I might be a horror fan, but not one of those that is ready to just gobble up any old shit. Witness the scope of the horror wasteland on Netflix and Amazon, littered with cheap knockoffs of whatever happens to be trending. For the last few years it’s been zombies or demonic possession, none of them fresh, with scripts that seemingly have come straight from a bad writer’s template. Some horror movies are different, usually those made by people plugged into the genre, who understand it, and have more self-respect than to simply churn out the next Exorcism of [Insert Female Name]. So when a new Halloween movie was revealed to be in the works a couple of years ago, my reaction was pretty tepid.
I’m not a fan of the Halloween franchise. There, I said it. Back in October 2018, one of the extended cable channels over here ran a marathon of the Halloween movies, from Halloween 4 to Halloween H20. I sat through most of these for research I was doing for short story, and found them all to be repetitive, misbegotten crap. It’s amazing to me that people waste their times making these movies because they’re all basically the same: Michael Myers kills lots of people in his own deliberate manner, then gets put out of commission at the end, only to return to kill again in the next movie. After a while, the franchise even got its own 2 movie reboot by rocker-turned-auteur Rob Zombie, who ended up doing nothing more than slapping a coat of fresh paint on it. The Rob Zombie movies are generally loathed by fans of the franchise – but I have to ask: are there really fans of that franchise when the movies are so mediocre, or just people who like Michael Myers? I like him too, just not the movies that have been built around him.
So now we have a new Halloween movie, and I was pretty stunned by the hubris of the moviemakers. Forget all those other Halloween movies, they said. This is going to be the true sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter original, they said. Well okay, even though I liked 1981’s Halloween II just fine – and still do – I could buy into this idea, but if you come into the game talking big, you need to deliver on it. The thing that worked for me with the original sequel was that it started right where the 1978 movie left off, a continuation of “The Night He Came Home”, something most sequels to any movie don’t usually aim for. This new “true” sequel junks all of the continuity after the original, and jumps forward 40 years, to where Michael Myers remains incarcerated in a state mental hospital, and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is holed up in her own kind of mental hospital; a cabin in the woods where she’s spent most of her life preparing for the inevitable, final confrontation with Michael Myers. I didn’t buy it, so the movie lost me right away. The trigger point of the movie is the opening. Trying to be all “now”, Michael is visited by a couple of British true-crime podcasters who want to do a story about both him and Laurie, considering this is the 40th anniversary of the killings. The lead interviewer annoyed the hell out of me. If this movie had been made in the 80s or 90s, this guy would have been played by William Atherton. Kudos to you if you know and agree. This character comes across as a snotty, pushy, bratty amateur, the kind of guy who has listened to Serial, S-Town, Into The Dark and all that, and wants in on the game, without knowing how to actually conduct oneself in that profession. And how HE gets possession of Michael’s infamous mask, I have no idea. It’s a largely uninteresting scene played out too broadly for my liking. Michael stands impassively in the middle of the courtyard during exercise time. His fellow patients are scattered around, chained to concrete blocks like animals, and as the scene progresses, these patients become more antagonized by the minute, eventually becoming a cacophonous bunch of cliche movie loonies. Well, Michael is being transported to a different hospital. I’m not exactly sure why, other than the plot needs him to be out on the loose, and this happens when he escapes during that transportation. If you’ve watched any Halloween movie in the 40 year old history of the franchise, you’ll be able to predict what happens next. And this is the root of my problem with this movie: it’s just like any of the others.
Like I said before, if you’re going to make a statement that dismisses every other Halloween movie that came after 1978 you need to back up your big talk, and there’s literally nothing about this “true sequel” that’s even remotely interesting. It’s both derivative of previous installments and boring. Michael Myers escapes and goes on a killing spree on Halloween. This is the story that the writers came up with? Why even both? I was also annoyed by the lazy depiction of Laurie Strode. Instead of being someone who actually appeared mentally scarred by the first movie, she’s simply Sarah Conner from T2: grim and armed to the teeth. Boring and unoriginal, and also kind of dumb too once you see her house is all tricked out with hidden rooms and drop-down doors. It’s gimmicky and not at all worthy of the “true sequel” hubris.
In terms of the story, by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and director David Gordon Green, that’s just crap. Haddonfield seems to only have a handful of cops, and they’re of the Cops Can’t Help trope. They’re in the movie simply to prop up scenes, completely ineffectual but in ways that are contrived and phony. Not real cops at all, just stock characters created by bad writing – though this criticism can be applied to all of the supporting characters too. There’s a bunch of completely uninteresting teens that get bumped off in mostly drama-free sequences. For people making a “true sequel” it’s weird that their plot points have all been done in dozens of slasher movies before, in many cases better. Laurie Strode’s granddaughter’s character and storyline is an utter waste of time. It goes nowhere and contributes nothing to the plot – like everyone in the movie, she emerges completely unchanged by what they have just gone through, just another character in a horror movie.
Part of my criticism of the movie is based on the moviemakers’ implied promise that their Halloween was going to be worthy of being called a true sequel, the only real sequel to Carpenter’s groundbreaking 1978 classic, and the fact that the end result was just as mediocre and by-the-numbers as the others in terms of plot, but overall it’s just a boring movie that does nothing to disprove the fact that this is a franchise you can’t really do anything with. It’s as dead as a doornail just by the very nature of the premise, and any attempt to break out of that constricting mold would inevitably turn Michael Myers into Jason Voorhees. With this movie I’ve officially said goodbye to Michael Myers. It doesn’t matter to me how many more movies they make because I have no interest in seeing them. And for what it’s worth, Halloween II is ten times better than this one.
© Andrew Hope 2019