HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN

Published On October 18, 2018 | By Matt Neufeld | FILM REVIEWS

HALLOWEEN
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle
Written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Produced by Malek Akkad, Jason Blum, Bill Block
Cinematography by Michael Simmonds
Music by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Edited by Tim Alverson

 

Run away—run quickly away—run as if Michael Myers was chasing you across some dark field or down some dark alley or through some dark basement, but just run away–from the 2018 version of “Halloween,” which is nothing but a gruesome, crude, depressing, overly dark, muddled, amateurish, confused, meandering, meaningless, gross, unnecessarily-graphically-violent and just generally awful movie.

Once again, some clueless—and possibly psychotic–Hollywood suits have completely failed to understand that most sequels–about 99 percent of them–just aren’t needed, and about 99.9 percent of horror film sequels are not needed–and this sequel certainly was not needed on any conceivable level. Boos and rotten tomatoes to John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle for participating in this muddled mess of morbid moronic mayhem.

This weekend, don’t waste your money or time on the 2018 version of “Halloween.” Instead, go see “First Man,” “Venom,” “Operation Finale,” “Fahrenheit 11/9” and “The House With a Clock in its Walls”–all highly-enjoyable, fun times at the movies theaters this autumn.

Why anyone at any level thought that the world needed yet another “Halloween” franchise movie—and the series is indeed a franchise—is a mystery. It’s mysterious because most of the dialogue, acting, plot points, story lines, scenes and exposition—or what passes or tries for exposition—in the 2018 version of “Halloween” does not succeed. It’s mysterious because this movie is lacking on just about every filmic level—it’s lacking in most of the acting performances, except for Jamie Lee Curtis and the young actress who plays her granddaughter; it’s lacking in direction on every level—poorly executed, poorly time, poorly paced, poorly-thought-out, unoriginal, un-scary, needlessly depressing and crude and gross to a degree where the movie is literally unwatchable during several horrible—horrible in a bad way—scenes; lacking in editing, timing, pacing; lacking in story development, character development or plot development; lacking in overall production value, which is consistently cheesy, amateurish, and low-budget—and low-budget in a bad way. There’s just very little to enjoy or justify with this 2018 version of “Halloween”—the entire exercise is tired, horrendous, difficult to watch or care about, and just an exercise in futility from start to finish.

One of the only bright spots on the creative end—and even this is ruined at times—is the welcome presence of John Carpenter’s original theme music—a wonderfully sparse, eerie, spooky and chilling theme that is one of horror film’s classic musical themes. However, a movie, of course, cannot be built around a simple music theme, and a film does need to be at least partially competent in the areas of acting, writing, production and directing to be somewhat enjoyable. However, there are problems in the 2018 “Halloween” even with Carpenter’s excellent theme music—the film ruins Carpenter’s theme at times with interludes of what sounds like elephants dying, or trucks crashing, or something, but it’s not music. It’s just noise—apparently, one of the musicians took a bow across a guitar—or perhaps something else—and the resulting sound is so off-putting, so annoying, that it distracts from, and ruins, Carpenter’s original theme. So this is the type of bad movie that even manages to ruin one of its few almost-bright spots.

The 2018 “Halloween” becomes, like so many of the absolute worst horror sequels—which is most of them—simply a series of scenes in which an unlikeable, horrendously hideous psycho killer goes from location to location and simply—and horribly—just kills people. For no reason, and for no clear reason related to the plot, the story, the character development, the story development, the plot development or anything else remotely filmic. It’s just someone killing someone else—and it’s sickening, depressing, crude, gruesome and horrific—but not in a good way in any of those descriptions. It’s just unwatchable, gross, crude—and unrelentingly flat-out disgusting.

There is a way, of course, to present killings in horror movies in bizarrely-entertaining ways that don’t gross out the audience, or that somehow make a statement, or are weirdly funny in an underlying, understated manner, or are a celebration of the macabre on such a bizarre level that it’s strangely entertaining. And there are ways to make killings in horror movies relate directly to the over-arching story, plot, characterizations and forward-movement of the story and the characters. And there are ways to present killings in horror movies in which the sheer shock value of the killing somehow makes a point—a real point. All of which is usually accomplished in the better horror films through the decades—which just happen to be the first films in all horror franchises. It’s the sequels where the problems start to pile up.

But when the screenwriters, director and producer have zero clue about how to accomplish these layered, in-depth filmic accomplishments, and they have zero idea how to present something new, or they have zero idea how to create or present likeable characters who people care about or can root for, and who have zero idea how to not alienate and turn off their audience to the point where no one wants to even watch what they’re presenting, well, you get a movie like the 2018 version of “Halloween.”

For example, in the 2018 version of “Halloween,” here are just some of the asinine, idiotic scenes audiences have the supreme displeasure of sitting through—all produced with that underlying grossness, graphic violence and sense of depression that deflates whatever possible horror or shock value could have been achieved in the scenes:
1. In what could be the worst of all of the scenes, Michael Myers just sickeningly kills a young boy in the front of a truck—by banging the boy’s head against a window and by breaking his neck. In just minutes, this scene manages to take all of the life directly out of this movie.
2. In the same horrible scene, Michael Myers kills the boy’s father, leaving the boy defenseless—before, of course, the boy is killed.
3. In one scene that makes zero sense and connects to nothing, Myers just walks into a house, approaches a woman—and kills her by driving a knife through her neck. There’s no reason for this, other than to just show Myers killing an innocent woman in a gruesome manner.
4. In a terrible scene at a gas station, Myers kills a young journalist by repeatedly banging the journalist’s head against a wall—and then against a bathroom stall door. It’s so sickening, so gross, so stomach-churning, so stupidly unpleasant, it’s just unwatchable. There’s no message, no point. There’s no shock value. There’s nothing—just sick graphic violence that is just unpleasant to watch.
5. In that same gas station bathroom scene, Myers kills another young journalist in a bathroom stall in similarly unpleasant ways, too. Again, it’s so brutal, so violent, it’s unwatchable.
6. Myers kills an attractive young teenage boy by impaling him on a fence post. Natch, that kid was just about one of the film’s more likeable characters—perhaps one of only three or four genuinely likeable characters in the entire movie. So the filmmakers just kill him—unceremoniously.
7. A sheriff played by Will Patton—a sheriff who was there in Haddonfield, Ill., forty years ago on the night when Michael Myers first escaped from an insane asylum—is abruptly, stupidly killed by Myers’ doctor—in yet another dumb move that also deflates the film, because the doctor killing the sheriff makes absolutely no sense in the overall context of the movie. And the sheriff was almost a likeable character. But he’s abruptly killed. Yet another story, plot and character mistake.
8. Myers kills the doctor by stomping on the doctor’s head. And, you guessed it, yet another scene that deflates the movie. This scene is so unnecessarily, overly graphically violent, it’s just, again, unwatchable.
9. A major plot point is that Myers escapes from his transport bus through what appears to be some type of accident involving the bus—but the lame script never fully or even partially attempts to explain in a very clear-cut manner just what happened to the bus, and just how Myers and other prisoners on the bus escaped. Why have a bus accident be the reason for Myers’ escape if the filmmakers can’t even clearly explain what caused the bus accident?
10. Finally, and this is the movie’s biggest mistake—another big mistake that brings down the entire movie and everything in its orbit—the main character, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curits) is presented as a thoroughly unlikeable, hateful, paranoid, unpleasant, snotty, rude, messed-up, gun-obsessed, emotionally-scarred, psychologically-scarred, repressed, alienated, estranged and just plain depressing person that no one can like, enjoy, relate to or care about. Strode in this film is so cold-hearted, so iron-tough, so, well, weird, it’s a wonder why the character was written and presented in this manner—she’s just not likeable. Strode here is estranged from her family, living in a remote cabin in the woods with more security than a federal government building, rude to journalists and researchers, rude to her daughter, rude to her son-in-law, and basically, again, just an unpleasant person. Curtis’ portrayal of Strode in this manner is so far removed from the likeable, cute, pretty, strong and independent—and caring—Laurie Strode from Carpenter’s original 1978 “Halloween,” it’s just yet another mystery why the filmmakers took this route. When filmgoers suffering through a bad movie in movie theaters can’t relate to, like, love or care about the main character, they won’t care about much else—and the entire movie comes crashing down around that unlikeable main character.
A better tactic for screenwriters Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, who also directed, would have been to throw out the script that was used, start over again, and, in the new script, present Laurie Strode forty years later as that same likeable, lovable, attractive, strong, independent, caring—and tough—character from forty years ago. (And it took three people to write this script? That’s another mystery.) Strode should have been presented as a successful, accomplished leader in society, advocating for mental illness rules and laws, supporting law enforcement, working to protect kids, advocating for tough sentences for serial killers, and working on issues relating to what she went through forty years ago. If Strode was presented in this manner, along with being shown as a strong family matriarch, with a strong connection to her daughter and granddaughter, audiences would be behind Strode, working with her, cheering her on, and hoping that she leads a grand, great battle royale against Myers in some exciting, original, climactic battle between all that is good and evil. Alas, that’s not what’s presented, that’s not what happens—even though there is indeed an end battle, but it’s far from climactic—because nothing builds to anything, in a psychological sense, because the 2018 Laurie Strode is so annoying, so irritating, so unlikeable, audiences will almost not care too much about anything during that end battle except when the end credits start to roll and they can hear Carpenter’s great music theme one more time.

The 2018 “Halloween” attempts to tell a story about Laurie Strode living with fear in 2018, forty years after she and others were attacked in Haddonfield, Ill., in 1978 by crazed psychopath Michael Myers, who was committed to institutions after he suddenly killed his sister when he was only 6 years old. Laurie in 2018 is estranged from her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter—to the point where the daughter at one point throws Laurie out of her house and tells her actual mom that she’s not welcome in her house—how horrific and depressing is that, but not on a good level? So you have a rude, crude, paranoid, alienated, estranged, lonely Laurie Strode, a screeching, hateful daughter, a more understanding granddaughter, yes, and a son-in-law that is, well, it’s hard to tell what he is except also annoying. There they all are—and you don’t care much for any of them, except for the granddaughter, just a little bit. And then, of course, yet again, for some stupid reason, Myers is being transferred to another mental health facility—yet again. And then, of course, Myers escapes. And he kills people. And he heads to Haddonfield. And he kills more people. And he goes after Laurie Strode and her family. And there’s a battle between Laurie and Michael. And then those end credits finally appear—thank goodness. That’s really about it—there’s attempts at backstory and subplots, yes, with the screenwriters and director trying to connect the events of the past to the present day, and trying to find some reason for Myers’ behavior, but in the end, it’s not well-constructed, it’s not well-thought-out, and it’s all not clearly explained in any satisfactory manner.

John Carpenter, of course, directed the original film in the late 1970s, and the movie was released in 1978 to great acclaim. That’s because the original, low-budget “Halloween” had this great urban legend/campfire tale/folklore/’70s-style urban country folk scary story quality that made everyone think of every corny, goofball campfire horror/supernatural/mental-patient-on-the-loose camping spooky story that a million camp counselors told around a million campfires at thousands of summer camps for decades. The story was fun, funny, goofy—and scary, in that funhouse, carnival haunted house, urban legend, campfire story manner. There was no graphic violence, no annoying music, no gross-out scenes, no horrific blood and gore, and some type of Midwestern, small town, Bradburyesque, Middle America feel and quality to the movie. People could relate to this campfire story, people could relate to this urban legend, people could relate to cute Laurie Strode and her high school friends, people could relate to the cute kids Strode was babysitting, people could relate to the original sheriff, and people could absolutely relate to the Haddonfield, Illinois, of 1978 that Carpenter so smoothly, classically—and scarily—presented. And people could relate to the Halloween-season setting, with fall winds blowing, leaves blowing, kids running around in cute costumes, and people running around trying to enjoy a small-town Halloween. People could relate to all of that, and Carpenter made his film relatable. And there was, to a great surprise to filmgoers, the great Donald Pleasence—one of the Bond series’ more crazy Blofelds—as, also, a likeable doctor who simply understood that Myers was pure evil and just had to be killed. People loved Laurie Strode, they loved the caring sheriff, and they loved Pleasence’s caring Dr. Samuel Loomis. People rightfully so loved Carpenter’s 1978 “Halloween” and, even today, forty years later, that film is appropriately continually praised and noted as a classic, enjoyable horror film.

Alas, absolutely none of that original film’s simple joys are in the 2018 version.

Which brings the discussion back to the problem—again—of wholly unneeded sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes and re-imaginings. This problem is inherent throughout the film industry, but the problem is especially horrible when the subject comes to horror, science fiction and fantasy films. Just how many horrible sequels did many horror franchises need? The answer is: none. “Halloween” should have stopped after Carpenter’s classic first film in 1978. Really. Alas, the 2018 version of “Halloween” is—are you ready for this?—the eleventh—that’s ELEVENTH—“Halloween” film in the franchise. “The Nightmare on Elm Street” films should have stopped after Wes Craven’s classic, brilliantly-original 1984 first film. “The Exorcist” films should have stopped after William Friedkin’s unnerving 1973 classic. “The Omen” films should have stopped after Richard Donner’s classic 1976 film—still one of the greatest horror films ever made. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films should have stopped after Tobe Hooper’s 1974 first film. The “Saw” films should have stopped after James Wan’s classic 2004 film. Carpenter succeeded greatly with his re-make of “The Thing,” released in 1982, that is true—but that series should have stopped with that film. The “Alien” films—really, more horror than science fiction—should have stopped with Ridley Scott’s 1979 original film. And while George Romero succeeded with his entire zombie series, especially with a great, highly-successful and highly-praised big-time, big-budget comeback in 2005 with “Land of the Dead,” and he succeeded with his 1968 original “Night of the Living Dead” and his 1978 “Dawn of the Dead,” most other zombie series really didn’t need to go past their first films, and there was zero need for the color remake of “Night of the Living Dead” that was mistakenly released in 1990. And on and on.
At the end of the 2018 version of “Halloween,” there’s a strong suggestion that Michael Myers is indeed finally dead—and thank goodness for that. Let’s let Michael Myers finally die—and, please, for the sake of all that is good and holy and unholy in the world and in the world of film, please let’s let the “Halloween” franchise finally die a peaceful death, forever.

That would be a great Halloween season present for all of us in 2018.

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