’s disloyal boyfriend and his perpetually third-wheeling friend seem extraneous and unnecessary. The film also spends a lot of time focusing on Karen, Allyson’s mother, played by Judy Greer. Greer and Matichak are both amazing in their roles, but Laurie Strode reclaiming the life she metaphorically lost to Michael Myers in 1978 is a much more interesting and empowering story than the somewhat tired mother-daughter relationship drama that occurs between both Karen and Laurie and Allyson and Karen.
Overall, the new “Halloween” suffers from an internalized confusion: the desire to return to its old glory yet reestablish itself in a new century. Curtis’ acting and Green’s directing skills manage to keep the film afloat; however, the legacy of Michael Myers deserved more focus and attention, something that will hopefully be corrected in the event of another sequel.