Michael Myers. It’s a name that evokes the very spirit of the horror / slasher genre. He’s a faceless killer; the shadow lurking in the corner of your bedroom; the footsteps you hear behind you on a lonely walk home. Director David Gordon Green asks that – for the purposes of Halloween – you ignore all previous sequels, and go straight from 1978 to present day in order to “face your fate” alongside Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode.
Strode is now an agoraphobic, living in an isolated house at the edge of the woods, still obsessing over her encounter with the masked serial killer forty years previously. Her family are starting to tire of her paranoia, but she’s convinced she can smoke Myers out in order to finish things once and for all.
The film starts with a pair of English journalists, looking to create a podcast on the infamous “babysitter killer” and, in all honesty, here is where the trouble starts. Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees are really bloody annoying. They sound like they are reading from cue cards just beyond the camera and there’s an awful lot of “explaining this for the audience” type of material. They feel clunky and at odds with the story.
However, John Carpenter’s thumping score and a fun, throwback title sequence quickly enlivened hopes of a proper scare. Sadly, the script – and the action – fails to deliver. As the film is an 18 and a Blumhouse production, I had hoped to feel on edge throughout, but the tension never seems to materialise. Most of the killings take place off screen – there are a lot of cutaways. I felt a little cheated by this. Not the original was full of gore, but you barely see a knife going in.
The film is littered with nice little references to the original, throughout, so there are plenty of “in jokes” for fans who know the franchise well, including the mental hospital where Myers is a resident. There is also some neat mirroring of the murders from the first film – the ghost disguise being the most obvious – as well as the way Myers stalks out his prey in amongst the clothes lines.
For me, the character of Myers is one of the most consistently fascinating horror icons. His entire physicality is so intimidating – the way he moves and breathes; the mechanical way in which he sits upright; the fact that he seems so indestructible. He is referred to, several times throughout the film, as “pure evil” and yet he makes some interesting choices whilst on his killing spree. Mild spoiler – there’s a scene with a baby, which drew huge gasps from the audience I was in with.
One of the best scenes in the film features Myers walking around a neighbourhood whilst the kids trick or treat. The camerawork is fantastic – gliding from house to alleyway to garage to street, seamlessly over Myers shoulder. It’s exciting to watch him weave amongst the crowds, seemingly unnoticeable. He walks straight in to a few houses, which reminded me slightly of the serial killer Richard Chase, who chose his victims based on the fact that their front door was already unlocked. It was one of the few moments of real tension, as you tried to anticipate his next move.
I wish that David Gordon Green had been bolder with his directorial choices, and I felt that the whole film needed a much stronger script and cast – Judy Greer stood out as being particularly terrible. The comedy elements of the script also felt at odds with the image of a serial killer at large.
I had really hoped for big scares that left me sleeping with the light on with this Halloween sequel, but not even the much-anticipated return of the battered looking Shatner mask could deliver any real tension.