Sunday, April 5, 2020


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociologicaL*

I yield to no one in my scorn of nearly all of the sequels of the original HALLOWEEN. (I have not seen both of Rob Zombie’s non-canonical adaptations, so I exclude them from consideration.) Whereas one can find interesting motifs in the sagas of Jason and Freddy as those franchise-fiends passed from creator to creator, all of the HALLOWEEN sequels, even those with John Carpenter’s input, went down, down, down, into a burning ring of tedium. 

Yet, dismal as most of these sequels are, they have one saving grace: they aren’t presumptuous. They give crappy pulp horror movies to people who want crappy horror movies, and what you see is what you get.

David Gordon Green’s 2018 reboot of the franchise manages to be both presumptuous and tedious at the same time. Unlike the Zombie films, this one doesn’t remake the Carpenter film, but uses that movie as a jumping-off point for a fresh continuity. Here, Michael Myers is captured shortly after his relatively brief murder-spree in the first film, and he remains incarcerated in an asylum for the next forty years. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the only person to survive Michael's original rampage, and though in the new continuity she’s no longer his sister, she’s lived the life of a gun-hoarding survivalist for all those years, because she feels the conviction that someday, Michael will come looking for her. That conviction has cost her, for her adult daughter Karen does not share Laurie’s sense of destined confrontation. Both she and her husband have distanced themselves from the mordant old lady, though Laurie’s teenaged granddaughter Allyson still reveres her “crazy grandma.” It doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess that on the fortieth anniversary of Michael’s murders, he will escape the asylum and go looking for Strodes.

When I heard some of the pre-movie hype for this project in 2018, I was wary that actress Curtis and others were redefining the HALLOWEEN franchise as an analogue to feminine trauma in response to violence. After watching the film, I was at least relieved that the film was not framed as a #MeToo fable like CAPTAIN MARVEL. Michael may not be an incarnation of Satanic evil, as Carpenter’s original film suggests, but at least he doesn’t suffer the fate of being dumbed down into a representation of the patriarchy. Indeed, though “the Shape” doesn’t connote anythinig beyond “nasty serial killer,” at least in this iteration he looks physically imposing.

Yet earlier franchise-films were at least good dumb entertainment even without a well-conceived monster, as seen in HALLOWEEN 2. What sinks this film (which director Green co-wrote with two collaborators) is that Green signals every aspect of the story with a total lack of subtlety. He opens the film at Michael’s asylum with a couple of podcast-journalists trying to provoke a reaction out of the uncommunicative killer by showing him his mask. How a reporter would have acquired such an item, or why the presiding pyscholoist would allow such dramatics, are questions Green does not bother to anticipate. He’s no better with regard to the motives of Laurie Strode. There’s some bland bullshit about how traumas make their citicms want to fixate on their tragedies. But it’s all just an excuse to turn Laurie into Sarah Connor, tricked out with lots of firepower and a fiery trap designed to execute her nemesis. (Presumably this version of Michael, who just barely qualifies as marvelous by virtue of surviving an automobile run-down without consequence, will get his abilities upgraded when the franchise re-animates him.)

Like the characters, the stalking-scenes are competent but unexceptional. Sadly, this dull exercise in psuedo-relevance made money at the box office, so there will probably be more of these “Mickey Myers” entries. It’s a shame that the script was too weak to give Jamie Lee Curtis anything to do but grit her teeth and fire off various guns. I for one prefer to remember the series ending with her comeback in HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION, which is the true Laurie Strode in my eyes.

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