Halloween disappoints longtime fans of horror

By JUSTIN KIM | October 25, 2018

This movie really lost a golden opportunity when it chose to release on Oct. 19 and not on Halloween night.

Halloween — and I hate the fact that I’m going to have to specify whether I’m referring to the original, the remake or the holiday every single time — is the 11th movie in this franchise that simply refuses to die, coming back every few years to fill our hearts with dread of how they’re going to mess up the series next. Quite analogous to the actual slashers in this film, now that I think about it.

Anyone who has watched movies for a while should know that horror movie sequels and remakes are as likely to work out well as sticking your hand into last year’s Halloween candy corn stash and expecting not to come away with a fistful of ants.

Horror works because we haven’t seen that particular premise before, and if it’s done again, the scare empties faster than a bowl of Milky Ways in a kindergarten room. With that in mind, Halloween was pretty much a guaranteed dead horse.

So it’s surprising that this movie isn’t terrible. Granted, in a series full of sequels as enjoyable as a decaying pumpkin pie, that’s not saying much, but still, the fact that I walked out of the 11th sequel to a horror movie without a bad taste in my mouth is an accomplishment.

After the movie opens with the credits showing a rotten jack-o’-lantern slowly coming back to life (an accurate metaphor for the hopes of the producers) we’re introduced to the main plot, which continues straight from the original Halloween. No incestuous relationships, no ancient cult resurrections, just Michael and Laurie 40 years after that one fateful night.

Since that night, Laurie has started fortifying her house and stocking up enough weapons to survive seven Halloweens. Granted, if I were her, I wouldn’t prepare for my final fight against a psychopath in the middle of the woods — clearly this woman hasn’t watched any horror movies.

Her behavior stems from her deep-rooted paranoia and trauma of her experience with Michael Myers, and she has spent the last 40 years both hoping and dreading the inevitable sequel — I mean showdown — so much so that she trained her daughter to be Hit-Girl and has isolated herself from society. 

That actually could have been a pretty neat idea to explore: the PTSD of surviving a slasher movie, the effects it has on one’s life and how one reacts when the killer does indeed come back. The fact that this woman has spent decades thinking of nothing but Myers is quite chilling.

Of course we’re NOT going to focus solely on her; the film skips to some drama about journalists investigating the case and a bunch of high school kids. The journalists serve no purpose other than to give Myers an excuse to get his old mask back. As for the kids, one of them is Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson. This could have been an opportunity to see the effects of Laurie’s paranoia on the family, and we get some of that, but the other half of Allyson’s screen time is devoted to dating some guy and breaking up with him.

Why is this girl even here? She dates, kisses, breaks up, slaps, screams, cries and does a grand total of one useful thing in the entire movie toward the climax. She isn’t a character; in fact, none of the non-adult people in this movie are characters. They’re just fodder, appetizers for Myers to sink his knife into. Granted every horror film has their fair share of meat bags, but we still want to feel something for those meat bags.

The adult characters don’t fare much better; they either are one-note and bland or are killed off just as they start to get interesting. The sole exception is Laurie’s daughter Karen, as she’s given much better material to work with. Her distaste for her mother’s obsession with defending herself definitely dives into how much effect Myers has had, even as he was behind bars.

With this many characters, and with most of them acting as rather unnecessary cut-outs, the story tends to wander this way and that.

The journalists’ arc goes nowhere; the boyfriend arc goes nowhere; the psychiatrist arc goes nowhere; the two side character’s hooking up in the house that they’re babysitting arc goes nowhere. 

The only plot line that actually has substance is the one with Myers, Laurie and Karen. But it’s also filled with so many unnecessary distractions and dead-end (ba-dum-tss) subplots.

When it comes to the man Michael Myers himself... I don’t know how psychopathic murderers usually act, but I don’t think they typically drop bloody teeth in front of their victims before killing them. And why is he just standing inside a closet door until someone opens it? Is he just extra shy? 

Maybe in 1978, when he was first introduced, he was a terrifying figure, but there have been so many other horror movie villains up to now that, at this point, he’s just “generic terminator-style thug A,” which does work but isn’t exactly going to make me go crying to my mother tonight.

Because of this the movie isn’t exactly terrifying. Sure, it’s creepy and actually has a fairly tense climax, but all of the scares feel too pedestrian to leave any impact. At least Freddy Krueger could turn someone into a cockroach and trap them in bug killer ooze — all Myers can do is slasher-port behind people and then mangle them with a jump scare noise.

Granted, this isn’t abused as much as in other slasher flicks, and the movie actually seems self-aware at some points, with several false jump scares and a little kid shouting, “HOLY SHIT!” and scurrying away at the sight of Myers in his closet. 

And it’s not like the scares were bad, they were just... average. If you are even the slightest fan of horror, the beats should be all but laid out for you.

It seems that director David Gordon Green chose to abandon the ridiculous mythology of the previous sequels in an effort to return to the more classic horror movie style and plot: killer, victim, side character/meatbags and a creepy house thrown in for good measure. And it definitely does work, with the added element of Laurie’s post-traumatic stress disorder helping the audience’s investment immensely.

The problem is that the overused tropes of the classic horror flicks also come along, like that piece of gummy bear sticking to your Halloween Snickers bar. There are pointless side characters, a shoved-in romance, the police having the collective IQ of a moth in a flame and some girl that spends most of her time running and screaming.

A return to form is nice, but I think this is going a bit too far. Were it not for those tired clichés, this actually could have been, if not great, at least a well-written sequel. 

But because it loses focus with high school drama and reliance on old tropes, it dispenses with the screams and brings a lot more groans.

I wouldn’t say that I hated Halloween; like I said, I walked out of the theater thinking the movie wasn’t so bad. It’s sort of like biting into last year’s Halloween candy and discovering that it’s only slightly stale. 

That being said, I’m not too interested in wanting any more of these movies anytime soon, and the film is best seen as a serviceable ending to the long-lived franchise. Halloween does the trick but is certainly no treat.

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