If you go by the numbers, technically, the new Halloween is the eleventh in the series. However, director David Gordon Green wants you to forget the middle nine. Evidently, like Bobby Ewing’s wake-up call in the shower, we have to assume all those previous outings were dreams, or in this case, nightmares. Not at a difficult request considering that personally speaking, they all pretty much evaporated from memory the moment they concluded. Plus, that would help explain the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character Laurie Strode; she died in Halloween: Resurrection (2002).
It’s forty years since psychotic killer Michael Myers was captured. If you recall in the ‘78 original, there was that tense, climactic nail-biter in the bedroom scene. Teenage Laurie hid among the wire coat hangers in the closet as the creepy Myers entered, ready for the kill, only to be shot at the last second by Dr. Loomis (the equally creepy Donald Pleasence). Myers fell out of the second story window and laid flat, spreadeagled on the grass below. Yet when the doctor and Laurie went to the window and looked down, Myers had gone. Now we’re asked to accept that he didn’t actually run off, readying himself to kill again for the inevitable sequel, but was, in fact, seized and locked away.
“Forty years,” explains Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), or as Laurie will later call him, the new Loomis. “He has not uttered a word.” Myers has been a patient at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and he’s become the doctor’s obsession. “He can speak. He chooses not to.” But Myers’ days at the Sanitarium are over.
The authorities have decided it’s time to move the killer to a maximum security prison where they’ll look him up and throw away the room. But the transportation of Myers doesn’t go as planned. There’s an accident, resulting with the bus crashing at the side of the road and Myers escaping. We never find out what happened. For the economy of time and the unnecessary need to explain anything, all that’s important is that the bus crashed, the driver was killed, and the patient escaped. From there, the hunt is on. “We have one order of business,” states police office Frank Hawkins (Will Patton). “That’s to hunt this thing down.”
As it’s October 31, Halloween night, and the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois are full of costumed trick or treaters, running from house to house, knocking on decorated doors, ready to load up on candy, no one notices the tall guy in the William Shatner/Captain Kirk death mask, armed with the bloodied knife walking among them. He blends. Myers is back in town with a single-minded intention: he’s looking for the one that got away forty years ago on the same night, Laurie Strode.
“I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case,” a gray-haired Laurie explains. For the past forty years, Laurie’s life has been a wreck. She has a family. There’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer, who curiously sports a Christmas cardigan on Halloween) and a teenage granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), but grandma Laurie is mostly ignored. Now the woman lives alone in a private gated community of one, hidden away in a rundown, heavily fortified home on the outskirts of town, preparing herself what she knows will eventually happen. “I pray every night for him to escape,” Laurie says, “So that I can kill him.”
In the original, Myers killed only five people. In this new continuation, he kills triple that, many off camera, so it’s difficult to quote a number. Most victims are only briefly seen before they’re brutalized, so there’s rarely a moment when you really feel something for anyone, other than being automatically sorry for any innocent who happens to die. However, there’s no shortage of annoying characters doing or saying annoyingly stupid things, especially some of the teenagers whose inclusion on Myers’ death list should be mandatory. When the granddaughter Allyson dashes from a car with the slower than molasses Myers standing nearby, instead of heading along the road that would lead her to help, she runs into the woods. Let me repeat. She runs into the woods.
For convenient storytelling purposes, the slow-moving Myers is still able to survive repeated stabbings, mutilations, burnings, and being hit head-on by speeding vehicles. No matter what happens, he gets up again as if on his own supernatural playing field and continues. He’s the psychotic energizer bunny in slo-mo. And yet, like those weeping angels of Dr. Who, when you’re not looking or when the light flickers, he somehow has the ability to move at lightning speed to a different location, ready for the attack.
There’s a sense of fun in the anticipation of revisiting Halloween, but like a Christmas gift that was somehow more exciting until it was unwrapped, there’s nothing particularly fresh or even necessary in this continuation once the excitement of waiting is over and you’re actually watching it. Admittedly, unless you’re among those who idolize the original and view it as a classic, then the prospect of seeing a film that goes back to the series’ roots must be the movie event of the year. But let’s be honest and not forget, John Carpenter’s original was largely rough around the edges, and the acting among those teenagers, dire. But it built a great, tense atmosphere, and with Carpenter’s haunting theme, Halloween proved to be the perfect drive-in teenage horror movie. Plus, it established Jamie Lee Curtis as the seventies’ official scream queen.
But while this new edition appears considerably more accomplished in the making, and the acting a vast improvement, plus it retains Carpenter’s terrific theme, there’s nothing that elevates the 2018 Halloween to the level of something special. Ultimately, it’s more of the same, which might be fine if that’s all you want or expect, but when it’s hyped as being something more, you’re looking for something more. The one creative moment is a return to that climactic bedroom scene of the original, only this time it’s not Myers but a heavily armed Laurie doing the hunting in the closets among the wire coat hangers, with a funny twist on the body falling from the upper-level bedroom window then spreadeagled on the grass below.
As the eleventh movie in the series, it may want us to ignore the previous nine, but it won’t be long before you’ll be doing the same with this one. Stick with the first. For all its faults and that awful acting, it’s still the only Halloween you need to see.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 109 Minutes