HALLOWEEN (9 out of 10) Directed by David Gordon Green; Written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green; Starring; Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and Haluk Bilginer Rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity; Running time 105 minutes; In wide release October 19.
The original Halloween is a horror masterpiece and invented the slasher genre as we know it. As the years have passed, and it seems like there have been countless sequels, spinoffs and reboots, all but the hardcore fans have fallen off the bandwagon as quality diminished with nearly each passing iteration. When it was announced that director David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride showed an interest in refreshing the ailing franchise, most were worried they wouldn’t show the series respect since the two of them are mainly known for stoner comedies. Rest assured this is a fantastic horror film that is steeped in John Carpenter’s mythos.
Forty years have passed since the fateful Halloween when Michael Meyers went on his murderous rampage in Haddonfield, but Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has never forgotten the events of that night even if the rest of the world has moved on. Convinced that Michael will one day escape from the sanitarium he is imprisoned in, she has spent her whole life waiting for that moment. Her home in the woods is a veritable fortress, complete with safe room and an arsenal of guns that would put a SWAT team to shame, and she has trained her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) since the day she was born how to fight The Shape. Child Protective Services took Karen away at a young age, and now she has a daughter of her own (Andi Matichak) and wants nothing to do with the apparent fairytale land that her mother continues to live in. Of course Laurie was right, as Michael escapes on the eve of Halloween and returns to Haddonfield once more to finish what he started, and Laurie must finally do what she has been waiting for all her life – to kill Michael Meyers.
From the very beginning, it is obvious that Green and McBride are fans of the series and have respect for what John Carpenter created 40 years ago. While they deliberately skip all the sequels that followed and do retcon some of the “facts” and storylines we have come to know and either love or hate, the formula that worked so well in the past continues to pay off now. Longtime fans will love the Easter eggs hidden throughout that subtly refer to what we thought we knew as well as the way scenes are set up and filmed. Long tracking shots are seen throughout while we are waiting for Michael to attack his next victim, and most of the gore happens off camera, leaving the details up to our imaginations or when someone stumbles across the deceased victim. This works extremely well for the rare times the movie does get gory and grisly, as these especially brutal scenes do a better job of making the audience gasp as they are so sparingly used that they do come across as a shock or surprise.
But when it boils down, this is a movie centered on the fractured relationship between three generations of Strode women. Having been long separated due to Laurie’s actions in her life, the omnipresent specter of Michael Meyers ends up being the driving force that pushes them back together to fight as one to try to finally put his evil to rest once and for all. So yes, there are plenty of jump scares and murders sprinkled throughout to thrill audiences, but there are some surprisingly quiet and tender moments that exist as the heart of the film that most in the slasher genre do not have.
Halloween is a loving homage to what came before, and unlike other films (I’m talking to you, Jurassic World) it pays tribute subtly instead of bashing everyone over the head with a bat trying to make them see how clever the movie is. It’s everything a horror film should be, and it’s funnier than anyone could have expected. It’s not perfect, as there is a subplot involving Michael’s psychiatrist that could have easily been cut out, but it’s very nearly so. Just in time for the actual holiday, Halloween is a treat everyone will enjoy and will make fans happy and convert a legion of newcomers.
9 out of 10
Image Credit: Dread Central