Review: ‘Halloween’ – The Sequel 40 Years in the Making
Image courtesy of www.imdb.com
Halloween opened on Friday October 19th and is a sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror movie of the same name. This is the eleventh offering in the horror franchise and reunites serial killer Michael Myers and survivor Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her iconic role). David Gordon Green‘s Halloween, however, assumes the previous nine films never existed: there was never a hospital bloodbath, there was never a reality show based in Haddonfield, and (thankfully) there was never a mask-making company called Silver Shamrock.
This film picks up forty years after Halloween night of 1978, when Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) saved Laurie by shooting Michael six times, causing Michael to stumble over a second-story balcony railing to his presumed death below. But when Loomis peered over the railing to see Michael’s body, Michael had disappeared.
In the forty years that have passed since that night, Michael has been institutionalized in Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Center. A documentary crew has requested and been granted an interview with Michael Myers and his psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), to learn more about the murderer.
For those who have never seen the original Halloween, this film does a good job introducing newcomers to the history and mythos of Michael Myers through the eyes of the documentary crew. They have access to Dr. Loomis’ taped sessions with Michael, police reports, survivor accounts, and even Michael’s mask. The murder that takes place in the opening scene of the original Halloween (whereby a six-year-old Michael stabs to death his oldest sister Judith) is replayed. And Dr. Sartain’s words play in the background, confirming that Michael has not changed or improved in four decades: he is still the catatonic, emotionless, silent shell of a person we were first introduced to so many years earlier.
When the documentary filmmakers leave Smith’s Grove, after having gained no new insight into or information from their subject, they travel to Laurie’s secluded home outside of Haddonfield. They have big dreams of interviewing Laurie, with the ultimate goal of reuniting her with Michael, so they can be present to film Laurie confronting her attacker.
Seeing Laurie Strode in present time is a shocking and heartbreaking moment. She has spent the last four decades of her life immersing herself in learning all manners of self defense and heavy weapons training. Her house is a fortress, outfitted with CCTV cameras, multiple deadbolts on all doors, and a panic room — really, a panic basement — that can only be entered through a secret passageway in her kitchen under a remote-controlled moveable island. And her backyard is a makeshift shooting range, replete with life-sized mannequins and various other targets, where she practices her weapons training day after day, preparing for a doomsday that she is convinced is imminent.
We also learn that Laurie suffered two failed marriages and lost custody of her 12-year-old daughter Karen many years ago. Karen (Judy Greer), who is now a mother of her own, is still present in Laurie’s life, but their relationship is incredibly strained, and Karen struggles to keep her own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) safe from her grandmother’s “paranoia and neuroses.”
Our hero and protagonist from the original film has been stuck in a vicious cycle of seething anger, crippling fear, and hopelessness for forty years. The trauma and extreme violence she suffered as a teenager have, in many ways, kept her locked in 1978, while everyone else has moved on.
Images courtesy of Miramax and Blumhouse Productions
As a big fan of the original Halloween (and Halloween II, I am not ashamed to admit), I enjoyed seeing echoes and nods to those films scattered throughout this movie. The opening credits sequence is a direct hat-tip to Carpenter’s sequence, with the use of the iconic ITC Serif Gothic font and the eerie, haunting piano theme. If it were not for the ubiquitous presence of cell phones, some shots of the town and homes of Haddonfield could easily be mistaken as coming from the original film. And there are some scenes that are practically shot-by-shot reproductions: fans will notice that the scene in which Allyson sees Laurie standing across the street from her high school is almost identical to the scene in which Laurie sees Michael standing across the street from the same high school forty years earlier.
However, once the audience catches up on what Michael and Laurie have been up to since 1978 (which takes up about 30 minutes of film time), the movie’s pace slows to a crawl, and there are elements of the plot that simply do not make much sense.
Michael Myers’ inevitable pursuit of Laurie Strode begins on Halloween night when, after a midnight transfer to another mental facility goes awry, he escapes custody and makes his way back to Haddonfield. Donned in his recognizable dark coveralls and William Shatner mask (that he retrieves from the documentary crew in the most frightening scene of the entire movie, in my opinion), Michael walks up and down the suburban streets of the town, unnoticed amongst the trick-or-treaters, searching for Laurie.
Back at her home, Laurie has learned of Michael’s escape through local news reports, and she races to Haddonfield to try to catch him before he catches her and her family. She tries to convince her daughter to come back with her to her fortress in the woods, where they will be safe. Karen refuses to listen to her mother, believing that she is suffering from some sort of fit of paranoia. (How Laurie is the only person in town, outside of authorities, who’s heard of Michael’s escape is never explained.) Frustrated, Laurie frantically tries to contact Allyson, who is at a school dance with her friends. However, Allyson’s cell phone has been destroyed (thrown in the punch bowl by her cheating boyfriend, if you must know), and no one can get in touch with her. (Why no one considers calling any one of Allyson’s many friends who are at the dance with her is also never explained.)
Meanwhile, Michael is making his way through Haddonfield, picking off seemingly random victims in his quiet, methodical way. Eventually, the police catch up to him in someone’s house and try to apprehend him but fail. And when the police have warned the townsfolk to take cover and stay indoors, Karen learns about Michael’s return and finally listens to her mother.
The rest of the movie is concerned with getting everyone to Laurie’s home, where the final showdown between Michael and Laurie will take place. Karen and her husband go with Laurie immediately, but because no one can reach Allyson, Officer Hawkins with the Haddonfield Police department offers to continue to search for her and then bring her to Laurie’s home. (Why police resources are being spent searching for Allyson and no one else, when there is a serial killer on the loose, is not explored further.) Also, Dr. Sartain (Remember him?) has reappeared out of nowhere for the first time since Michael’s facility transfer went sideways earlier in the movie. Ofc. Hawkins decides to bring the doctor along on his search for Allyson in the hopes that, if they happen to stumble upon Michael Myers, the doctor can somehow provide assistance in detaining him.
By the time the final showdown occurs, Allyson has been located and makes it to her grandmother’s home, Ofc. Hawkins and Dr. Sartain die in the most nonsensical and unusual sequence of events, and Laurie’s daughter Karen ends up being a hero, like her mother.
If you are a fan of the original film(s), you will enjoy the easter eggs hidden throughout the movie (including a significant one in the final fight scene). Jamie Lee Curtis is wonderful in her reprisal of Laurie, even though she is not afforded the screen time she really deserves. And there are some enjoyably scary moments in the final scene, as Laurie tries to locate Michael inside her own home. But the movie’s plot seemed thin overall and poorly strung together, and the dynamics between Laurie and her daughter are not explored throughly enough to evoke much compassion or concern.
Honestly, I had high hopes for this movie and was disappointed. Watch it for the easter eggs and for Jamie Lee Curtis. But save yourself some money and wait until the movie is available on Blu-ray or digitally.
Watch the trailer for Halloween here.