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‘Halloween’ redux is just not that scary

October 26, 2018

Over the last 40 years, Michael Myers has taken more bullets than a firing range target, has been burned, stabbed, and beheaded, only to return every few years in some other form. 

Jamie Lee Curtis began her acting career with the “Halloween” series, as teenager Laurie Strode, who was terrorized by a William Shatner-masked madman while babysitting in a sleepy Illinois suburb. Curtis returned for the sequel, in which she was revealed to be Michael’s sister, but left the franchise for the next few substandard sequels. 

Curtis returned for the s

eries’ 20th anniversary film, “Halloween H20,” which ignored all sequels and shows her as a struggling adult with two teens who are now just the right age for cinematic serial killer fodder. 

Since then, there have been three more films that bear the “Halloween” name (and too many knock-offs to count), one that kills off Laurie’s character in the most insulting way possible, and two grungy reboots from director Rob Zombie that do little more than cake mud on the original.

Curtis is back again in a film simply titled the same as the original, and it wants us to ignore all nine subsequent films and serve as the first film’s definitive, direct sequel.

Got all that?

It matters little, because at this point, we all pretty much know Michael’s modus operandi, and there’s not much variation on that theme here. Despite the involvement of John Carpenter (as producer), the return of Curtis and the enlisting of director David Gordon Green (“George Washington,” “Pineapple Express,” “Stronger”), there is little here aside from countless call-backs to the enduring original. 

It begins with a couple of British podcasters putting together a project to interview Myers. They are told of his inexplicable evil by his psychiatrist (Haluk Bilginer, obviously standing in for the late Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis). They somehow got ahold of his signature mask and taunt him with it in an effort to get him to speak, while Michael stands motionless in the middle of one of the most bizarrely decorated psychiatric prisons in the world. 

We are then rushed through the strained family ties of the Strode family: Laurie has been doomsday prepping for the last four decades, causing the estrangement of her daughter (played by Judy Greer) and granddaughter Alyson (played by Andi Malinchak), who inexplicably all still live in Haddonfield. On the eve of Halloween, the prison decides it’d be a great time to move the prisoners to another location, which inevitably leads to Michael’s escape. 

Director Green has purported himself to be a fan of the original, but instead of crafting a simple, engaging continuation, he seems more concerned to get as many Easter eggs as possible (the masks from the third film’s Silver Shamrock are spotted; when Laurie is thrown out a window, she immediately disappears as Michael searches for her from the balcony; the same font and style of the opening credits are used). But the slapdash story seems an afterthought. So, too, does the characterization of Laurie after all these years, Sure, Jamie Lee gives it all she can, and she can still kick ass as a grandma, but her dealing with PTSD amounts to little more than booby-trapping and remaining holed up in her house-turned-survival-compound and nervously waiting for Michael to show.

It’s not quite the same display as Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” or Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2.” 

Michael, here played by Nick Castle, doesn’t operate in the same manner as the original, reverting to a more Rob Zombie-like incarnation of his methods of disposal. He was brutal but simple in the original, but here he extracts teeth, decapitates, stomps on heads and uses other tactics that were on par for the lackluster sequels this film is supposed to erase. There is no attention to tension. 

Worst of all, it’s just not that scary.

The jump-scares are telegraphed, and the entire appeal of the original - the domesticity of terror - is lost. Sure, Michael enters a home or two and does his business, but when it comes to the climactic battle, Laurie’s mannequin-strewn bunker holds no familiarity for the average person. 

And even its conclusion still leaves open the slightest window for a sequel, and does not provide us with the cathartic ending that was initially sold when this film was first pitched. Instead, we are left with yet another round of human pincushions and a yet another attempt to reanimate a corpse that should have been left in peace years ago.  

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.