What Stopped Halloween 2018 From Being Great?
I always feel a weird sense of self betrayal when I find myself apologizing for a movie’s faults. Sure, I defend the things that I love and usually do so with a fair amount of zeal, BUT defending 2018’s Halloween has left me with a different feeling all together. That feeling, now over a day removed from the night of its premiere, it is quite simply one of being underwhelmed. I didn’t find myself smiling throughout the film the way I was sure I would. I didn’t find myself wanting to go back the following night and relive it with friends. Instead, I found myself shaking my head a little, looking around at the audience and wondering if they were seeing the same things I was.
There’s no other way to put this: 2018’s Halloween, although not the worst installment, was just that – “not the worst installment”. It played it straight, but wasn’t necessarily what I would call a return to form either. It gave us a more true-to-the-first-film incarnation of Michael, but definitely shy of what made the original great. Decisions were made in the film that left me scratching my head and now, a few days after the experience, I’m asking myself, fans, and friends, “why wasn’t 2018’s Halloween the GREAT Halloween that fans were promised?
- The fine line between “wiping the slate clean” and being self-referential.
Ugh. Easter Eggs. If I see another article that starts with “All the Easter Eggs in…”. We get it, filmmakers love nodding to their audiences, sharing that wink and elbow to the ribs as they hide nifty little references to the works of their predecessors in their new films. Like I said, we get it. However, when trying to establish a brand new continuity whose major driving force is cleansing the cinematic universe of all that came before it, maybe those nods are best left on the commentary track. From bathroom kills reminiscent of H20, to Season of the Witch costumes to expositional references to part 2 and beyond, Halloween 2018 was conscious every minute of its predecessors and went to many efforts to point it out. So why haunt a film that is supposed to stand on its own with the ghosts of Halloweens past?
- Surrounding a maniac of mysterious motivations with characters of none of their own.
Although part of the mystery of the Halloween films is wondering exactly what is driving Michael Myers to kill, we need emotional anchors with our characters to care about their motivations. Sure, the film basically exists around Laurie’s need to ensure her own survival. We definitely get that, and it’s a good thing too, as it comprises the very core of the film and absolutely has to in order to sustain itself. All of our supporting characters, however, are nothing but window dressing in the worst ways. We understand that Laurie’s obsession would affect the relationship with her daughter, but we don’t spend enough time with her daughter to truly feel the emotional weight of that strain. This is largely due to the fact that a one-dimensional teen-age character too often takes center screen in what comes off as nothing more than a blatant pandering to keep 13 to 24 year old asses in their seats over opening weekend. Not only did the character of Allyson seem like an unnecessary way to inject younger characters into the film, but it also kept us from spending more time with characters that needed more fleshing out for us to care about them.
- Sartain and the unnecessary addition of a second villain.
The addition of Michael’s enthusiastic caretaker Dr. Sartain felt like yet another unnecessary addition to a script already suffering from one-dimensional characters. From his first introduction we hovered between suspicion and flat-out not caring. A wishy-washy character definitely doesn’t get the kind of reaction that we hope for when ultimately that character show their true colors and we learn of their own insidious agendas. Dr. Sartain’s contribution to the new continuity is further nullified by killing another character that was also thrown in the mix simply to pad the numbers.
- Scrubbing the sequels means a smaller pool to draw from.
I love Will Patton and I am always delighted to see him on screen. Officer Hawkins addition to the roster was a good indication that “full-circle” is hard to accomplish when you’ve erased everything after point A. To grab-bag his back story into a couple of lines did both the actor and the potential character a huge injustice.
- Looks like we got ourselves a real “hands-off” sheriff, boys.
Sheriff Barker feels like a big gun that never quite gets to pull the trigger. His inclusion hints that there might be a bigger police presence in Haddonfield than the three officers called in to respond to their serial-killer-on-the-loose public safety issues. With notoriety around the original killings still in the public consciousness (further exemplified by our “podcasters” that open the film) it’s hard to believe that Barker wasn’t pulling in more resources, for example, like putting himself back on the beat. This leads me to believe that more Barker might actually be lying on the cutting room floor for his presence to end so abruptly.
- Kinda hard to have a safe house when its chock full of mannequins!
If one thing above all others irritated me about the new Halloween, was the flagrant and ridiculous use of mannequins. For a woman that has spent 40 years preparing for the reemergence of the boogeyman you’d think she would have invested in some kind of off-site mannequin storage. Having a lot of mannequins in a room that could potentially become a hiding place for killer? C’mon… that one is pretty damn inexcusable. Sadly, the mannequins also have a huge part to play in the weirdest wtf moment of the movie when granddaughter Allyson stumbles onto grandma’s property and she acts as though she has never seen this particular plastic farm in the front yard before. Bizarre shots that hint at the girl’s early PTSD seem wildly out-of-place and actually drew more than a few giggles from the audience I was with.
There are more instances in the film that felt like the original cut probably ran a good bit longer than the theatrical too but who knows.
All in all, this Halloween felt more like the flavor of the original than anything has since part 2 in my opinion, but after 40 years, I think we’ve had enough time to think about a movie that complimented the original legacy without having to dismiss it.
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