The original Halloween freaked out horror fans when it opened in theaters on October 27, 1978. Written and directed by John Carpenter (and co-written by Debra Hill), Halloween was made for less than half a million dollars and went on to gross $47 million during its theatrical run. The 1978 horror film was so successful that it launched a series of sequels (mostly forgettable) and made Michael Myers into a horror icon. It’s also credited as being the launchpad for decades of slasher films.
Now, 40 years later, what’s being called a direct sequel to the original film arrives in theaters. Also titled Halloween, although as a sequel Halloween 2 would make much more sense, this 2018 addition to the franchise asks fans to forget every other entry in the series other than the 1978 film. Forget that Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) had a teenage son (played by Josh Hartnett) in Halloween H20. Forget every time Michael escaped from jails, hospitals, or mental institutions. Forget Halloween II, released in 1981 and also considered a direct sequel as it picked up exactly where the first film left off.
Fortunately, this erasure of all the Halloween films in between 1978 and 2018 means we can forget Halloween III: Season of the Witch ever existed. We can also slap aside any thoughts of Halloween 4 and its introduction of Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, Laurie Strode’s daughter. The already-forgotten Halloween 5 continued Michael Myers’ obsession with Jamie and had the serial killer surviving being shot and falling into a mine before ultimately landing once more in police custody.
Things got truly twisted in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers which introduced the idea that Michael Myers was being forced into killing one particular family as part of the Curse of Thorn. (That one had a young Paul Rudd playing a key role.) It didn’t make much sense and wasn’t memorable to begin with, so doing away with it isn’t much of a loss. Critics and audiences alike cursed The Curse, and it currently registers a 6% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Laurie Strode was resurrected from the dead for Halloween H20 to put an end to Michael once and for all by decapitating him. Yeah, right… Toss the events of that film, which featured Michelle Williams in a supporting role, into your mental trash can because, according to Halloween 2018, it does not exist.
Not that it matters per the new Halloween, but Laurie didn’t actually decapitate Michael and had to face him once again in 2002’s Halloween Resurrection.
Perhaps it’s because none of the Halloween sequels left lasting impressions that it’s all right to wipe the slate clean and release a direct sequel to the first film that erases four decades-worth of history between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. Halloween (the sequel) finds Laurie Strode now a grandmother who lives down an isolated road in a fortified house that would turn any Doomsday Prepper green with envy.
Never far from a firearm, Laurie remains obsessed with Michael Myers. However, as is pointed out in one of the film’s most clever bits of writing, everyone else has moved on from worrying about that mask-wearing freak. After all, he only killed a couple of people – a tally that’s nothing compared to today’s mass shootings or serial killing sprees.
Laurie has spent 40 years preparing for the moment when Michael Myers will escape from prison and seek his revenge. She’s alienated her only child, Karen (Judy Greer), but has a decent although secretive relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).
It’s revealed Karen was taken away by child services after spending her formative years being trained for the inevitable face-off with Michael Myers. It took a psychological toll on Karen and she’s never forgiven her mother. That explains Karen’s justified reaction to her mother’s preparation for the possibility of a slicing-and-dicing Michael on the loose being one of skepticism rather than alarm.
Michael, of course, does break out of prison and once more stalks the streets of Haddonfield on Halloween. (Why anyone thought transferring him to a different prison on that particular holiday was a great idea is never explained.) He more than doubles his original body count before he squares off against the person whose death he’s likely envisioned every single night of his 40 years of incarceration.
The Bottom Line
2018’s Halloween doesn’t hold a candle to the scares provided in the original film. There are surprisingly few jump scares over the course of the nearly two-hour running time. And unlike the first film, there’s not a single supporting player you’ll be sad to see come to a bloody end the way you were when P.J. Soles bit the dust in 1978’s Halloween.
As with most horror films, characters react in the stupidest ways possible. Laurie’s meticulously planned for this inevitability, yet all of the house’s possible safe rooms are quickly forgotten about once Michael is actually on the property.
What made the first Halloween into a horror classic was the unrelenting feeling that Michael could be around any corner, poised and ready to attack. This 2018 sequel doesn’t capture that feeling of both dread and anticipation. As the body count piles up, the shock value diminishes.
Sure, 2018’s Halloween is a better film than Halloween 2 through Halloween 8. But in setting itself up as a direct sequel, this reboot of the franchise only left itself with the 1978 original for comparison purposes. John Carpenter established the franchise with a film that still holds up and is still a Halloween holiday staple. The 2018 sequel, while decent, won’t have the same lasting impact.
There’s a scene in which the police and Michael’s psychiatrist are attempting to get people to take the situation seriously and lock their doors. The psychiatrist says something to the effect that he’s a doctor and everyone needs to go inside their homes. He’s standing with cops, yet he announces he’s a doctor and tells people to go home. Why would people listen to a doctor they don’t know telling them to go home if they’re not going to listen to actual armed law enforcement officers? I’m being nitpicky but there are too many little moments like that in the new Halloween, too many jarring instances that snapped me out of the film.
The little missteps and lack of interesting supporting players could be forgiven if the film was genuinely scary. Unfortunately, it’s not.
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Directed By: David Gordon Green