Sunday, 21 October 2018

HALLOWEEN

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Let's get the suspense out of the way very quickly and state that this all-new Halloween is a disappointment. I mean, it's obviously not as bad as Rob Zombie's two stabs at the Myers mythos, because few things are, and it's better than Halloween 4 and the really terrible one with Coolio in it (I'll reserve judgement on how it stacks up against Halloween 6 because I haven't seen it since the VHS years), but it's certainly not "up there" with the first direct sequel Halloween II or the surprisingly decent Halloween 5. But then this is a film that goes back to the end of John Carpenter's original and pretends that every Halloween film we've seen since didn't happen: despite the simple Halloween title it's technically Halloween 2A, following an alternative timeline in which Michael Myers was immediately carted off back to the institution and has stayed there ever since. Until now...

Now Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, who's never going to escape these films) is a recluse living behind electric gates and security cameras with a secret basement full of shotguns. Inevitably, forty years to the day after the original movie's rampage, Michael engineers a bus crash while being transferred to a new hospital for plot contrivance purposes, and heads back to his old slashing ground of Haddonfield on Halloween night, messily slaughtering a whole bunch of incidental characters on the way. These include a couple of garage workers and two women in their homes, none of whom we know, for no good reason beyond grisly money shots. There's also a pair of supremely idiotic true crime researchers (who I frankly couldn't wait to see the back of) who arguably started the whole thing off in an irresponsible attempt to break Michael's silence by retrieving his battered old Shatner mask - and that's before he gets within stabbing distance of the three generations of Strode: Laurie, her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).

Cue that instantly recognisable 5/4 theme music - Carpenter's principal onscreen contribution to the film and as much of a musical signature as Harry Manfredini's shrieky strings sound for the Friday The 13th movies. Also cue the carved pumpkins, skeleton decorations, trick-or-treaters, disposable babysitters, and way too much dumb teenage boy/girl stodge I honestly didn't care about at all because Jamie Lee Curtis' embittered, twisted, basket-case survivor of 1978 is a much more interesting character with a deeper, sadder history, sadly sidelined for too long in favour of the youngsters.

Obviously there's no Donald Pleasence figure this time: Dr Loomis is mentioned a few times but Michael's new doctor (Haluk Bilginer), who has somehow had a 20-year career studying him despite not getting a single word out of him, turns out to be utterly demented himself and closer in amorality to Malcolm McDowell's version of Loomis in the Rob Zombie films. But it's hardly necessary to bring a new monster onto the pitch when Michael Myers is no longer the scary bogeyman/boogeyman figure of seasonal bedtime stories but an indiscriminate mass-murdering sociopath butchering everyone he encounters for no reason. I was never a massive fan of the original Halloween anyway: back in the 80s I was always on Team Jason because they were more overtly cruel and vicious whereas Halloween was almost sedate in its near-bloodless restraint: it was a teen slasher movie you could watch with your parents because it had no swearing, very discreet sexual naughtiness and minimal gore. Not now: heads are twisted and smashed, necks are slashed and broken, blood flows freely - and yet to surprisingly little effect beyond easy Boo! and Yuk! moments.

But, but, but.... back in the day we enjoyed My Bloody Valentine and The Prowler and Prom Night and all those other cheesy old slashers without caring about the characters or wayward plot logic: what did they do right that Halloween 2018 does wrong? Well, maybe there should be more to a Halloween movie than a cheesy old slasher, seeing as Halloween 1978 was the one that kicked it all off in the first place, and particularly with Carpenter and Curtis involved (and Nick Castle as The Shape). Maybe it's an annoyance at the reboot structure that dismisses all the other films as never having existed and changes the ending from the first film, yet still includes a credit acknowledgement for the masks from the standalone Halloween III: Season Of The Witch. Maybe it's less a nostalgia for the cheesy 80s slashers themselves and more a nostalgia for the me that saw them at the time, nostalgia which I obviously can't feel for the new film. If this hadn't been an official Halloween movie but Generic Slasher #724 perhaps I'd have liked it more. I could also do without callbacks to earlier movies, specifically a reversal of a moment from Halloween 1978 which is undone in the new timeline anyway (you can get away with callbacks in something like the Scream series because that's what they're about; Halloween isn't).

It's not terrible: it's solid, well-mounted and assembled, it looks great and and it does have some nice flourishes, such as a bit of business with motion-sensitive floodlights and Michael ghosting up out of the darkness. Judy Greer has a terrific moment towards the end, and Jamie Lee Curtis is great, of course. And it's nice to see Will Patton in anything. But there are so many holes: it just happens that Michael's being transferred precisely on the fortieth Halloween anniversary AND he's able to get his old mask back AND Allyson just happens to lose her phone (in the most ludicrous way possible) at a key moment AND Laurie's woodland fortress only appears to be fenced from one side (separately, Allyson and Michael both manage to get to the front door unimpeded). I didn't mind it, and I certainly don't object to it (I have no issue with sequels and remakes and reboots in principle and I don't regard any movie as a sacred text which shall not be interfered with), but I just don't feel anything towards it.

**

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