Slasher movies exist in somewhat of a niche, I feel. You either love them or loathe them. You don’t casually go to see a slasher cos it’s the best thing that’s on in the cinema that week. Or maybe you do, but personally I find it a bit odd if your first port of call when you fancy a film is to watch people being brutalised. Don’t get me wrong, I love a gory death as much as the next movie-goer, but the whole Slasher genre is never one that ever particularly grasped my imagination. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that although I settled down to watch the latest Halloween and the return of the legendary Michael Myers with healthy curiosity, it was tempered by a large portion of biased scepticism.
Halloween is the latest instalment in a franchise which has meandered its way through several incarnations since the 1978 original of the same name. As a reviewer I must admit that I haven’t seen any of the intervening films between the first and latest instalments but by all accounts, that is no great loss and, seeing as 2018’s Halloween does away with all the convoluted lore and attempted franchise development of the sequels, I’d be tempted to suggest that it hardly matters in the grand scheme of things. The original Halloween is often credited as an inspiration for the rise of the slasher genre and its successor, both released and set forty years later, seems painfully aware of the legacy of the past. The poor quality of the intervening films ensures that Halloween gets away with its frequent references to the original by injecting just enough of its own quirk to keep the audience interested.
The opening scene, which features a pair of investigative journalists visiting Michael in a mental institution, is undeniably unsettling and gives great hope that something more than run-of-the-mill murder and mayhem may follow. Unfortunately, it is immediately followed by nearly half an hour (almost a third of the movie) of flat nothingness which attempts to establish a bond between the audience and the characters of Laurie Strode, the star of the original (played by the returning Jamie Lee Curtis), and her descendants. Laurie is suffering from extreme paranoia and depression due to the events of her youth, as is not unreasonable you might think, but from the cold way in which the daughter (played with wide-eyed vapidity by Judy Greer) treats her you think she was obsessing about something much less potentially life threatening than an escaped serial killer with a penchant for killing Strodes. Laurie enjoys much more of a special bond with her granddaughter Allyson, something she demonstrates at one point by giving the girl three grand to spend “however she wants”, (trust me, if my serial-killer-obsessed nana gave me three thousand quid just like that, I’d share a special bond with her too).
Laurie’s worries, naturally, are realised when Michael’s bus crashes (buses carrying dangerous criminal’s always crash don’t they) and he escapes to wreak havoc on his favourite night of the year. What follows is perhaps the movie’s best, and most fun scenes in which Michael wanders with restrained menace through a gas station and then a suburban neighbourhood, killing indiscriminately (trust me, you only realise what a large variety of household items can be used to murder someone when you watch a movie like Halloween). The highlight of a sequence strewn with smashed heads, impaled torsos and lacerated throats is undoubtedly when Michael chooses to hide in the bedroom of a young boy being babysat by a typically attractive teenage girl. The child in question provides several moments of comedy before calling his babysitter in to investigate a suspicious noise with inevitable results. The kid’s cry of “Shit, I’m outta here” not only proved he had more sense than a variety of characters twice his size and age, but was one of several moments in the movie that elicited concerted laughter from the audience.
One of my friends, who is a fan of the franchise, suggested that there was too much of a comedic element to the film and that it detracted from the tension and drama, but for me it was one of the few features that kept me somewhat invested in the plot. Sure, the killings were as fun and silly as could be expected but overall, I felt that the movie was a vague attempt to replicate the original, which only partly succeeded in its task. You hardly come to expect the stars of horror movies to be bastions of common-sense but some of the decision-making in the movie was downright idiotic (leaving doors unlocked, approaching suspiciously quiet rooms/cars, running into a dark wood instead of along a brightly lit road etc. etc.), all of which can be passed off as homage to the style of movie that Halloween is but which, in reality, make it rather silly and hard to watch. The climax of the movie is rife with such idiocy and the final battle, although well shot and suspenseful, left me feeling utterly underwhelmed.
To conclude, it is perhaps not fair of me to be so disparaging. Slashers are not my genre, and I am perhaps being over-critical considering the style and aim of a movie like Halloween. If you like varied and imaginative kills, a well shot movie in an evocative style, and a strong and gender-affirming performance from Jamie Lee Curtis (the men in this movie, except for Myers, are utterly imbecilic) then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy Halloween. For me personally, it was a mildly amusing distraction which relied too heavily on its predecessor and failed to really establish itself as an independent movie. All I’m left wondering after sitting through the movie’s relatively short 104-minute runtime, is after being shot, beaten, set on fire, hit by a car and stabbed, what does it take to kill Michael Myers? I want some of whatever he was eating in that prison.