We didn’t need another Halloween movie. That’s not to say we need more Star Wars or Avengers, but they’re at least nominally in service of a larger story. They can pretend to be completing some sort of Very Important Narrative while also making a literal billion dollars.
But horror movies, at least to me, often feel like filler. At least this one is sort of un-filler: If you’ve seen any of the entries in the Halloween franchise since the 1978 original, forget them. They’re gone. In the world of writer-director David Gordon Green, the slate is now clean. It’s a solid conceit, one most horror franchises need to adopt, but it still doesn’t help 2018’s Halloween become anything more than another disposable scary movie.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has spent the entirety of her post-Michael Myers life planning for his return. She’s alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and is working on driving away her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) as well with her erratic behavior. But when Michael (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) breaks out and starts terrorizing Haddonfield again, it’s up to Laurie—with the help, or the hindrance, of Michael’s keeper Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer)—to stop him.
The build to Michael’s escape is entertaining, as are elements of his murderous chaos. Said chaos also raises an intriguing question: Michael’s murders feel haphazard, yet Laurie is insistent that he’s coming for her. This leads her to hunt him down, which ultimately turns him in her direction. You can’t help but wonder if Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) are subtly noting that it’s Laurie’s well-earned fear that reinserts her family in this scenario. She’s forever scarred by Michael, and while he may have some level of weird psycho-sexual connection to her, he’s also just a crazy murderer. Unfortunately, they don’t really lean either way; Laurie is “the hunter” of Michael until she isn’t, and no one acknowledges how it’s her obsession, not Michael’s faux-supernatural focus, that has put her family at risk.
It wouldn’t be a “co-written by Danny McBride” movie if there wasn’t a little comedy shoehorned in. You can see what feels like his influence in a few rambling ‘funny’ scenes: Allyson’s friend Vicky banters with a little kid she’s babysitting for, and two cops discuss the meaning of a banh mi. I suppose these are meant to make us guffaw, but they also take you out of the movie; should we be worried about the murderer or enjoy two small-town cops trying to wrap their heads around a Vietnamese sandwich?
Then there are the callbacks to the original. “You’re the new Loomis,” Laurie says to Dr. Sartain. Indeed he is. Michael also peers off a balcony to see a fallen Laurie has disappeared, a switcheroo-style nod to the famous 1978 ending. I suppose these are elements that true horror fans will squeal with glee over, but they don’t add much beyond acknowledging, “Yes, the original existed.”
Even for a horror movie, the twists and turns here are ludicrous. Characters switch allegiances for the thinnest reasons—working with a serial killer makes you go crazy!—and Laurie’s 40-year scheme for killing Michael involves an extremely clumsy trap, one he appears to stumble into rather than be lured to enter. When the crux of a character is “she’s spent decades planning her revenge” and then her plan falls apart in 8 seconds, only to magically work out for narrative reasons, that’s not exactly a thrilling conclusion.
And, of course, the most absurd part might be the two podcasters who kick the story off by visiting Michael in confinement and tempting him with his famous mask. They also offer Laurie $3,000 for her story, reinforcing the obvious boatloads of money in podcasting these days. Fortunately, Michael breaks both of their necks soon after, which is exactly the fate podcasters deserve.
Despite our yearly deep dive, I’m not a horror fan. Maybe if I were, I would’ve found something to like about Halloween. But I am who I am, and it is what it is: yet another poorly plotted, oft-stupid slasher film.