There are moments in David Gordon Green’s Halloween, the 11th installment in the long-running series, that flirt with a reinterpretation of the Michael Myers mythos, which would have been a welcome change to the stale franchise had it followed through. Instead, the film adopts what seems to have become the studio paradigm for sequels/reboots (think Jurassic World, Ghostbusters): a bare-bones retelling of the same old story with needless, distracting additions and complications that only attempt to hide the fact that nothing new or significant is happening. When approaching these sorts of franchise reboots, it’s best to ask yourself whether you would care about the film if it weren’t related to its beloved predecessor.
For some reason or another, the story begins by following a duo of British journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) who are compiling evidence and conducting interviews for a true crime Serial-eque podcast on the Haddonfield murders. Myers’s status as a serial killer has grown in the 40 years since his infamous killing spree, and the podcast seeks to determine whether he is anything “more than pure evil,” whatever that means. In a sense, this setup offers us a fairly effective re-entry point into the world of Halloween. The duo interviews Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a recluse still reeling from the trauma of the ’78 murders, and Myers himself, who is restricted by the four walls of a high security prison. Besides the narrative convenience of following these anonymous podcasters learning about Haddonfield for the first time, their inclusion in the film mostly feels cursory and baffling—they aren’t interesting in the slightest, and their storyline never pays off in any way that could justify its existence. Maybe Green and his co-screenwriters wanted to say something about true-crime culture and our obsession with mass murderers, but even if that’s the case, they never make their intentions clear.
Running parallel to this misguided plotline are the happenings of the Strode family in Haddonfield as Halloween approaches. While Laurie lives on the outskirts of town, her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and Karen’s husband (Toby Huss) are raising a teenage daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), on the same suburban streets where Myers ran amuck decades prior. The small family has collectively done its best to repress any and all memories of the murders that scarred the town 40 years prior, refusing to acknowledge the holiday altogether (on Halloween, they put on ugly Christmas sweaters). Of course, these details come off as somewhat ironic given the film itself goes out of its way to remind us of the original with all sorts of visual callbacks and blatant references to it. We get a reworking of the iconic title sequence that features shots of teenagers (two girls and a dopey guy) strolling down empty suburban streets, a cameo or two, and even a classroom discussion of fate, thrown in for good measure.
All of these elements come across as pandering, as does the scene where Michael Myers—while being transported from one prison to another—invariably escapes before scurrying back to his old stomping grounds to kill some more babysitters. There’s precisely one effective, well-executed sequence in this film: In a dingy gas-station bathroom, one unlucky character hides in and crawls between stalls to escape Michael. Everything else that follows this sequence pales in comparison and lacks any of its ingenuity and flare. The man in the mask proceeds to terrorize the community again, while the Strode family bands together and take the offensive, attempting to kill Myers once and for all. Halloween banks on these moments of clever reversals, even going as far as to restage iconic shots with a twist, such as when Myers is found hiding in a closet, just like Laurie was in the original.
These aspects of the movie are fine and good, but cleverness can only get you so far when making a horror film in the name and tradition of a beloved classic. John Carpenter’s original has been canonized because of its simple, no-nonsense approach to the genre—Michael Myers was an elemental force that shocked an entire community with only a mask and a knife to his name. With this sequel, Green attempts (and only attempts) to recapture what was so great about the original, which is a dubious task if there ever was one, because Green has no prior experience in horror. He may know how to compose a shot, but that sort of skill isn’t necessarily transferable to constructing effective sequences and building tension. Even if we can look past Halloweens’ crowd-pleasing proclivity, the fact of the matter is that Myers just isn’t very scary here, and that’s on the filmmakers.
Featured Image by Universal Pictures