‘Halloween: Resurrection’ – You Think ‘Halloween Ends’ is Bad? Check This One Out!

As I write this, “Halloween Ends” has earned a box office gross of over $40 million in its opening weekend. Those are great numbers, and yet many fans have been rebelling against this installment with an everlasting passion. Listening to them makes me wonder if they have seen the other sequels because, when it comes down to it, “Halloween Ends” is way better than “Halloween: Resurrection” which I actually took the time to watch over the weekend out of morbid interest. If it were not for “movie ever. While certain entries in this series may age like a fine wine, this one never will.

This ill-begotten mess begins three years after the events depicted in “Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later” which ended with Laurie Strode (Jamie-Lee Curtis) decapitating Michael Myers once and for all. But, thanks to an ironclad clause in Moustapha Akkad’s contract, Michael cannot ever be truly killed off, and it turns out the man whose head Laurie chopped off with true precision was not Michael, but instead a paramedic whom Michael attacked, crushed his larynx so he couldn’t talk, and then took his uniform to walk away from the crime scene with relative ease. Keep in mind, this development was written for “Halloween H20,” but Curtis refused to do the film if this ending was featured in the final cut.

While I knew this ending was invented to make “Halloween: Resurrection” a reality, I can’t help but wonder what was going through Michael’s mind when he took out that paramedic. I imagine he was thinking, “Okay, maybe this isn’t the time to kill my sister. Perhaps another time in the near future. In the meantime, I am getting out of town for a bit. I have a timeshare waiting for me.” Michael was so close to killing Laurie, and yet he sensed things were not going to work out for him this time around. But how did he know what asylum Laurie was going to be residing in three years later? Oh wait, you don’t ask those questions in a movie like this.

As we all know by now, Laurie gets killed by Michael even though she has the upper hand. Laurie leads him into a trap, but she still needs to look under his mask to make sure she has the right guy this time around. A knife in her belly is all the proof she needs, and her lifeless body falls to the ground. This was to be Curtis’ last time playing Laurie as she did not want to make any more “Halloween” movies, but we all know how that turned out. The promise of anything final in a horror franchise always has us rolling our eyes and laughing uncontrollably, and this one is no exception.

We then move to a year later when we arrive at the campus of Haddonfield University, and we meet the students who have just won a competition to appear on an internet reality show entitled “Dangertainment” which is operated by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks). They include Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) who proves to be the Laurie Strode of the group as she plays with her hair in the same way Laurie did, Jennifer ‘Jen’ Danzig (Katee Sackhoff) who, like Lucy Van Pelt, keeps signing her classmates up for events they never expected to participate in, Jim Morgan (Luke Kirby) who is looking to get laid on or off camera, Rudy Grimes (Sean Patrick Thomas) who quickly proves to be quite the cook, and Bill Woodlake (Thomas Ian Nicholas of “American Pie” fame) who is looking to score even though the ladies are understandably quick to reject him. Their mission, spend a night in Michael Myer’s childhood home and determine what led him to kill so many people.

Now the key thing to keep in mind about “Halloween: Resurrection” is that these participants are being equipped with head-cameras so we can see what they see as they walk through Michael’s childhood home, and this threatens to make this sequel more promising than it has any right to be. While this one came after “The Blair Witch Project,” it came before the glut of reality shows and found footage movies like “Survivor” and “Paranormal Activity” which Hollywood burned through before the profits ran dry. Still, while this installment could have done a number of clever things with these genres, it instead devolves into the same old thing to where nothing on display feels the least bit surprising.

The one thing which got me excited about “Halloween: Resurrection” was that it was directed by Rick Rosenthal. This is the same man who directed 1981’s “Halloween II,” a sequel I came to appreciate because I first saw it years after its initial release. I thought Rosenthal deserved more credit than he was given at the time and having a veteran “Halloween” director at the helm of this installment seemed like a really smart idea.

Right from the start, however, Rosenthal quickly fumbles the ball as the art of subtlety is completely lost on him here. With his previous venture in this franchise, he knew how to keep the action and characters grounded in a reality we all knew and understood, just like with the 1978 classic. But here, the volume is turned up way too loud to where the suspense is all but neutered, and the characters are unable to speak quietly if at all. Like a certain character Will Ferrell played on “Saturday Night Live” who had vocal modulation issues, these ones make you want to turn the volume all the way down. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things a bit, but these characters got annoying ever so quickly.

The one actor I feel bad for here is Katee Sackhoff who did this film long before she broke through into our collective consciousness on SyFy’s rebooted “Battlestar Galactica.” This is not Sackhoff at her best and, like Stacy Nelkin in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” she has to play her last scene without a head.

I should add there is also a subplot involving a college freshman named Myles “Deckard” Barton (Ryan Merriman) who has been communicating online with Sara Moyer for months. While at a college party, he watches this virtual reality series play over the internet and invites other students to watch it with him. This could have led to some interesting moments as the characters try to disseminate what is real and what is fiction, but the performances by everyone here are too broad to where we mock these foolish characters instead of relating to them.

And there is Busta Rhymes who is the first thing anyone thinks about when it comes to “Halloween: Resurrection.” For what it’s worth, he is an entertaining presence as reality show entrepreneur Freddie Harris, but he also takes this sequel into “Batman & Robin” territory as he turns the proceedings into a complete joke, the kind which makes you wince more than laugh. Seeing him trying to take Michael Myers out via martial arts made my eyes roll, and seeing him end things by speaking to television reporters about violence in the media is insulting and a bitch slap to everything we just watched.

When it comes to the recent “Halloween” movies like “Halloween Ends,” they were made by filmmakers who wanted to try something a little different while giving fans some of the things they came to expect. “Halloween: Resurrection,” however, was made by a committee which was designed to take this installment through a number of test screenings in an effort to hopefully give audiences what they wanted and get a return on their investment in the process. If Rosenthal has any artistic aspirations with this sequel, they are all but snuffed out as soon as we realize how cheap the opening credit titles look.

It’s no wonder the Akkad family went out of there way to reboot this franchise yet again after this misbegotten entry. Sure, Michael’s eyes open wide before the screen goes to black, but who gives a shit?

* out of * * * *

‘Halloween Ends’ – Expect The Unexpected

I got to listen to the film score for “Halloween Ends” in its entirety before I sat down to watch the concluding chapter of this particular Michael Myers trilogy. Composed and performed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, it reminds me of what Carpenter himself said about this installment: it is meant to be “more intimate” than its predecessors, and the music helps to illustrate this. But more importantly, it reminded me to go into this sequel expecting the unexpected as the previous installment was undone by too many expectations.

While 2018’s “Halloween” may have delivered the goods thanks to the return of Jamie-Lee Curtis and John Carpenter to the long-running franchise, “Halloween Kills” was treated indifferently as everyone looked at director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and their team of filmmakers as if to ask them, “Do you even know what you are doing?” But it occurred to me that, like Rob Zombie did with his “Halloween” films, Green is not out to give us the same old thing, Instead, he is determined to add something new to a franchise which has burned itself out from fatigue more than once.

Four years have passed since the night Michael came home again, and everything in Haddonfield has more or less gone back to normal. Still, the physical and emotional scars of the townspeople are on display as people look to blame Laurie Strode for all the chaos and death which has occurred over the years. Nevermind the fact none of this was Laurie’s fault; everyone needs a scapegoat when the killer is nowhere to be found, and people these days tend to believe in the wrong things because they never bother doing the research.

As for Laurie, she has since procured a house for herself and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) to live in, and she is working on her memoirs as a way to deal with all the evil and death which seriously derailed her life. Allyson now has a job at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and is expecting a promotion any day now, Deputy Frank Hawkins is still quite sweet on Laurie even as she begs him to eat more vegetables, and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) remains a good family friend and continues to serve drinks at the local Haddonfield bar.

Into all of this enters Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man who, like Laurie, once had a promising future which involved going to engineering school. But this is all laid waste to after a child he babysat ends up dying in a freak accident. As a result, he is seen as a freak of nature by the townspeople who hate him with little in the way of shame, and he is reduced to working in his Uncle Ronald’s junkyard fixing cars and stuff. But soon he gets the attention and sympathy of Laurie Strode and also Allyson as they see him as someone to help and relate to, but it doesn’t take too long for things to become very sinister to where many are reminded of a force of evil often referred to as “the shape.”

Right from the start, it should be clear how Green is looking to give us a new slant on things with “Halloween Ends.” I expected this one to start off with Michael Myers making his first kill, but it goes a whole other way which I did not see coming. Also, the classic font from the 1978 film is dropped in favor of the font used in the opening and closing credits of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” As for the pumpkin, it keeps changing faces as to indicate to us how nothing is what it seems on the surface. Yes, he is defying our expectations in a way I personally welcome.

Truth be told, we don’t even get to see Michael Myers until almost a half an hour into “Halloween Ends.” The way I see it, the filmmakers see this sequel as a way of meditating on our collective relationship with evil; how we deal with it, how we can possibly overcome it, and how it can consume us beyond all repair. Laurie and Allyson have had their brutal experiences in this realm, and Corey is only getting started. This is why I find this particular installment so fascinating as I wondered who would prove to be more fearful, Michael or those who survived his wrath as a person’s dark side can easily overcome all else.

The fact “Halloween Ends” is getting such polarized views is not surprising to me. Fans go into them expecting certain things, and this one doesn’t always deliver on them for a variety of reasons. While fans may be begging for the same old thing, I always admire a filmmaker who is willing to take things in a different direction as franchises like these need any form of freshness they can get. Sure, there are some solid scares here, but this sequel is more about getting into your head psychologically than anything else as the dark side in all of us can easily consume our common sense and purpose in life before we realize it.

Andi Matichak remains a wonderfully strong presence as her character of Allyson maneuvers through a life in which she has lost so much and strives for any kind of normalcy she can get her hands on. Will Patton is still one of our most dependable character actors, and it is fun to see him try to warm up to Laurie Strode in a way few others could. And then there is Rohan Campbell who gives us a character in Corey who succumbs to an evil nature partly because life has given him few other avenues to pursue. In the process, Campbell gives us someone we empathize with and fear all at the same time.

But in the end, all praise goes to Jamie Lee Curtis who never fails in giving a strong performance in any motion picture she appears in. “Halloween Ends” is no exception as she makes Laurie Strode’s struggle to stay one step ahead of the evil which has destroyed much of her life all the more involving. Like Ellen Ripley from the “Aliens” franchise, she has been fighting her personal antagonist for so long to where she cannot remember a time when Michael was not in her life. Curtis represents the strong character a franchise like this thrives on as she strives, and encourages those around her, to not fall victim to a way of feeling which is inevitably destructive.

Many have complained about how “Halloween Ends” takes too long to get to the penultimate event we have all been waiting for; Laurie doing battle with Michael Myers one last time. Some need to be reminded of how the original 1978 acted as a slow-burn horror movie as it, aside from the key murder at its start, left the violence on hold until its latter half. Carpenter was more interested in creating an atmosphere of horror and suspense than in perpetrating violent onscreen violence back then, and Green mostly follows suit here. Also, this movie is not called “Michael vs. Laurie” for a number of reasons (and thank God it wasn’t by the way). I mean come on; this sequel is not just about these two.

Sure, it does contain a number of disposable characters who are just asking to be sliced and diced here. There’s a nurse who gets the promotion Allyson was hoping for, but that’s because she’s having an affair with the doctor the two are working under. Then there’s Allyson’s ex-boyfriend, a police officer who just won’t let their relationship, and there’s no forgetting the African-American DJ who never knows when to keep his mouth shut. They are all just begging for an exceptionally brutal exit from life, and one murder in particular would make Tom Savini proud, seriously.

In the end, I admired “Halloween Ends” for trying something different in the slasher movie genre. While it might not be completely successful, its ambitions kept my eyes glued to the screen, and it helps to bring closure to Laurie Strode’s constant fear of “The Shape.” Perhaps this ending will not satisfy everyone, but I can accept it for what it is.

Of course, it is hard to believe this will be the last “Halloween” movie ever. We have seen promising titles such as “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,” “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” and “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” throughout the decades, and they eventually became punchlines we still laugh at. For sure, this is definitely the last “Halloween” movie for Jamie-Lee Curtis, John Carpenter and Blumhouse among others as the rights to franchise will now revert back to the Akkad family.

What life has taught me and others is evil never dies. It simply changes shape, especially when money is concerned.

* * * out of * * * *

David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween’ is the Sequel We Have Been Waiting For

Halloween 2018 theatrical poster

Why do filmmakers constantly insist on doing a retcon of the “Halloween” franchise? Every once in a while, the continuity of the series is tossed to the wayside, usually for profit and greed, but perhaps deep down there are those out there who remain infinitely eager for another and more fulfilling showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. We thought we got it in 1981’s “Halloween II,” but even Michael couldn’t stay down after being burned beyond recognition. Then there was “Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later,” but that was really a “Scream” movie disguised as a “Halloween” movie, and what resulted did not feel particularly compelling.

But just when you thought it was time to lay this long-running franchise to rest, along comes the simply titled “Halloween” which wipes the slate clean to give us the true sequel fans of the series have been waiting 40 years for. Once again, Michael Myers breaks free and heads back to Haddonfield, Illinois for a bloody homecoming. But this time, Laurie Strode is ready and waiting, and she is not about to take any prisoners. As this “Halloween” unfolds, you will see what Sylvester Stallone meant when he said, while in pursuit of Wesley Snipes in “Demotion Man:”

“Send a maniac to catch a maniac.”

In this alternate timeline, Michael did not escape at the end of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” but was instead captured and sent back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and has remained there for the last 40 years. His latest psychiatrist, Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), insists Michael can talk but chooses not to, but this doesn’t stop a pair of true-crime podcasters, Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), from trying to make him say something, anything. But once Aaron pulls Michael’s old mask out of his bag, we know it won’t be long before they are reminded of what curiosity did to the cat.

This particular “Halloween” was directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by him, Jeff Fradley and actor Danny McBride, and the respect they have for Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic is on display throughout. They even bring back the serif font from the original’s credits as they are determined to make us accept this is a direct sequel to the one which started it all. I admired how the credits started off with a pumpkin which looks to have been stomped on one too many times and which reforms slowly but surely. It’s almost like a metaphor for this franchise as many continue to resurrect Michael, or “The Shape” as he is often referred to, with varying results.

Green is one of those filmmakers who can go from making independent films like “All the Real Girls” and “Joe” to more mainstream fare such as “Pineapple Express” and “Stronger” with relative ease. With his “Halloween,” he gives a slow-burn thriller which thankfully doesn’t peak too soon. Many horror movies give us their best moments far too early these days, so it’s nice to see Green not making this same mistake here as he gives us a deeply suspenseful thriller which builds up and up to its much-anticipated climax.

I also have to give Green and his collaborators credit for giving us characters we care about. It is impossible not to relate to them in one way or another as we remember having their same needs and desires when we were their age. Many of the “Friday the 13th” sequels kept giving us characters we couldn’t wait to see get killed off as we were made to hate them, but when the residents of Haddonfield are killed off, you cannot help but feel for them, and not just because they never got the chance to lose their virginity.

The real big news, however, about this “Halloween” is John Carpenter is back. It marks his return to the franchise he created for the first time since “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” I imagine money was a big motivating factor, but I do believe Carpenter when he said how enthusiastic he was about Green and McBride’s pitch for this movie. In addition to acting as executive producer, Carpenter also scored the movie along with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, and they give the brutal proceedings here an extra hard kick in the ass (click here to check out my review of the soundtrack).

But let’s face facts, the real star of this “Halloween” movie is Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role with a real vengeance, and she plays Laurie to the hilt in this installment. When Curtis first played Laurie, she was a kind, shy and innocent young woman. 40 years later, Laurie is a shell of her former self as her life has been severely undone by PTSD, alcoholism and agoraphobia. She has spent the past few decades training to be a survivalist as her life is now dedicated to removing Michael from the face of the earth, and it has all come at the expense of caring for her own family.

Curtis has always put in a great performance in each movie she appears in, be it a good or a bad one, but she really hits it out of the park here. She succeeds in turning Laurie Strode into a bad ass warrior who is never determined to suffer in the same way she did before, and at times she threatens to be more frightening than Michael herself. Just check out the scene when Laurie breaks into her daughter Karen’s (Judy Greer) house and reminds her bluntly of how unprepared she is for the oncoming slaughter.

Moreover, Curtis really makes us sympathize with Laurie Strode throughout. We know all what she has been through, and to see the effect it has on those closest to her is heartbreaking. We learn she has been divorced twice, and her daughter Karen wants little to do with her and constantly begs her to get help. Even when Laurie absent-mindedly takes a drink from a glass of wine like as it it were was an automatic impulse, we feel for her as no one can see Michael Myers as being the embodiment of pure evil the way she can.

Watching Curtis as Laurie here quickly reminded me of a line the late Natasha Richardson said in “Patty Hearst:”

“I finally realized what my crime was, I lived. Big mistake. Very messy.”

The cast overall does really good work, and they are made of very likable and dependable actors which include Judy Greer and Will Patton who make their characters seem very down to earth in a way you want them to be. One real standout here is Andi Matichak who plays Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter and the only one capable of having a meaningful relationship with her. Matichak proves to be a very appealing presence here, and she makes Allyson into a strong and defiant young woman who is not about to suffer fools in the slightest.

As “Halloween” builds up to its inevitable climax, Green keeps increasing the tension throughout. He smartly leaves Michael in the shadows, and you can’t help but wondering when he is going to jump out next. Green also leaves you wondering if we might actually see Michael’s face or even hear him speak. Does he? Wouldn’t you like to know?

This “Halloween” is not at all groundbreaking, but then again neither was Carpenter’s film. The 1978 “Halloween” owed a lot to the works of Alfred Hitchcock among others, but it also managed to give a freshness to the horror genre in the same way “Psycho” did years before. With any “Halloween” follow-up, we can only hope for it to be as good, if not better, than the original. There’s no way you can top what Carpenter pulled off 40 years ago as none of us saw Michael Myers coming. But with this “Halloween,” we get the true sequel the original never quite received, and it proves to be well worth the wait.

There is also something very cathartic about watching this one in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Essentially, we are watching a woman take revenge on a man who thoughtlessly ruined her life years before, and seeing her do battle with him makes this “Halloween” especially thrilling. Lord knows women have been forced to be silent for far too long, so seeing one get her revenge feels much, much overdue.

By the way, I think I’m going to start calling this one “Halloween: 40 is the New 20.” It seems appropriate, don’t you think?

* * * ½ out of * * * *

WRITER’S NOTE: A lot of people have been getting mad at Jamie Lee Curtis recently. We see her wielding many different weapons and firearms in this movie as Laurie Strode, but some have been quick to call her a hypocrite for doing so as her stance on gun control and the need for it has been well-documented. Why is she appearing in this movie armed to the hilt and yet complaining about gun violence in real life? Ladies and gentlemen, what Curtis is doing in this movie is called ACTING. SHE IS PLAYING A CHARACTER. Whatever happened to make believe anyway? Not all actors are out to put their political issues into each movie they do. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and stop blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. That is all.