Three billion human lives ended on October 31, 1978. The survivors of the incident called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines.
Oh, sorry, wrong franchise. This isn’t a Terminator movie, as much as the new version of Laurie Strode likes to act like it is.
It’s been 40 years since three teens from Haddonfield, Illinois were killed at the hands of escaped mental patient, Michael Myers, leaving sole survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to pick up the pieces of her life that were taken away from her the night her friends were killed. Also, forget about that crazy brother/sister plot twist in Halloween II because as far as this movie is concerned, that movie didn’t happen. In this version, Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shot Michael Myers six times, and he was apprehended by police and returned to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he would continue to be looked after by Dr Loomis and then his protege, Dr Sartain, who we meet at the beginning of this film. There was no rhyme or reason to Michael’s killings or to why he went after Laurie Strode except that she dropped off a key at Michael’s old house (where he killed his older sister 15 years earlier) so her father, a local realtor, could show it to some clients.
Forty years later, it’s Halloween again (literally, because no one could come up with a creative title for this movie. Seriously though, this is like the third time we’ve done this and I’m tired of having to explain this timeline to my mom) and a couple of “award-winning” podcasters arrive at Smith’s Grove to meet Michael, with the full cooperation of Dr Sartain, because apparently mental patients don’t have to give their consent to be interviewed. The podcasters and Dr Sartain go to the courtyard where the patients, including Michael, are enjoying the sunshine. The male podcaster pulls William Shatner’s skinned face from his bag, the same mask Michael used during his killing spree in 1978, explaining that his friend at the Attorney General’s office let him have the mask. Why the AG’s office would have it, or why they would give it to a couple of podcasters is beyond me. The podcaster hopes that being near the mask will invoke a reaction out of Michael, but it seems only to upset the other patients.
Meanwhile, podcast man is SCREAMING at Michael to say something, all while Dr Sartain just stands there and lets it happen because apparently this is super appropriate behavior at a mental institution. While the scene is tense, it’s utterly ridiculous. We do a quick cut to the opening credits which are nearly identical to the credits from the original film. It’s a cool touch; I’ll give it that.
The two “award-winning” (yes, I’m going to keep putting it in quotations because I don’t believe it for a second) investigative journalists decide to stop by Laurie Strode’s Judgment Day-ready house unannounced so they can continue assaulting people with their horrendous interview techniques. They are granted access to Laurie’s gated compound after offering $3000 for an interview and botch it almost immediately by bringing up Laurie’s troubled parenting history. Before leaving, the male journalist tells Laurie that he thinks Michael would talk to her if she went to see him. Laurie’s like “Bitch, get out of here” and collects her $3000 like a boss before kicking them out.
In a more domesticated part of Haddonfield, we meet Karen Strode—the only child of Laurie Strode in this timeline—her daughter, Alison, and her husband, Ray, who gets peanut butter on his penis. I won’t even elaborate on that. Alison asks Karen if she let “grandmother” know about her National Honor Society induction tonight. Karen says she did, but that “grandmother” can’t make it because she needs therapy and leaving the house is too difficult for her. Alison knows that Karen doesn’t like inviting Laurie to things because being around her can be trying, but Alison is determined to have her “grandmother” in her life. The difference between Alison and Karen is that Alison wants to help her grandmother live a better life while Karen has been dealing with Laurie’s PTSD her entire life and is ready to wash her hands of her.
On her walk to school, we meet Alison’s friend, Vicky, and her stoner boyfriend, Dave. They talk about what happened to Alison’s “grandmother”, and Dave says that he doesn’t know why what happened to her is such a big deal in comparison to all other stuff that goes on in the world today. I mean, he’s not necessarily wrong, especially being that none of the sequels exist in this timeline, but I guess you can’t tell someone how to handle their trauma. He also asks if Michael was Laurie’s brother to which Alison responds that that’s just a rumor people made up. Anyway, Dave decides to blow up a pumpkin. So hot, right? At the high school we meet Alison’s boyfriend, Cameron, who is the son of that bastard Lonnie Elam from the original film. Don’t worry; we get to find out all about what Lonnie has been up to when the character returns in 2020’s Halloween Kills. Because, you know, he was such a pivotal character.
We also meet Cameron’s best friend, Oscar, who could make a serious living as an Eric Stoltz-in-Mask impersonator. In class, Alison is learning the same lessons about the fate that her “grandmother” was taught 40 years earlier because I guess Haddonfield High hasn’t made an effort to change their curriculum or make classes less boring. Alison spots Laurie from the classroom window because seeing someone spying on her from outside the school worked out so well for her 40 years ago. Oh, and PJ Soles from the original film makes a cameo as the voice of Alison’s teacher. Totally cool, I guess. Laurie meets Alison after class to give her the $3000 she made off of those awful podcasters. Alison tells Laurie to get over what happened to her in 1978 so she can be there for her family. Sarah Connor Laurie decides to go home and blow off some steam by shooting some mannequins in the yard, giving us a glimpse at her arsenal of weapons. Bitch is ready for the rise of the machines.
That night, Laurie sits in her truck outside of Smith’s Grove, drinking minibar vodka as she watches a bus carrying Michael and others being transferred to a different facility. She manages to get back to Haddonfield (which, mind you, is over 100 miles from Smith’s Grove) in time to ruin Alison’s celebratory dinner by drinking everyone’s wine and crying. You know, what I do every Friday night. Meanwhile, Deputy Hawkins is forced to abandon a game of Back to the Future pinball to respond to a bus crash out on the highway. He arrives to find several dead bodies and injured Dr Sartain, who was also on the bus.
The dummy podcasters visit the grave of Judith Myers. Not really sure what this will achieve for their podcast since it’s not a documentary film. The caretaker at the cemetery complains that her cousin works at a cemetery where a bunch of famous people are buried and asks what’s so special about Judith Myers. Bitch, are you really telling me you work at the local cemetery in Haddonfield and you don’t know who Judith Myers is? Excuse her for not being Muddy Waters! Michael watches the podcasters from afar, being spotted by the caretaker who says nothing. The local sheriff, meanwhile, shows very little concern that Michael Myers is loose on Halloween. “What are we gonna do?” I don’t know. Maybe, like, at least attempt to look for him you lazy asshole.
The “award-winning” investigative journalists stop to get gas and Michael shows up and kills everyone., including said journalists. Maybe they’ll get a posthumous award for this podcast. It was so compelling. Anyway, they’re dead, and I’m not sad about it. Michael goes into the trunk of their rental car and retrieves his mask. It’s actually a pretty cool moment. I’ll give it that. Once again though, I’m wondering the mask isn’t being kept in any type of protective covering. Back at Laurie’s compound, she’s interrupted in the middle of making some Strawberry Quik by a news report detailing the previous night’s bus crash. She promptly quadruple locks her doors and turns on her police scanner. She then proceeds to break into Karen’s house (with a gun) to prove how not secure it is. Karen kicks her out, rightfully so. Deputy Hawkins examines the crime scene at the gas station and spots Laurie watching from behind the police tape. He tells the Sheriff that he was there that night in 1978.
That night, Michael is out amongst the trick-or-treaters wearing his mask and a super fine jumpsuit that he stole off a dead guy at the gas station. He even pops his collar because he’s making up for missing out on the ’80s. He proceeds to go on a door-to-door rampage. This guy really hates Haddonfield. Alison and Cameron are at the Halloween dance when she sees him kissing another girl because I guess he’s supposed to be hot and in high demand with the ladies. Anyway, they get in a fight, and he throws her phone in some nacho cheese. Michael ends up at the house where Alison’s friend, Vicky, is babysitting Julian, probably the best part of the movie. Not really sure how of when Michael got in the house but he ends up in Julian’s closet, surprising Vicky in a scene that would have been much scarier if it weren’t in the trailer. Hawkins responds to a domestic disturbance call at the house where Vicky is babysitting and finds the bodies of Vicky and her boyfriend, Dave. Laurie hears the call on her police scanner and manages to pop one in Michael before he escapes.
The useless Sheriff arrives with an on-the-mend Dr Sartain. At the sight of Laurie Strode, Dr Sartain acts like Marcia Brady meeting Davey Jones, and she remarks that he must be “the new Loomis”. Laurie and the police go to Karen’s house to take her and Alison to the Sarah Connor compound, but Alison isn’t home yet, and her phone is buried in a cheesy grave, so that’s a predicament. Alison is being walked home by Oscar who suggests that they take a short cut through Mr Elrod’s yard but then he tries to kiss her and she’s like “Boy, you nasty” and leaves him there like he should. Well, Michael is also in Mr Elrod’s yard and goes after Oscar in a pretty well-done chase scene involving motion sensor lights. Hearing Oscar’s screams, Alison runs back, only to find Oscar impaled on Mr Elrod’s gate and Michael standing there. She bails like a smart person and finds help. Luckily neighbors have become much more helpful in the last 40 years. Hawkins and Dr Sartain retrieve her to take her to “grandmother’s” military compound. Laurie has Karen and Ray down in her bomb shelter arming up, stating that “He’s waited for me. I’ve waited for him.” I’m starting to think that Michael DGAF about Laurie though and her involvement is very much her own doing.
In route to Laurie’s house, Hawkins spots Michael and hits him with his car. At least it was actually Michael this time and not poor Ben Tramer. Michael doesn’t seem to be dead, and Dr Sartain kills Hawkins when he says he’s going to blow Michael’s brains out. Dr Sartain PUTS ON MICHAEL’S MASK and puts him in the back seat WITH Alison. He’s wanted to understand how evil thinks for so long and he’s finally getting what he wants. Now he’s taking Michael to Laurie’s house for the ultimate showdown. Unfortunately for Laurie, the two cops who have been left to stand vigil outside of Laurie’s house are having the dumbest conversation in history. Michael regains consciousness and kills Sartain, giving Alison the opportunity to run away. That was nice of him. Michael kills the other two cops and somehow manages to drive their patrol car up to Laurie’s house with one of them in the front seat.
Ray goes outside to investigate and manages to get himself killed despite claiming earlier that he knows jiu-jitsu. Karen keeps hiding in the cellar while Laurie goes to see what’s going on outside. Michael busts his arms through the glass panels on the front door that I’m very surprised Laurie kept, but she is able to escape by shooting off a chunk of his hand. Michael manages to hide in Laurie’s mannequin room, they get in a fight and this time she’s the one who falls off the balcony. Alison shows up and goes into the cellar with Karen. Michael tears out the kitchen island that is actually the door to the hidden cellar, Karen shoots him. Laurie shows up, and she and Michael start smacking each other around like they’re in some Lifetime movie. Michael falls down into the cellar and gets locked down there once Karen and Alison manage to escape. Laurie sets that shit on fire, and the multigenerational threesome make their escape. Hopefully Karen has a spare bedroom because Laurie’s house is toast. The three women flag down a truck for help while Michael appears to not be in the basement anymore. As the Sheriff says, “What are we gonna do?” Nothing. Because as a wise philosopher once said, “Michael Myers is a killer shark.”
So I didn’t intend to give a full summary of the entire film, but here we are. I was able to see an advanced screening of this film in the Spring of 2018, about six months before it was released, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit on this. While I couldn’t give anything about the film away at the time, what I told people was that it wasn’t perfect but I didn’t think any Halloween fans would hate it. Boy, was I wrong. For the record, I don’t like this movie, but I don’t hate it to the extent that a lot of people do. I thought the writing was very lazy, but I admired the relatively subtle nods to the sequels from the franchise which had been retconned either by this film or by Halloween: H20. I thought Michael putting his mask on at the gas station was great, and I loved the Julian character, though his humor doesn’t necessarily go with the aesthetic of the classic Halloween films. Michael’s house-to-house killing spree was also pretty cool. The version I saw at the test screening also had some incredible cinematography that was cut out of the theatrical release and was sadly not featured on the film’s Blu Ray release. I also can’t go without mentioning the fantastic score by John and Cody Carpenter, which treated us to the classic theme that we love while also giving us some great new additions. Michael looks amazing, both the mask and his movement, and that is probably what ultimately allows me to defend this movie at all.
As a lover of film and the horror genre, it’s frustrating when a movie isn’t great when it really had the potential to be. In my opinion, we haven’t had a truly good sequel in this franchise since Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. I’ve always had a soft spot for Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers because I think it has great atmospheric quality, but I can still admit that it’s a problematic film, to say the least. As for Halloween: H20, well, it was undoubtedly a late 90’s horror movie. I will say, however, that I strongly prefer the version of Laurie Strode that we saw in H20 to the one we saw in 2018. The 1998 version saw Laurie as a woman who was living a successful life while also dealing with the sometimes crippling effects of PTSD. Yes, she was an alcoholic and a paranoid mess, but she functioned despite that. In the newest version, we’re given a Laurie that is so obviously based on Sarah Connor that it’s annoying.
I may be able to understand this behavior had Halloween II not been retconned, but in this version, the only events that have actually occurred are those in the 1978 film. Laurie is no longer Michael’s sister and her night of horror didn’t follow her to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Michael saw Laurie drop the keys off at his old house and, for reasons unknown, became fixated on her. What makes her think he’s been waiting for her for 40 years? I don’t think he ever would have even gone after her again if he hadn’t literally been driven to her doorstep. Personally, I’ve always really liked Halloween II. Despite some of it’s pacing issues, I think it’s creepier and darker than the original film. Was the brother/sister plot twist unnecessary? Sure. Did I dislike it enough for the entire film to be retconned? Absolutely not. I think the 2018 film actually would have worked better had they kept that story plot point because I feel like Laurie’s behavior would be a little more justified.
Now let’s talk about that “plot twist” with Dr Sartain. I would like to state for the record that when I attended a test screening of this film, the first test screening of it ever, I’d say about 8/10 people in our focus group said that they did not like that part of the movie. This also seems to be the one thing in the film that everyone—even the people who love this movie— agrees on. Though they returned to Charleston, SC for reshoots following the test screening, they did not use that opportunity to fix a huge mistake in letting that get on the screen, and I was very disappointed that it was kept in the final cut of the film. They did, however, manage to cut out a scene between Laurie and Karen which is mentioned when the family is having dinner at the restaurant, leaving you to wonder what the hell Karen is talking about when she says that Laurie visited her at work earlier that day.
Also, if you hadn’t guessed, I really didn’t like the podcaster characters or the utterly useless Sheriff. I’m left wondering why no one suggested saving some money to write out the Sheriff character and just have Will Patton’s character be the Sheriff. It would have made literally no difference and saved us from a character who contributes nothing to the story.
Not that I’m all about loading up on nostalgic fanfare, but I felt the filmmakers really missed an opportunity by not having Charles Cyphers reprise his role as Sheriff Lee Brackett. Don’t worry though; they’re bringing back literally every character mentioned in the original film who wasn’t killed for Halloween Kills. And if they’re going to write off Halloween II, then I better get to finally meet Ben Tramer!
I realize that it’s impossible to continue a beloved franchise in a way that pleases everyone. However, it is possible to craft a well thought out story that isn’t flat out stupid in several parts. Here’s hoping that Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends are better than their titles. As for Halloween 2018, well, I sincerely hope they try harder going forward because this movie falls flat in a lot of areas, mainly with the execution of the Laurie Strode character, the very stupid podcasters, and that awful doctor plot twist that shouldn’t have even made it past the first draft of the script. Also, maybe they won’t release all of the best scenes from the upcoming films in the trailers.
For diehard fans of the series, I highly recommend checking out the Halloween comics written by Stef Hutchinson. His work sets a great example of how to continue the franchise in a way that doesn’t rely too heavily on the source material yet still beautifully captures the tone of the earlier films. His comics truly are an enjoyable read and show that it is still possible to write exceptional stories within this franchise.
What are your thoughts on Halloween 2018? I’m always open to civilized discussions with fellow fans who realize that it’s just a movie.