Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: "Halloween" is a decent return, but feels limp without Carpenter

Halloween Review
I always love hearing John Carpenter talk about the original Halloween and how it came about. This wasn't a movie that Carpenter pitched to a studio, it was a work for hire. Carpenter's job was simply to make a movie about a killer going on a rampage set on Halloween night. That was the idea, but Carpenter wanted to get something more out of it. He picked between a clown mask and a William Shatner mask, and Carpenter jokingly announces that he owes his career to William Shatner as a result. He made a movie that was about terror, there isn't any gore at all in the original "Halloween." Yes, Jamie Lee Curtis was great. Carpenter and the look of The Shape (he was not called Michael Myers in the first film, he was called The Shape.) made it famous.

I've always harbored the suspicion that when the original directors and writers leave a franchise, the magic of the thing goes out the window. Gore Verbinski made a hell of a remake with "The Ring," but I don't think the other Ring movies have lived up to the original, without Verbinski. "The Terminator" without James Cameron doesn't feel the same. You can say what you want about the prequels, but I don't think "Star Wars" has had the same magic as when George Lucas was telling the story. The "Halloween" movies haven't been the same since the original because Carpenter wasn't at the helm. They got gorier and crazier, and that really wasn't the original set-up and I may be in the minority, but I haven't really cared for the mythology that has sprouted up in the sequels. I think people with no motivation are much scarier, and when they tried to tie Myers to Laurie, I thought I really lost interest.

David Gordon Green has mainly dealt in comedy. He's made "The Pineapple Express" and "Your Highness" and "The Sitter" and more. He's worked a lot with THE Danny McBride. Both men were producers on this film and David Gordon Green directs. You could have thought that this would have been a comedy parody of sorts. But that isn't what happens here. I am actually surprised to say that David Gordon Green stages some genuinely interesting scares. He creates a palpable atmosphere with this continuation of the franchise. And yes, it is a continuation. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie. Michael Myers goes around killing people. It is very much a "Halloween" movie.

Like I said above, Green creates some genuine unease over the course of the film. There is a sensory overload at the beginning of the film when two horror podcast hosts visit Myers in prison and attempt to show him his mask, and drives the other inmates crazy in a way that is unsettling. There are certainly some effective kills in the movie. Jamie Lee Curtis remains as dedicated to this franchise as she has ever been. But also to a certain extent, is that "Halloween" is just more of the same. Would I surprise you if I said Myers kills lots of people? Would you be surprised if Laurie and Myers had a final showdown? Would you be surprised if Myers appears dead by the end of the film, but there is evidence that he may still be alive? I bet not.

There is some interesting stuff regarding Laurie and her family. Her daughter is played by Judy Greer and Greer is getting better with dramatic beats, because she's usually been a very good comedic actress. There is wedge in their relationship due to everything that has happened in Laurie's life. Laurie is close to her granddaughter Allyson, played by Andi Matichak. There is enough exposition here that when Myers targets Allyson, the relationship between Laurie and Allyson is strong enough that the audience will care. Matichak is a blooming young actress and gives a good scared teenager. So when the movie is required to be more human, it is more or less successful.

Green is fighting tooth and nail to make this feel like Carpenter. There is the classic font on the opening titles. There is a cool opening where a carved pumpkin blows up balloon style to make a jack-o-lantern. The cinematography is muddy and gritty. It really does feel like a continuation and I think Gordon does have some success with giant stretches of the film. But there is a constant feeling of something missing. I have to say that without Carpenter, there is no Halloween. Carpenter set the stage in such a way that everyone else who has gone up to bat has ultimately failed. I will say that I absolutely prefer this film to Rob Zombie's two shitty movies. Or many of the sequels for that matter. But without Carpenter, its tough to even try with this story.


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