Impressions: Halloween (2018)

Like Impressions pieces from the past, my look at the new Halloween movie will not be looking at it as an isolated movie. My thoughts on it are too tangled up with my thoughts on the franchise as a whole, and I am not sure that it would even be possible to just look at this movie on its own. Instead, I would like to share my thoughts on the 1978 Halloween, my thoughts on the direction the franchise took, and now back to where we are in 2018.

I think the most important place to start with is the choice that Halloween 2018 made to retcon the franchise overall. For those that don’t know Halloween 2018 is a direct sequel to the 1978 movie, all of the other movies from the franchise and their plotlines are considered not to have happened. This was a bold choice and one that I think instantly divided the audiences. Some people didn’t like this choice and didn’t understand why, and then there are people like me.

I am a huge fan of the original Halloween, it’s one of my top horror films, but I do not like the franchise overall. While I find the movies entertaining I feel there was a significant drop in quality between the first Halloween and all those that came after, and a lot of this is based on the choices they made with Michael Myers. Michael was a boy that for seemingly no reason (though possibly sexual confusion and frustration if you want to get into it) killed his sister. He never showed remorse or real motive. He was considered pure evil. When he breaks out of the hospital, he happens upon Laurie Strode, and that is seemingly all it takes for him to stalk her, kill her friends, terrorize her, and try to kill her. There is no given motivation, there is no deeper meaning, he is evil, and Laurie is a chosen victim. And I loved this.

As the franchise developed, there was a need to give Michael motivation. Making Laurie and other main targets family did not work for me. Michael went from something pure evil to something lessened. Rob Zombie (with all due respect) took this to the extreme and dove into Michael’s troubled past, once again giving further explanation to what had once been something greater than that.

Circling back to 2018 the idea to undo all of this and wipe the slate clean and just go with what the first movie established, an evil man that becomes fixated, appealed to me a great deal. It actually works to an extent as well. The problem is they try to drive the point home a little too far. In their desperation to reestablish the “evil because he is” Michael, they drive the point home a little too much. Several characters seem only to exist to question why Michael is the way he is, to be killed brutally so that the audience is told: “because he is.” They don’t really seem to have much point beyond that or are developed enough to justify them being such key figures. The movie even outright addresses the Laurie being Michael’s sister thing. Again, I fully support the idea of bringing back that idea of Michael but trying that hard to make it stick almost undoes the point a little.

Another thing is the movie desperately tries to call back to the 1978 movie. This works well in some cases, like scenes being recreated just with role reversals, and not so well other times.

The biggest problem this movie faces though is it’s just not as exciting as the 1978 version. A lot of people find the movie a little slow when they rewatch it, but it works so well. There is a lot of build-up to the final act, and a lot of it is focused on building the suspense. Showing Michael stalking Laurie, taking his time, making sure he has her and her friends exactly where he wants them and then striking.

This movie is incredibly Laurie focused, and that’s not a bad thing, but it messes with the overall execution a little. Seeing how Laurie was so impacted and changed by the events is excellent. What it doesn’t leave a lot of room for is the build-up of Michael coming for them. There is very little in the way of suspense building because most of the time spent not on the killing is not dedicated to watching Michael’s every move, but Laurie and her families.

This in no way makes for a bad movie, but it doesn’t make for the best horror movie. Everything sort of feels rushed whenever we are following Michael, and very few scenes manage to land as successfully as they were meant to. Instead of feeling suspense and tension a lot of times I was merely too prepared for what I knew was coming. That doesn’t mean none of the scenes focused on suspense worked, they all work to some degree, and some were pretty solid, just none of them worked as well as the 1978 movie.

There are also some overall issues with the story that may or may not bother some people. It’s hard to say without going into too much detail, which I’d rather not give too much away. I felt the development of “the new Loomis” as they call him was odd, and there were better places they could have gone with that. There are few ancillary characters that could have been better utilized (or just plain cut). Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter, is not a bad character, but the people surrounding her leave a lot to be desired, or aren’t very well developed, so it makes the Allyson Laurie comparison fall a little flat.

Still, the movie definitely embraces girl power with Laurie, her daughter, and her granddaughter all being central figures.

So what is my bottom line? Well, it’s hard to say. I have to say I personally like it more than pretty much any other movie in the franchise. Halloween II might get some points for entertainment that this one misses, but they are pretty close overall. I love the fact that they undid the franchise story and at least attempted to go back to what I personally felt was what the franchise always should have been. I still think that it was just unable to catch lightning in a bottle. This movie, for all I enjoyed it, proves to me once and for all that I will always be a Halloween (78) lover, and just kind of enjoy everything else for what it is but never see it the same. I give them a lot of credit for trying and think they got close, but that the task might just be too much for anyone to complete. If this movie didn’t do it, I simply don’t think any can.

That is for me though, someone with high expectations for what I wanted out of every follow-up to Halloween (78) and was likely never going to be satisfied. For other people? I am still mixed on who I would or would not recommend this to. A lot of people will like this movie, a lot will be disappointed, it really all comes down to your feelings about the franchise overall. If you are like me and preferred the original over the others, there is a chance you’ll enjoy it. If you are like many people that actually liked the direction that the franchise took and greatly enjoyed the follow-ups, you might walk away a bit bummed. If you are a horror fan enough you can look at this and all of them through their own lens there is some good stuff here. Good callbacks, good references, some exciting kills, great music, and while not the best horror movie of all time a solid enough slasher to entertain, if not blow away.

I am glad I got to experience it, and I am pleased after so many years people are still debating the best way to tackle Halloween and the character of Michael Myers. There are pros and cons to all of the directions the franchise has taken, and it’s interesting to see what different aspects people loved and wanted to explore and which ones they didn’t care for. I think John Carpenter did something pretty fantastic when he made Halloween, and the fact that 40 years later we are still exploring, debating, and trying to interact with that movie on different levels is telling.

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