From the start of the 1990s, Halloween was a big franchise. The original film came out in 1978 and spawned sequels almost immediately, with a fifth installment entering production last year, slated for 2019. Only one of the four sequels released since 2000, the 2009 reboot, felt wholly inappropriate. The original film instilled the horror genre with a certain confident, DIY-dollish sensibility: the mask could be recycled to change the victim’s appearance in ways that made the film’s ghoulish jokes about sex and gore work. Even as a creature feature – and hence a spiritual successor to Preston Sturges’ Grand Guignol – Halloween was still poised for multiple imitators, given its popularity as an R-rated crime comedy of delinquency, noir and vernacular.
That’s the smart part. The problem is that when Halloween became a parody of itself, it was no longer itself. It was an update on itself. The finale of John Carpenter’s original film finds the usual crowbar-wielding, machete-strapping Tommy Jarvis, John Davidson’s incredible performance as the Michael Myers-style terror-guy, and the mask messing up again in stupid ways (a circle door! a bike!) to bring back an adult Danny Elfman-ready Halloween, and we get it. “We’re really bad,” Ghostface screams, and we are okay with that, because we’re really bad and we’re okay with that.
If you keep going back and looking for different Halloween films, it would be hard to tell from the 2002 remake, which made Michael a kiddie-lover with a vocabulary of medical yuck. But then you would have noticed that Michael was poor-mouthing himself, too. And that really doesn’t look good. And the 2009 film really got it – despite the performance of the villain, audiences wanted some kind of lesson, and John Carpenter got it. The director is notably absent in this new one, but that doesn’t do much to improve it.
Halloween made $59m its opening weekend. That would be a great score for a low-budget original film, but given that neither the Halloween reboot, nor 2017’s Halloween Returns, doubled that in their respective runs, it turns out there’s something fundamentally wrong with Michael Myers and Halloween.