By any measurement “Halloween”1978 – (God, its been 40 years), is a classic. Directed by John Carpenter at an early peak in his truly amazing form, it was the true Hollywood success story, made on a bus ticket budget, it made Gazillions at box offices worldwide before spawning an equally profitable “franchise” of forgettable sequels which in turn bred in the marketplace into a slew of copycat productions that became known as the “slasher genre”.
Over the last 40 years classifying a film as a “Slasher flick” has become an insult, simply because so many of the films following in “Halloween’s” wake were, not to put too fine a point on it, shit. The shiny-suit money grubbers behind the titles had developed the idea that all that was required was a few tit shots, some limp soft core porn and some jump cuts of blood on tits as belaboured imagery of retribution for pre-marital sex and, of course, a number in the title so the prospective punter knew what he was getting.
The original “Halloween” was a very good film indeed made by a truly gifted but hopelessly undervalued John Carpenter. It uses a bare minimum of cheap tricks to generate its impact. The “shock cut and sudden loud noise”technique” is barely used at all and the film instead scares the sh*t out of the audience by the skilful blending of imagery, great acting and brilliant music. Of course there is *some* blood and, because the film was breaking new ground, everyone noticed it and copied it, mistakenly thinking that the blood was “why” the film was frightening. Until the whole genre haemorrhaged itself to death.
Well, actually not just like the killers in good franchises, the franchises themselves keep popping back up, just when you least expect them to. So, the same week I received an invitation to my fortieth anniversary high school reunion “Halloween 2018” was released. And by golly the film was released on a different world and onto a different me. No longer was I a pimply gangly bluffing my way into “R” rated movies with a doctored bus pass. Now I’m forty years older, fatter, far more self-confident and less gorgeous, confined to a wheelchair as a hemiplegic and have a white skunk-strip bleached into my greying hair (Pepe le Peu is my spirit animal)
… And along comes Halloween 2018. Its a different world, “blood on tits is as unfashionable as films about white cops shooting back men – even as unfashionable as Mickey Rooney’s “hilarious” performance as a Japanese in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, so “Halloween 2018” takes a very different tack, while essentially having exactly the same plot. It’s a difficult trick to pull but the script and direction actually managed to fool me until some hour or so after I left the theatre. Michael Myers escapes the loonie bin (again) but with more detail this time, and makes a bee-line for Haddonfield and the nearest fornicating babysitter (again) to dole out another lesson in sexual guilt forty years after the original bloody mess. Forty years later Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is no longer the babysitter, she has become a (still gorgeous) grandmother suffering through a hell of post traumatic stress disorder the way decent American does, shitload of guns, grain alcohol and general weirdness. She is a woman who does not need a man to protect her – instead with the addition of a three foot iron penis, she protects herself in abandoning the role of damsel in distress, she becomes yet another spruiker for the NRA showing us all, that a state of heavily-armed anti-social paranoia is the only rational response to modern life. And the film lumbers along. We meet Michael Myers in the loonie bin. He is crazier than Hannibal Lecter. He escapes, in a rather similar manner. He immediately embarks on a random killing spree and finds his way to Laurie Strode’s house. She’s had decades to prepare for his inevitable escape so her house is a heavily armoured maze of traps but Michael has the unquantifiable “luck” that assists him and protects him to the point where he is more a force of nature than a simple psycho with a knife.
In the first film Laurie Strode was forced by the unstoppable into becoming a force of nature herself, in the end vanquishing Michael Myers with the only tool available to hand, she straightens out a wire coat hanger and in one of cinema’s most heart stopping moments, stabs Myers through the eye with it. Loomis appears like the cavalry and shoots Myers. Forgive me, but I find a lone woman trapped with only a straightened coat-hanger for protection, to be more unsettling than the same lone woman in a house full of traps, more guns than a platoon of infantry and a spot of backup bluntly, one was terrifying, the other is pretty much a forgone conclusion, like a dentist with bloodlust hunting endangered bandicoots in a toilet cubicle with a rocket launcher.
Not to put too fine a point on it “Halloween 2018” is the umpty-nineth chapter of the franchise, not an amazing rediscovery of it. If giving the female hero lots of guns and thereby lessening the challenge before her is “empowering” I am a monkey’s uncle. Its not a film anyone should be ashamed of but the director (David Gordon Green) should study the techniques of the masters, Carpenter & Cronenberg and not insult his audience with “booga -wooga” drek – after the second shock cut, I learn the score and expect the next one. Boredom quickly sets in and I’m left admiring Jamie Lee Curtis and wondering how she makes being a screen queen and film star seem so damn effortless. Final verdict weigh up carefully whether you see this one.