Halloween October 27, 2018
David Gordon Green
Jamie Lee Curtis
1 Hr., 45 Mins.
orty years have passed since the premiere of Halloween, a resourceful slasher film that both helped popularize the aforementioned subgenre in the United States and launch the careers of the filmmaker John Carpenter and the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. To honor the ruby anniversary of the movie, a new film, also called Halloween, has been co-executive-produced by Carpenter, co-written and directed by David
Gordon Green, and again stars Curtis as heroine Laurie Strode.
The original Halloween, rather infamously, was followed by an abundance of befuddling, much-derided sequels. Most of them were pitiful — though I quite like 1998’s non-canonical H20: 20 Years Later, which more or less followed the lead of the self-referencing Scream, which came out two years earlier — and didn’t bother to maintain a consistent, cohesive story. The late-aughts, Rob Zombie-helmed reboot duo didn’t help matters, either.
Fortunately, the 2018 Halloween, like its 1998 counterpart, which was only a sequel to the first and second films in the franchise, is selective about what it considers sacred. Actually, it’s more than simply choosy: As far as Green and his co-writers, Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, are concerned, we should only be paying attention to what happened back in 1978. Which, to jog your memory, involved a masked killer named Michael Myers descending on the suburban town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night; terrorizing a teenage babysitter named Laurie and killing five people, including her closest friends; and then disappearing on the other side of midnight, without a trace. The hospital nightmare of 1981’s Halloween II? The fatuous supernaturalism of 1995’s Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers? Never happened.
In the new Halloween, things, on the surface, are exactly as they should be. Laurie is still with us, and she has a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and a teenage granddaughter named Allyson (Andi Matichak), who fustily exclusively calls Laurie “grandmother.” Michael has been kept secure in a sanitarium for the last four decades, presumably captured shortly after the original film’s ending. Dig deeper, though, and it’s clear that the situation is far from remedied. Laurie, now bespectacled and unkempt, has posttraumatic stress disorder, and has gotten little to no professional help to aid her more healthily process what happened to her when she was a teenager. She initially tried moving on, but making a pretense of normalcy only agitated her troubles.
As a result, Laurie, as explained by her daughter at one point in the movie, has become devoured by her paranoia and neuroses, and has resorted to alcohol abuse as a way to cope. “I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case,” Laurie sighs early in the movie. Forever fearing another attack, she has developed agoraphobia, and has shut out the rest of the world in a shack in middle-of-nowhere Illinois, which is wreathed with guns, booby traps, cameras, and secret rooms. Her relationships with her family members are strained at best; friendships are nonexistent.
The new Halloween bears many of the original film’s set pieces. There is a violent escape by Michael, a suburban pogrom, and then a hyper-suspenseful final showdown. There are similar sprinklings-in of comedy. There’s even a successor (Haluk Bilginer) to Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael’s distraught psychiatrist, who is named Dr. Sartain and speaks with Pleasence’s same tinny, dramaturgic affectation. What most separates the 2018 Halloween, then, is the hinted-at guarantee that Laurie will find closure after all these years, as well as a subtly developed but stirring portrayal of passed-down traumas.
Because the contemporary Halloween is mostly a reiteration in terms of its first act — Allyson essentially takes on the role of Laurie circa 1978 — it is a good thing that the finale, where the ground doesn’t feel quite so walked on, is so blood-curdling. Set at Laurie’s compound, and almost entirely comprising protracted, achingly painstaking stalking sequences, it makes for a pleasing reversal of the last stretch of its ‘70s predecessor. This time around, Laurie isn’t the one being hunted: she’s the hunter.
The climax, which is scary and spirited, is capped by an affecting final image that left me teary-eyed. Some, like me, might wish that the movie dug into the dramas of the story more than it did the horrors. In a parallel universe, I can picture a moving saga about Laurie finding closure without having to fight fire with fire. But like Carpenter in 1978, Green, whose writing and directing is admirably punctilious, wants to tell a humanistic story just as much as he wants to frighten us. And frighten us he does. B+
This review also appeared in The Daily.