Despite being one of the more successful sequels in the franchise, Halloween (2018) is too unfocused and undercooked to be a treat, in my unpopular opinion.
Here’s why I hate sequels with the same name as the original: Now, whenever I mention Halloween in a sentence, I’m going to have to clarify if I’m talking about the 1987 film, the sequel, the other sequel, or the holiday.
Directed by David Gordon Green, Halloween (2018) is the 11th movie in a franchise that simply refuses to die, coming back every few years to fill our hearts with dread at the thought of how they are going to mutilate the series this time. It’s quite analogous to the actual slashers in this film, now that I think about it.
Perhaps that’s a bit cynical, but anyone who knows even a bit about slasher sequels should realize they are as likely to work out as sticking your hand into last Halloween’s candy corn stash and expecting not to come away with a fistful of ants. Sequels are already a tough business, as, with each one, you run the risk of making the franchise feel stale without a significant improvement or difference to the original. This is especially the case with horror movies. Horror works because we haven’t seen a particular premise before, and, if it’s done again, the scare empties faster than a bowl of milky ways in a kindergarten room. The dismal track record of franchises like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Paranormal Activity, or indeed Halloween is proof enough.
However, Halloween (2018) seemed to be an exception to that trend, as many saw it as a return to form for the franchise. Doing away with the increasingly convoluted mythology of the previous films, it was met with high praise for its simpler focus on a man, a knife, and a laundry list of casualties. Unfortunately, the film didn’t have the same effect on me, as it only cemented my belief that horror movies should remain a one-shot experience. And with the supposed end to the rebooted series coming soon, it’s high time I shared my unpopular opinion, and why I thought Halloween (2018) failed to do the trick or be the treat.
The Genuine Potential of the Premise
After the opening credits showing a rotten jack-o-lantern slowly coming back to life – an accurate metaphor for the hopes of the producers – we’re introduced to the main plot, which wipes the slate clean on everything from Halloween II to Halloween II (2009) – seriously, this is why I hate same-name sequels, it’s a cataloguing nightmare – and continues straight from the original Halloween. No incestual lovesick relationships, no ancient cult resurrections, just Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after that one fateful Halloween.
Since that night, Laurie has turned herself into John Wick, fortifying her house and stocking up enough weapons to survive seven Halloweens. Her behavior stems from her deep-rooted paranoia and trauma of her experience with Michael Myers, and she has spent the last 40 years both hoping and dreading the inevitable sequel – I mean, showdown – so much so that she trained her daughter to be Hit-Girl and has isolated herself from society.
This is the strongest part of the film, and I wish it had gotten the full spotlight. The PTSD of surviving a slasher movie and the effects it has on one’s life is fascinating. It’d be hard to forget a masked madman breaking into your house and nearly opening up more holes in your body than you’re comfortable with. The fact that she spent decades thinking of nothing else but Myers, trapping herself in a nightmare of her own making, is quite chilling. The reaction to when the killer comes back is equally interesting, and I love how she’s practically wishing Michael would break out so she could end him herself and free herself from her fear.
Too Much Candy in One Bucket
However, you may notice that I said, “I wish it had gotten the full spotlight.” Laurie’s trauma only takes up a disappointingly small portion of the movie. The rest of it is stuffed with all sorts of different plot threads that go nowhere, such as drama about a bunch of high school kids. One of them is Allyson (Andi Matichak), Laurie’s granddaughter. This could have been an opportunity to see what effect Laurie’s paranoia has had on the family, and half the time that is what we get. The other half of her screen time, however, is devoted to her dating some guy and breaking up with him. Because of that, my engagement in her fluctuates constantly throughout the film, and she doesn’t come off as a genuine character.
The movie had a similar opportunity with Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and she is handled marginally better, as her arc is fully focused on her relationship with her mother. Her distaste at her mother’s obsession with fortifying herself dives into how much effect Myers has had on the entire family even as he was behind bars. That is when the movie actually feels like it has some substance, working with the dynamic between the killer, the victim, and the victim of the victim. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t take enough time to dwell on her – or any of the other characters – long enough, and ultimately feels very thinly stretched.
The Main Scare Has Grown Stale
As for the main man, Michael Myers…look, I don’t know how psychopathic murderers usually act, but do they usually drop bloody teeth in front of their victims before killing them? And why is he just standing inside a closet door until someone opens it? Is he just extra shy? Maybe in 1978, when he was first introduced, he was a terrifying figure, but there have been so many other horror movie villains since then that at this point, he’s just “generic terminator-style thug A.” It still works to a certain extent thanks to his inherently creepy design, but he isn’t going to make me sleep with my mother tonight.
Because of that, the movie isn’t exactly terrifying. Sure, it’s creepy and it actually has a fairly tense climax. But all of the scares feel too pedestrian to leave any impact. At least someone like Freddy Krueger could turn someone into a cockroach and trap them in bug killer ooze. All Myers can do is slasher-port behind people and then mangle them with a jumpscare noise.
Granted, it isn’t abused as much as in other slasher flicks. The movie actually seems to be self-aware at some point, with several false jumpscares and a little kid shouting “HOLY SH*T” and scurrying away at the sight of Myers in his closet. And it’s not like the scares are bad: they are just…average. There’s an exception regarding a scene with lights going on and off, which was decently chilling. But if you are even the slightest fan of horror, the beats should be all but laid out for you.
I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed
However, despite everything I took issue with, I wouldn’t say this movie doesn’t work. I like the simplicity, Laurie and Karen got enough investment out of me to stick with the movie to the end, and it still has a decent chilling atmosphere thoughout. It seems that director David Gordon Green chose to abandon the ridiculous mythology of the previous sequels and return to the more classic horror movie style and plot: killer, victim, side character/meatbags, and some creepy house as a finale.
The problem is that the overused tropes of the classic horror flicks also came along, like that piece of gummy bear sticking to your Halloween snickers bar. Pointless side characters, a shoved-in romance, the police having the IQ of a moth in a flame, and some girl that spends most of her time running, having sex, and screaming. A return to form is nice, but I think this is going a bit too far. Were it not for those tired clichés, this actually could have been, if not great, still a well-written sequel. But because it loses focus with the high school drama, it dispenses with the screams and bring a lot more groans.
Halloween (2018) isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just criminally unfocused and uninteresting. When I initially watched it, my impressions actually weren’t that negative. However, the fact that I remember signficantly more cricicisms than praises to talk about should be testament to how much of the movie actually works. It’s sort of like biting into last year’s Halloween candy and discovering that they’re only slightly stale. Sure, it wouldn’t give me indigestion, but I won’t be wanting more of these anytime soon.
Halloween Ends will be released globally in theaters and streaming on Peacock on October 14, 2022. Read our ranking of all the Halloween Films.