Halloween (2018) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
18Feb/193

Halloween (2018)

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Laurie Strode's waited over forty years for the moment her brother, Michael, might come slashing his way back into her life. With Halloween again on the horizon she waits while her disbelieving daughter and sympathetic granddaughter struggle to understand what she's going through. They'll know soon enough. David Gordon Green directs Halloween, with the screenplay written by David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, and stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak.

David Gordon Green, the once consistently now sporadically poetic director who seemed the heir to Terrence Malick, is at first blush an odd choice to helm the latest Halloween. Dig a bit deeper into Green's career and you'll find Undertow, Green's oozing with Southern Gothic take on the fantastic classic The Night of the Hunter.  Green can do seemingly invincible monsters with murder on their minds and he can do it with aplomb. But that was before the stoner comedies, the inconsistent creative input of co-screenwriter Danny McBride, and before our culture continued its exodus away from sincerity.

So the quality of this Halloween is suitably volatile considering the series' tumultuous production history with Green's effort frustratingly close to something great. The biggest problem is that Green's Halloween is trying to fit the inconsistent tone of the series into a single film. Green's Halloween is trapped between the traumatized caricatures of Rob Zombie's films (and I write that with love, no one does caricature like Rob Zombie), the cracked out 4 through 6 installments, making a space for the surviving Laurie Strode of John Carpenter's original, and the bit-too-goofy self-awareness of Green's work with McBride.Halloween works best when Green and crew manage to balance these differing influences with a clear target. In this case, it's the true crime podcasting duo of Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees). True crime podcasting often dips into slum tourism or a patronizing sense that the hosts know more than the professionals handling cases. When Aaron whips out Michael's mask in a checkerboard psych yard (itself a firm visual nod to Last Year at Marienbad and Dressed to Kill) and Dana breathlessly recounts the murder of Michael's older sister the harms of this "above it all" podcasting duo become clear. They want to get all the arousal while taking none of the responsibility for their actions and have an audience waiting for their guilt-free thrills.

The arrogance of the podcast duo leads directly into the other best part of Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis' complex portrayal of Laurie. Curtis has done a phenomenal job updating Laurie for each iteration from the shell-shocked survivor in Halloween 2 and the battle-ready warrior of H20. This time, with Curtis' unpredictable hold on Laurie's psyche front and center, is arguably the best she's been in the role. We've had a lot of media and conversation recently about sharing trauma and I've become weary of people re-traumatizing themselves for entertainment. Curtis is having none of that, shifting quickly between cold and vicious to weary and disillusioned while Green and crew root her dialogue in loosely anchored allusions to the violence she's endured.

Where Halloween fumbles is in the remaining two-thirds or so when Green and crew switch between the younger Strodes, daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Ally (Andi Matichak), and the many failed stabs at humor. Greer and Matichak are good with the latter getting some great scenes opposite Curtis. But both suffer because they're saddled with jokey stoner slasher fodder sidekicks and love interests. That's also a huge issue with the overall tone of Halloween where Curtis is acting her guts out only for the scene to suddenly shift to a boy who's talking about his interest in dancing, or a cool in theory but otherwise out-of-place gender switch of Bonnie and Clyde, or two cops yukking it up over food, and so on. A bit of humor can build tension just as easily as it can diffuse it (see Get Out for an excellent example of humorous detours done well), and here the stabs at humor create insincere cuts through the already tenuous grasp Green has on the various threads of Halloween.Finally there's the problem with Michael. He's no longer an unknowable force of nature or devilish creature earning sympathy. Green shoots him and relays information on his whereabouts like a newscaster, keeping Michael is full view while background players drop or various authorities drop in while they chase after him. This just isn't a tense or interesting use of any killer, which is a disappointment considering Green's earlier success with the earlier-mentioned Undertow. There's one instinct in Halloween that's correct in that Laurie's unpredictability of what she'll do in the face of Michael is more tense than Michael himself, but that tension is diffused because of the many comedic cutaways and too informative updates on Michael.

If Halloween is a disappointment it's at least at an aspirational level of disappointing. Green continues to bring visual heft from unexpected sources to scenes that may have a murky affect but linger in the mind once they're done, and Curtis is phenomenal. But even if there is a sequel (which, let's be real, this is horror and a smash success - there will be sequels) I don't trust the uneven humor of McBride to be more successful on round two when the results are already as volatile as this.

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Halloween (2018)

Directed by David Gordon Green.
Screenplay written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. My thoughts go something like, it can’t hold a light up to the original, but its miles ahead of the sequels.

    • Thanks for the comment Serge. I have a begrudging respect for the insanity of Halloween 4-6, but this is definitely a more interesting effort than Halloween 2 (1981).

  2. Even with all the continuity having been stripped away (for better or worse), Pleasence and Danielle Harris make those more worthwhile.


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