Halloween movie review: Michael Myers’ return will haunt you in your sleep; don’t watch it alone
Director - David Gordon Green
Cast - Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Rating - 3.5/5
Horror of inheritance seems to be the prevalent theme of 2018. Films such as the genuinely unnerving Hereditary and television shows such as Sharp Objects and the Haunting of Hill House have all utilised generational drama - dark family pasts, the sins of the father, overbearing mothers - to tremendous effect.
Director David Gordon Green’s Halloween reimagining/reboot/remake slips perfectly into this category, almost as easily as one of Michael Myers’ knives into the backs of an unsuspecting victim. It is a film that not only has respect for the original John Carpenter classic - the movie from whose loins it emerged, if you will - but rebels against it in a way that only progeny could. It takes the DNA of what made Carpenter’s movie such an influential masterpiece and injects it with a slick contemporary touch - a dash of feminism, a nose thumbed at horror tropes, and an almost carelessly provocative third act.
It’s a film about the horrors of the past, and how trauma has such an all-encompassing, and often irreparable effect on those who’ve survived it.
Watch the Halloween trailer here
Green and his co-conspirator, writer Danny McBride, have come up with such a unique new take on the material that you could almost imagine producer Jason Blum doling out high-fives a minute into their pitch. I imagine it going something like this: “So, we’re going to ignore all nine Halloween movies that came after the original,” McBride tells the gathered suits - he does all the talking while Green sits in the corner - “and make a direct sequel set 40 years later. But get this,” he says, “we’ll make Laurie Strode the predator, and Michael Myers the prey.”
And just as everyone in the room begins to visualise themselves taking laps across pools of cash like Scrooge McDuck, Green finally breaks his silence: “We’ll get John Carpenter back to score the thing.”
That iconic synth score, immediately evocative of a bygone era of horror, plays in all its glory over the opening credits, and is perhaps one of the earliest signs of the visual trickery the film has up its sleeve. On several occasions during its breakneck 105-minute length, the film harkens back to Carpenter’s original by mirroring key scenes visually and thematically. Fans would notice retreads of many familiar moments, but with key shots and characters’ roles reversed - often literally.
Halloween begins with a terrific opening set-piece that takes place in the courtyard of the mental facility where Michael Myers has been kept ever since he went on a rampage all those years ago. Two British podcasters approach hesitantly, egged on by Michael’s new psychiatrist, a man of baffling origins named Ranbir - he could be Indian but who knows? They’ve hired a Turk to play him.
The podcasters are convinced that Michael and Laurie are the only ones who truly understand each other – destined to collide – and are on a quest to get them to sit across a table before he’s moved into a different facility on Halloween, 40 years later.
But Laurie isn’t having any of it. She’s spent the last four decades in preparation and in fear - of Michael’s inevitable return (remember, none of the previous films count), and wondering whether or not she will be able to protect her daughter and granddaughter from him. This obsession has strained her relationship with the both of them, but when Michael escapes while he’s in transit to that new facility, Laurie almost presumptuously believes he’ll come after her.
The key to characters such as Michael Myers is this: You can’t psychoanalyse them, which is weird because these movies insist on giving psychiatrists such important roles. David Gordon Green understands this, and creates a Michael who is exactly the sort of elemental monster, a supernatural force of evil, that Carpenter intended him to be. This calls for certain plot contrivances to bring him and Laurie together – because as much as she’d like to think that he’s as obsessed with her as she is with him, Michael’s defining characteristic is his lack of logic. He kills because he must.
I’m not entirely sure everyone appreciates what a confusing thing it is for Halloween to have been directed by David Gordon Green. Along with Ramin Bahrani and Jeff Nichols, he was among a new bunch of favourites of the great critic Roger Ebert’s, who championed Green’s first three features with the sort of passion only he could. He once described Green as ‘that poet of the cinema’ and predicted that one day he would fall prey to the Hollywood machine. Ebert was right, of course - as he usually was with these things. After those early dramas, Green went on to direct a series of increasingly poor comedies, the fallout of which it took him years to recover from. His most recent film was the excellent Boston bombing drama, Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal - a welcome return to form.
But we live in wonderful times - Guy Ritchie is doing a Disney film and Quentin Tarantino might direct Star Trek.
Halloween, however, is yet another head-scratching choice for Green - by his own admission, him and McBride have ideas for a sequel, so we can probably expect him to play around with his horror dollhouse for the next couple of years and wait to see how that turns out.
But we mustn’t forget what a giant farce all this really is. Sure, Halloween is an effective film - and in a genre where even mediocrity is worth celebrating, this one positively calls for a national holiday. But it is, after all, the third film of the series to be called Halloween, the fourth time the franchise has been rebooted, and the fifth entry to star Jamie Lee Curtis. It might even be the first film since Star Wars: The Force Awakens that somehow combines everything that is wrong with Hollywood - sequels, remakes, reboots - into one miraculous anomaly. But an anomaly is what it is.