Michael Myers, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong. You may be in your sexagenarian years, yet you continue to bash in brains and slice and dice horny teenagers with masterful precision. It’s just too bad the picture around you this time doesn’t operate at your same commanding level.
I am a Halloween nut, through and through. Not only do I of course worship John Carpenter’s 1978 original - both among the finest pictures of its decade and greatest horror films of all-time - I’m even quite taken with Halloween II and Halloween: H20. Hell, throw Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers on television and I’ll cancel all of my prior commitments!
So, you can imagine I was quite surprised and more than a little heartbroken as I found myself not so enamored with the latest entry in the franchise, David Gordon Green’s Halloween - a follow-up to the Carpenter original that opts to pretend all prior sequels never came to fruition. Perhaps most key of all is it erases that pesky development, which first arouse in Halloween II, that Michael and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode were siblings. This is something I was completely down for, yet Green’s Halloween doesn’t even satisfy at the same levels of Halloween II or H20.
In the dismal Halloween: Resurrection, Michael found himself confronted by the craze over reality television. This time around, it’s true-crime podcasting, presented in the form of a pair of British journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) who, 40 years following Michael’s murderous rampage in the first Halloween, pay the psychopath a visit at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. You see, Michael has been imprisoned there since his capture by Dr. Loomis (RIP Donald Pleasance). Now, with Dr. Loomis having passed on, he’s being treated by another eccentric doc, Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer).
After egging Michael on, both showing him his former mask and bringing up Laurie, the podcasters pay a visit to none other than the sole survivor herself. Laurie has spent the past 40 years battling PTSD and preparing herself and her family for what she sees as Michael’s inevitable return. She’s been married and divorced twice and lost custody of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who now has a teenage daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak).
Laurie, no surprise, hasn’t the faintest interest in cooperating with the Brits. She’s far more focused on her old foe, who conveniently is being transferred to a new facility on the eve of Halloween. It should come as scant surprise that Michael of course manages an escape, gets his hands on his old mask and greets Haddonfield with a long overdue, plenty grisly return. If Laurie is prepared, the rest of the community, per usual, is very much susceptible to Michael’s prey.
Never before has this series been such a meandering slog as it is in its opening half hour. The insertion of true-crime podcasting into the franchise must have sounded timely and inspired on the page but it’s not the least bit compelling on the screen. Once Michael is back in action, the proceedings do at least muster the same satisfaction as a competent slasher picture, yet it’s never nearly on the same level as Carpenter’s original.
As always, Curtis gives it her all as Laurie and especially provides the picture a boost in its final half hour, a cat-and-mouse duel between she and Michael that is claustrophobic in the best sense. Unfortunately, the supporting cast around her isn’t terribly memorable and there is at least one character and plot twist that, thankfully briefly, sends the film jumping the shark. Kudos to the very funny Jibrail Nantambu, portraying the only character (besides Laurie) you’re genuinely rooting for Michael not to knock off.
Green does a fine job staging the rousing grand finale but the rest of his direction is strictly workmanlike stuff, decidedly not Carpenter-caliber. Speaking of Carpenter, however, his musical score, jazzed up a bit this time around, remains a stirring winner.
If Halloween is hardly the worst entry in the series, it also falls tragically short of the greatness once so present in this franchise.