Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Halloween’ (2018)

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)

Most folks, myself included, go to certain movies around the holidays. However, my favorite holiday of Halloween did not gain a film that genuinely celebrated it until 1978’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick is rightfully considered one of the best horror movies ever made. It gave us an icon of modern horror in Michael Myers. More than that though, it created a franchise that spanned 11 movies, 5 continuities, and 40 years With the upcoming 11th entry, Blumhouse’s Halloween, set to be released on October 19th, I’ll take a look back at the Halloween franchise. In doing so, I’ll trace precisely how one of the most convoluted movie franchises in history got to the already divisive entry and why we need it.  That, my friends, is the point we’ve finally come to as I review Halloween (2018)!

Classic horror villains and the franchises of which they’re a part never die. However, sometimes they remain dormant for a while and return in a different way. Instead of a horror franchise returning from the grave with a traditional sequel, it becomes a remake, a reboot, or in the case of Halloween (2018) a continuation. However, that wasn’t always the plan. As you might expect there were more standard attempts made to bring Michael Myers back to the big screen.
Originally the Halloween franchise was to continue with Rob Zombie’s storyline but without the writer/director’s participation. Halloween 3-D was announced in 2011 as being slated for an October 2012 release. Horror veterans Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer were penning the screenplay for the sequel. But, when the project began to lose steam, the duo exited Halloween 3-D in favor of working on the Hellraiser remake. Both properties of which were at Dimension Films, and never made it off the ground.

The next attempt to revive the franchise came from screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan; the duo behind several of the Saw sequels. Entitled Halloween Returns, this unrealized film would have ignored all sequels in the franchise after Halloween II (1981). As such, Melton and Dunstan called their script a “Recalibration,” as opposed to a reboot. While I haven’t read it, the screenplay for Halloween Returns it is supposedly available online. In the end, though the Halloween didn’t manage its return in this fashion as Dimension Films lost the franchise rights in 2015. Shortly after that, the studio crumbled due to the heinous acts of its co-founder, Harvey Weinstein.
As a result, all of the horror series which Dimension formerly held the rights to were up for grabs. Lionsgate Films picked up the rights to Children of the Corn and Hellraiser, and the studio briefly considered doing the same for Halloween. Soon enough though, a much more exciting deal was made. Along with the production company Miramax Films, low-budget horror uber-producer Jason Blum and his company Blumhouse Productions snatched up the rights to the franchise in question. Blumhouse has an output/distribution deal through Universal Pictures; marking the first time that Universal had distributed a Halloween entry since 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Blum knew he could find the right creative team to help him breathe life back into these flicks. But first, the producer made it a point to gain John Carpenter’s approval and involvement in the project. Carpenter was apprehensive at first, but ultimately gave his approval as well as participation; serving as both co-producer and co-composer on Halloween (2018).

From there, things got more interesting as frequent collaborators David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were brought on board. A unique choice for sure considering that the duo had always worked on wacky comedies before becoming involved with Halloween. Despite their roots though, Green and McBride make it clear from the start that there take on this horror favorite would not be a comedic one. To the contrary, they wanted to take this new film, back to the roots of Carpenter’s original picture. With that in mind, they took a page out of Halloween Returns’ book. Halloween (2018) would be part of a new continuity; one which contained only it and the 1978 original. Green, McBride, and  Jeff Fradley were intent on making “A continuation” of the original Halloween. As a result, all sequels would be ignored.

Of course, to make a true continuation of Halloween (1978), you would have to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. A prospect which seemed unlikely considering that Curtis already made a similar reprisal twenty years ago with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). However, the actress was thankfully swayed by a familial tie. After having worked with David Gordon Green on Stronger (2017), and having one of the best experiences of his career Jake Gyllenhaal convinced Curtis to hear Green’s approach to Halloween. Once the actress read the film’s screenplay she was convinced:
It’s been 40 years since that fateful Halloween night when Michael Myers/The Shape (James Jude Courtney) murdered five people in Haddonfield, Illinois. Since then, he’s been in captivity at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. The lone survivor of that night, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been forever changed by the trauma of that night in 1978. She’s lived the past four decades in the same small town preparing for The Shape’s inevitable return. Alas, Laurie’s living in such a way has strained her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). This Halloween though, the family will have to reunite when The Shape returns to  Haddonfield!

There’s been a lot of lead-up to Halloween (2018). Part of such anticipation was the division created in the horror movie community. Many hardcore horror fans felt that ignoring all the sequels was an insult to the franchise itself. If you’ve been reading this column, you know how messy the Halloween franchise has become. In my mind, there was no other option but to follow the current franchise trend that I like to call, “Selective Continuity.” Such An approach that presents some pros as well as some cons.
Frankly, Halloween (2018) is much better than I expected. For the first time in a long time, Halloween (2018) delivers is a very-well made installment in this franchise. It’s a that manages to be visually and atmospherically tied into the 1978 original while being its own thing. I feel that the entire cast and crew here is bringing their all to it. Beyond being well made, Halloween (2018) is pretty well-written. This film’s screenplay presents a realistic look at trauma and its effects.  As a result, I feel that Green bringing his dramatic roots to this film is what makes it so strong.

Speaking of strong, the main characters, and many of the supporting in this flick are just that. As opposed to her performance in H20; Curtis delivers a much more realistic Laurie Strode, suffering from PTSD. In doing so, thankfully very little of H20 is rehashed in this new picture. Aside from Laurie, we’re also given very likable new characters in Allyson (Andi Matichak), Karen (Judy Greer), and Vicky (Virginia Gardner). All of whom, along with Curtis, present strong, charismatic heroines.  At the same time though, this movie has many characters who could just be excised.

For the most part, the pacing of Halloween (2018) is well maintained Except for the fact that it is overcrowded with characters and silly subplots concerning podcasters and doctors. These subplots could be removed from the picture without affecting the narrative. Mind you, the actors in these subplots are perfectly serviceable in their respective roles; they’re just unneeded. Simply eliminating these subplots would improve the pacing, which feels a bit labored due to them.
Another issue I have with this movie is that it just isn’t very scary. As I said, the necessary atmosphere is present; alas, the scares are not. That sense of foreboding created in the original Halloween is in this new film. Sadly though, it’s overshadowed by brutal violence (similar to that presented in the Rob Zombie entries.) Not that I have a problem with that, mind you.  I feel like this movie’s being so violent is that it takes it out of step with being a continuation of the original picture.

Finally, there are the problems that taking the selective continuity approach to Halloween creates. While this film certainly cleans this franchise’s timelines; it simultaneously makes The Shape less scary. Don’t get me wrong, suffering through the events of that original film would be terrifying. However, in this continuity, only five people were killed. I think including the original Halloween II in this continuity would have increased the fear factor of this continuation. Heck, even the movie in review ponders, in an age of mass shootings, is a psycho killing five people with a knife that scary? In the case of Halloween (2018), it could have been scarier.

Still, even with all its issues, I think Halloween (2018) is the best sequel one could make to the 1978 film. A notion which is shared by many other critics and fans. Aside from being a good continuation from the original, Halloween (2018) has made a ton of money. The film was produced for $10 million and has made over $230 million worldwide! For those reasons, Halloween (2018) is a definite Franchise Expansion! Work on a follow-up has already begun, so I suppose my statement is redundant, but you know what I mean. However, I honestly don’t know what you could do to continue from this particular storyline. If it were up to me, I would suggest giving the annual anthology angle another go. Alas, that’s a long shot, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the jack-o-lantern of a franchise keeps its candles burning!

Halloween (2018) Is Now Playing & Will Be Available on Home Video in January 2019!

In the meantime, you can also treat yourself to the other Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) Reviews in the Halloween series:
Halloween (1978):

Halloween II (1981):

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982):

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988):

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989):

Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995):

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998):

Halloween: Resurrection (2002):

Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007):

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009):

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