We Need To Talk About Michael Part II

Happy Halloween

Halloween 2018 arrived.

I wrote a previous post almost a year before its release pondering what kind of movie it would be and most of all…was it even needed? How would the franchise hold up forty years later and what does it really say about horror when new ideas seem scarce and studios constantly return to the well?

Cynema is not a review site. There are plenty of them online. I look at the effects of cynicism on the industry as a whole, often expanding past the horror realm.

What did I think of it? Here’s my concise review: There were some great moments that add up to a good movie.

There.

A number of people online instantly came out bashing the film, calling it “bad.” I think we have lost the real understanding of what a “bad” movie truly is. I often remind people that there is a huge difference between “So bad it;s good” and just plain bad.

Cynema

Roger Corman’s “Galaxy of Terror” is so bad, it is wonderful. “Jaws the Revenge” is just shit and the definition of “Cynema.” Why? Because “Galaxy” had almost no budget and made by a man who understood the schlock factor and gave us a clear “Alien” rip off while delivering sex-crazed worms and Sid Haig chopping off his own arm. Corman’s goal was to entertain. It always was.

“Jaws the Revenge” was made by a major studio, had major money for its budget and had NO intention to entertain anyone. It was made to fleece fans of the franchise by wringing out a few more bucks because they knew they could. It paid for a studio head and his wife to take a months long vacation to the Bahamas, threw money at Michael Caine and was likely some sort of tax write off. There was extra money in the Universal budget that had to be spent.

That’s cynical filmmaking. That’s Cynema.

“Halloween 2018” is not Cynema and it is not a “bad” movie. Just because it may have disappointed some fans doesn’t make it bad. It was bound to disappoint as it was to thrill.

A Reason

There’s a reason the filmmakers, including John Carpenter, decided to forego 1981’s lackluster “Halloween II.” That film was a bland, lazy retread and everything the first film worked so hard to avoid. Fans give it blind love because the major cast returned and Michael still walked the Haddonfield streets on the same night.

“Halloween II” is made well, but it’s a cynical film, a cash grab. They knew people would return no matter what ended up on the screen, just as the people who made “Jaws the Revenge” knew the fans would return. The stupid subplot of Laurie and Michael as siblings was never supposed to be and it was very satisfying to see the new film jettisoned this lame story line. That was done to flesh out a weak script for “Halloween II.”

I’ve written at length why “Halloween II” was an inferior sequel and Carpenter felt the same. You can read all about that HERE.

“Halloween 2018” is not a cynical film and it is not a bad one. It is made with detail and caring with a true respect for the long-in-the tooth franchise. The effects are top shelf, the production value from camera department through sound is all fantastic.

The new film is far better than the 1981 sequel and is the rightful sequel to the original film. There’s a reason why all the sequels (not counting “Halloween III”) were ignored.

The mask itself, which is almost its own star, and treated that way in this film, is the best looking since the original. Don’t believe me? Look at the shitty, Party City knockoff used in the overrated and equally lazy “Halloween 4.”

Michael’s mask represents his own aging as Laurie’s face has also gathered similar wrinkles and cracks over time. Both are weathered and battle-scarred by their fate and the connection between Laurie’s face and the mask is great imagery.

What Did We Get?

We waited forty years. So did Laurie Strode. What we got was a uneven walk down memory lane. The film starts strong with an iconic visit to Smith’s Grove asylum and then unravels into teenage killer-filler scenes to get us where we knew it was going. The trailer shows us where we will end up, but the way there is long and sometimes meandering.

Recently the topic came up on whether horror should have a message or worse yet…an agenda. All movies have a message. Some make social statements, others clearly have an agenda. Horror usually gets the brunt of attacks with words like “misogynistic, racist, sexist” thrown into make a point.

A Right Wing Halloween?

“Halloween 2018” might be one of the first to be labeled a “conservative manifesto” for gun rights.

https://www.lifezette.com/2018/10/the-new-halloween-is-a-gun-loving-conservative-fantasy/

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/movie-review-halloween-right-wing-message-guns/

With important mid-term elections just weeks away, this smacks a little coincidental. I will say that the film sends a strong message on the weakness and naivety of the present, self-absorbed generation. It comments on a generation uninterested by the history that shaped a world they take from but really don’t give back to. When real crisis comes, they are woefully ill-equipped to handle it and fall back on the strength of the previous generation they disparage to defend them.

No, the new film is not some plug for the NRA and gun-lovers. While there is always online “outrage” for just about anything these days, I am surprised at the LACK of “outrage” for the film’s portrayal of African-Americans in the film.

Jibrail Nantambu is the scene stealing, little African-American boy honored with a visit from The Boogeyman on Halloween night. Before his babysitter is dispatched by Michael, we are treated to a jive-talking, stereotype. A nine year old boy talking like a ghetto hood rat, knowing all about marijuana names and blackmailing his babysitter, Vicky.

Just Because You Can…

Now…horror has always used stereotypes, from the nerd and virgin to the dumb dickhead jock and his slutty girlfriend…I get it. We’ve had horror where the black characters are the pot smokers, drug dealers and the Asians who are wacky, book smart and the like.

As a horror filmmaker, again…I get it. Suspension if disbelief. Go with it. It’s a horror movie.

However, Haddonfield is this suburban Mayberry…far removed from city elements. The boy’s house is clearly upper middle class suburban. Why does he have to talk like an “R”-rated Gary Coleman. I kid you not, I waited for him to say “What da fuck you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

That moment never came, but I would not have been surprised if it did.

Where are the uptight white people who love to pontificate the evils of other whites? I don’t think they should, it’s a movie and I am not calling it racist. However, what if Omar Dorsey’s cowboy hat wearing sheriff was played in a Rochester voice? “No sir, Mista Benny! We gots to gets dat Michael Myers!”

Dorsey is played as this flamboyant showboat of a man with law enforcement bling. He looks more like a Vegas high-roller than a sheriff. Not sure why it had to be since the other sheriff is your average sheriff-type guy. Dorsey doesn’t do much except call attention to his hat and fancy attire and wag his finger at his officer to bring Michael in.

The line between stereotypes for entertainment and minstrel blackface shows is a thin one.

If you’re gonna bitch, then you better be consistent “Online Outrage” community.

Jamie Oakley

The weekend after the film’s release had the media fawning and gushing over its (yet again) epiphany that not only does horror make big bucks (no shit) but women over 40 and 50 can be action stars (again…no shit). The studios pat themselves on the back for announcing this but don’t admit they’ve had their heads up Marvel’s asshole.

Linda Hamilton showed us what happens when a traumatized woman fights back, spending her life preparing for a showdown apocalypse. Sigourney Weaver set the tone with her fated centuries-long battle with Xenomorphs.

Jamie Lee Curtis gathers up an arsenal, turns her property into a fortified shooting range and the media gushes about strong women and I guess all the other women who paved the way stand by and go: “Really?”

I am NOT taking away from Curtis’ performance. She is the best thing about the film and the director gives her some real moments. One such moment is when she sits in her car with booze and a gun, waiting for Michael to be transferred. The anguish in that scene is palpable and left me wanting more of this kind of stuff.

My question is: why did Laurie have to be some survivalist? What if she went on to fulfill her “brainy nerd girl” stereotype and became some powerful, wealthy woman who spent her life behind the mask of a calm and prosperous professional, planning for the inevitable showdown with Michael?

Why did Laurie have to become some “Deliverance” type swamp girl, toting her guns, blasting mannequins and ruining her daughter’s childhood? Imagine that Laurie wore a mask herself all these years, pretending to be someone she is not, all to kill The Boogeyman.

What Does It Add Up To?

Dee Wallace was screwed out of an Oscar for “Cujo.” Her performance in that film is nothing short of combat pay and a ballsy side step from the commercial success of the family “ET” that made her a household name a year before. Heather Lagenkamp vanquished Freddy and became one of horror’s earliest female warriors. Ashley Laurence gave Pinhead a run for his money. I am sure anyone reading this can add to this list.

None of this takes away from a raw and powerful performance by Curtis. My “outrage” is again for the media and industry that act like this is a new thing.

All Hail Jason Blum

The real hero is Jason Blum. Blum is kind of like horror’s Spielberg. He came into a broken industry and reinvented it and showed, by action and example, how it can be done. Jason has the Midas touch in taking low budget horror and making it into a big fucking event.

From “Insidious” and his pairing with James Wan (another rebel who fucked with the system) through “Halloween 2018,” Blum saw how to make good product for low money and create massive profit margins. Whether you like all of Blum House’s stuff (I am sure even Jason Blum doesn’t) the man knows how to run a railroad.

Blum came to town and asked a simple question: “Why does horror have to be expensive?” From there he went to work, creating low budget horror with high concepts and fucking great talent and suddenly had himself a model everyone tried (and still unsuccessfully tries) to copy.

Jason Blum is horror’s Willy Wonka. His factory holds great mystery and dark secrets that the Slugworth’s of the industry want to steal. The Blum House gave us this year’s “Scrumdidllyumptious” candy bar with “Halloween 2018” and inside its wrapping was a Golden Ticket.

You either like the candy or you don’t.

As a filmmaker, I want to be Charlie Bucket, for a chance to not just tour his factory, but win the grand prize.