Danny McBride and David Gordon Green have done some great work. Truly, I’m a fan of their dark, uncompromising comedy that works without the safety net of traditional happyily ever afters or admirable protagonists (or antagonists, often their leads are total dicks and its a joy to watch them fumble and struggle through the messes of their own making). With this in mind, I couldn’t believe when I read about them taking a stab at the Halloween franchise. Curious doesn’t even begin to cut it (shit, these accidental puns are faster than my typing fingers). What would a horror movie by them look like? It definitely sounded like a very odd choice, but I couldn’t wait to find out. Christ, Danny McBride tends to play a total asshole of monstrous proportions in many of his comedic roles, so I wanted to see what they could do with The Shape.
Fast forward to the day I left the cinema having watched Halloween (2018), I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was. Sincerely, going in I was convinced it was going to be nothing short of awesome, Green and McBride had my total faith. Alas, I felt I had misplaced it. This is not a hate piece, diatribe, takedown, whatever you want you call it – and even if it was, who’d give a shit? Exactly, nobody! To me, Halloween (2018) could have been an absolute classic! It looked great, the cast are all solid, and despite my numerous issues with it, it zips along at a great pace which means I can still watch it to this day, even if it bugs me.
So what does bug me about it? It’s complicated. Shit, this will be hard work and I might have to get a coffee first.
Okay, first of all. Laurie Strode is set up to be this big hardcore survivalist following her nightmarish experience in the original movie. Cool, I’m down with that, and I buy Jaime Lee Curtis in that role of a weary, paranoid, alcoholic, and now maladjusted victim seemingly preparing for some inevitable, fateful showdown with Myers. But to me, I was convinced that it would have been her who (accidentally) flips the prison transport bus in a doomed, desperate attempt to execute Myers before he is safely processed inside the walls of another institute. Admittedly, my idea doesn’t mean shit, it’s Green’s and McBride’s story, but their version is so confounding and forced that it simply doesn’t feel right or make any long-term sense (which we’ll get to). Personally, I think it would have carried far more thematic weight if it was Laurie whose tragic inability to overcome her past trauma, caused the bus crash and the subsequent escape of Myers, unleashing him back onto an unsuspecting Haddonfield populace, and in the process repeating the old cycle of violence and trauma by having him do what he does best by descending upon a new group of innocent teens, and thus, setting up Laurie (and a new Final Girl) to rectify her deadly mistake, and put an end to Myers once and for all. At least that could have been the idea, until the second movie of Green and McBride’s planned trilogy furthered the story.
Nope, instead, for some very tenuous and vague reasons, Myers’ psychiatrist, Dr Sartain, unchains him, creating havoc on the bus, and enabling him to ultimately escape. The reason Sartain’s motives don’t ring true to me, is largely hinged on the murkiness of Myers’ iconic reputation, and this particular installment’s intentional neglect of every movie except the original. DON’T get me wrong, I’m totally cool with that: some of the sequels are guilty pleasures (I do like Halloween 2 (1981) even if it wasn’t necessary; I like 3, even though it has nothing to do with Myers; I have a soft spot for 4; and H20 was the only worthy successor to the original in my unwanted opinion) but the rest are flat-out tripe – I mean, even the charm of a young Paul Rudd can’t save Halloween 6. But by negating the events of Halloween 2 (1981) specifically, it muzzles Michael Myers, as it now means he has done very little to make him this legendary national bogeyman for Sartain to obsess over. In the original movie Myers kills 5 people, including the poor bloke whose body he left in a field after stealing his coveralls. Yes, yes, all murder is shocking, I’m not desensitised, but Sartain is secretly in awe of Myers’ evil capabilities, despite the fact the movie is set in 2018, and your average gun-toting gang thug probably has a higher body count than 5. Even a friend of Laurie’s granddaughter makes a jokey comment about Myers’ bodycount being no big deal these days. So where does Dr Sartain’s fascination with this supposedly driven evil force stem from? Now, if you at least include the events of Halloween 2 (1981) as canon, then shit! Yeah, Myers is fucking nightmare fuel personified. But that’s not the case. So instead we have a deranged psychiatrist who seemingly has a very low bar for rockstar status patients. Plus, the dastardly revelation of Sartain’s cuplability in Myers’ latest bloodbath feels very underwhelming and tacked on.
Side note: if Sartain was obsessed over Myers due to his inhuman ability to shake off multiple stab wounds (stomach, eye, neck), six gun shots, and taking a header off an upstairs balcony (all in the original movie), then I’d wholeheartedly agree that he’s a pretty darn interesting case study; especially when we can all only assume that Myers’ grew a replacement eyeball at some point. But none of this is addressed, so I’ll move on to my last couple of nit-picky points.
You see FAR too much of Myers without his mask. I don’t care if they’re only snippets here and there, as collectively they still create a very clear impression of who he is beneath the mask. No matter what he does, all I’m seeing is the old man behind the mask, and I don’t care if he is an indestructible killing machine, that just isn’t scary. His real power is the mask and the mystery underneath.
Lastly, I think the inclusion of Laurie’s daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) is perplexing. By distancing themselves from every entry bar the original movie, Green and McBride shun the whole familial relationship between Myers and Laurie introduced in Halloween 2 (1981), which is fine by me. But now we have a situation which leans quite heavily into what feels like a personal family vendetta between Myers and Laurie, and her daughter and granddaughter, rather than just having Laurie trying to hunt him down to overcome her fear. By all means have Greer and Matichak in the movie, they’re awesome, but couldn’t they have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, much like Laurie in the original movie?
Having said all that, I still can’t wait for Halloween Kills, and I’m hoping that the previous movie’s wobbly start won’t impact what looks to be a straight-up slaughter-fest between Myers and some surly Haddonfield mob justice-types.
DO NOT let my bullshit influence your opinion of Halloween (2018), they’re only my thoughts, and as I mentioned earlier, I still find it enjoyable, and I’m still rooting for Green and McBride to nail the sequel!