Halloween

 

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The eleventh instalment in the Halloween franchise returns to its grass roots, but still makes no more sense.

  

Halloween

A time to kill: Will Patton (with flashlight)

 

Janet Leigh was 33 when she was hacked to death in the shower in Psycho (1960). Her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, was just twenty when she was assaulted by the infamous Michael Meyers in John Carpenter’s cult horror film Halloween (1978). Jamie Lee’s bloody liaison with Meyers continued in a further three films, Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20 (1998) and Halloween: Resurrection (2002), before she was finally dispatched by Meyers in the last named. And when the slasher film was king, Ms Curtis was crowned its Scream Queen, augmented by her starring roles in The Fog, Prom Night and Terror Train.

 

Now 59, she and her director and co-producer David Gordon Green have torn up the rulebook and brought her back to fight another day in a reboot that stands as the eleventh instalment in the Halloween franchise. Posited as a direct sequel to the first film, Halloween (2018) glosses over the carnage of the other sequels and reduces Michael Meyers’ body count to a more palatable five, a quintet of homicides dubbed ‘the Babysitter Murders.’ For horror fans, then, this should have been an iconic moment.

 

Michael Meyers is now incarcerated in the Smith's Grove Sanitarium [sic], monitored by a Dr Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who regards his patient as something of a Holy Grail in the arena of the criminally insane. He – and Michael – are visited by Aaron and Dana, a pair of British journalists, but they can’t get a word out of the prisoner, although the disclosure of his legendary mask sets all the other inmates a-twitter. They don’t have much more success with Laurie Strode (Ms Curtis), who now lives in a heavily fortified retreat in the woods. She’s been waiting forty years for an inevitable showdown with her nemesis and is now radically prepared (and armed) for any eventuality. In the interim, she has suffered extreme post-traumatic stress, two failed marriages and an estrangement from her grown-up daughter, Karen (Judy Greer). The film then switches to the lives of Karen and her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), a highschool student old enough to be a babysitter herself…

 

The fundamental problem with the Halloween franchise is not settled here. For all the explanations, exposition and psychological mumbo-jumbo, Michael Meyers remains a problematic villain. Endowed with supernatural strength, he is neither a wraith in the tradition of Freddy Krueger, nor a warped mastermind like Hannibal Lecter. He’s just preternaturally lucky. While he stomps around noisily in his hobnailed boots, he still manages to arrange his mangled victims in various closets without being overheard, while disappearing in the glare of police headlights. He preys on the curiosity of his victims and the stupidity of the local police who, in spite of the intervening years, appear to be just as unprepared and lacking in the most elementary of communication skills. And, for an old man, Meyers proves to be phenomenally robust. If some of this had been played for laughs, the film might not have appeared so dumb. As it is, it’s all terribly nasty, with Meyers eliminating his victims with random and irrational brutality.

 

As a nuts-and-bolts gore fest, Halloween (2018) succeeds on a purely visceral level, if one is prepared to overlook the eccentricities of the plotting. Many of the set pieces are mounted with some suspense, which one might expect from a director of the calibre of David Gordon Green. Green, whose first film, George Washington (2000), won universal acclaim, has gone on to direct a number of critically lauded works, including All the Real Girls (2003), Joe (2013) and last years’ Stronger (2017), starring Jamie Lee Curtis’s godson, Jake Gyllenhaal. However, Green also directed the simply abominable Your Highness and The Sitter (both 2011). He, then, like Michael Meyers, would seem to be something of an anomaly.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Andi Matichak, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, P.J. Soles.

 

Dir David Gordon Green, Pro Malek Akkad, Jason Blum and Bill Block, Ex Pro John Carpenter, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jamie Lee Curtis, Screenplay Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, Ph Michael Simmonds, Pro Des Richard A. Wright, Ed Tim Alverson, Music John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, Costumes Emily Gunshor.

 

Miramax/Blumhouse Productions/Trancas International Films/Rough House Pictures-Universal Pictures

105 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 19 October 2018. Cert. 18.