Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the 11th entry, Blumhouse’s “Halloween” (2018).
Blumhouse, a production company known for cheap yet good horror films, spends a bit more money on this direct sequel to 1978’s “Halloween” but proves it understands the aesthetics of John Carpenter’s classic. Michael (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle, the original actor in the role) is back to being a “Shape” who doesn’t speak, the opposite of Rob Zombie’s remake that digs into Michael’s mind.
Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) works to overcome her fear 40 years after that fateful night, repeating the theme from “Halloween H20” (which is a different continuity) in more robust fashion. Writers David Gordon Green (who directs), Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley also give arcs to Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
Cinematographer Michael Simmonds delivers a shadowy yet lush Haddonfield, Ill., for some reason shot in Charleston, S.C., this time. I love the energy of the trick-or-treaters running around a neighborhood mainly lit by jack-o-lantern candles. While a lot of “H40” hits familiar beats, many times with purposeful homages, a great innovation is how Michael stalks through the streets in plain sight; people naturally assume he’s a guy dressed up as Michael Myers, distasteful but harmless.
I was happy to find that this film’s air of purposefulness (fans-turned-pros making a really good sequel because they’ve always wanted to see one) eventually fades away and I was able to enjoy the story and themes, rather than seeing “H40” as product.
Haluk Bilginer plays Dr. Sartain, an avid disciple of Dr. Loomis who becomes a bit too obsessed with Michael Myers. It’s a wise choice by the screenwriters to have Loomis be deceased, rather than recasting the role. As the reaction to Rob Zombie’s “Halloweens” proved, fans don’t take kindly to icons behaving out of character, even if it’s on an alternate timeline.
It’s a shame the trailer spoiled this one, but I like the moment when babysitter Vicky (Virginia Gardner) opens the kid’s closet door to assure him there’s no boogeyman in there. Ninety percent of the time in horror flicks, the closet is empty; the film is building tension to pay off later. But this time the boogeyman is in there!
Poor Oscar (Drew Scheid, who looks like a young Eldon Henson) gets his face skewered on a wrought-iron fence by The Shape.
Calling to mind “Probably not a good idea” from “Jurassic World,” “H40” hangs a lampshade on a necessary plot device when Laurie notes that she prays every night for Michael to escape. “That was a dumb thing to pray for,” Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) deadpans.
THAT SEEMS FAMILIAR
“H40” is so loaded with familiar moments, images and plot points that the whole thing is arguably an homage. Yet because it doesn’t deliver those callbacks with a wink, it’s not distracting. The opening credits, which even blur the lettering a bit to mimic how we see it on home video. Laurie searching a closet with a slatted door. A woman cowering in a stall as Michael stalks a gross roadside restroom. A kid dressed up as a 1980s boombox-listener walking into The Shape. An officer joking about canceling Halloween. And of course the crash of the bus transferring mental patients; those buses always crash. My pick for the most déjà vu moment, though is this callback to the 1978 original: Laurie falls off a balcony and is splayed on the ground, but then is gone in the next shot.
Among outside-the-franchise nods, when Laurie locks down her house-turned-trap room by room in order to corner Michael, it calls to mind the pursuit of the alien in “Alien 3.”
THAT DOESN’T AGE WELL
Allyson and her boyfriend are on the outs after she sees him kissing another girl at the school Halloween dance. That’s a cliché that will hopefully age out of existence soon.
MOST SURPRISING ELEMENT
When Dr. Sartain protects Michael by stabbing Officer Hawkins, it’s the first genuine surprise in a film that’s comfortably familiar up to that point.
It strikes me as similar to how it looked in the Zombie “Halloweens” (before it gets beat to hell), with 40 years of weathering from sitting in an evidence locker.
NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT MICHAEL
On this timeline, which springs directly from the 1978 film, Michael and Laurie are not related. Laurie’s teenage granddaughter Allyson tells her friend that the sibling story is something people invented to make sense of the killings. In “H40,” Michael is The Shape: A stranger, a killer, a monster who does not speak – the stuff of nightmares.
It’s on purpose, but I suppose we can say that “H40” forgets all the threads. Even Hawkins, the first policeman to arrive at the crime scene in 1978, is a new character. We don’t learn how Michael was apprehended, and that’s a plot hole. But we can assume it was very soon after the events of the first movie, since no more killings are mentioned and we’re told Michael has been locked up for 40 years.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
Blumhouse’s “Halloween” is a hit at the box office, so there will certainly be more “Halloweens.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the saga starts down yet another path of sequels that people decide they hate, and the saga gets rebooted again for the 50th or 60th anniversary. That said, Blumhouse has a proven track record of making smart horror, and Green, McBride and Fradley understand what’s cool about “Halloween.” It’s hard to imagine they’d produce garbage with the “Halloween” label slapped on it.
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