Movie Review: Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis is back for the 40th anniversary of the original slasher film

Directed by David Gordon Green
With Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle

It has been 40 years since Michael Myers / The Shape first went on a killing spree in the original 1978 film Halloween. The 11th entry in the series, also simply called Halloween, sees the return of John Carpenter, who co-wrote, scored and directed the original. He had not been involved in the series since Halloween III in 1982.

For this latest entry, Carpenter was executive producer, creative consultant and composer. Also back is Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the sole survivor of the 1978 film. She had a voice-only role in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection and starred in Halloween H20, the 20th-anniversary film in 1998. Nick Castle reprises the role of Michael Myers / The Shape for the first time since the original.

Carpenter wanted to get the series back on track, after decades of other people playing with the characters he created. The new Halloween is a direct sequel to the 1978 film, and it rejects all the action and plot twists of the other sequels. Michael Myers instead has been locked up in an asylum since 1978 and has never been outside to do all those other events from Halloween IV and after. (He did not appear in Halloween III; Halloween II takes place the same night as 1978’s Halloween.)

The new film has a lot of good points and rises above most of the recent slasher fare. A lot of thought went into what the impact of the massacre of 1978 might have had on a survivor like Laurie Strode, and Curtis delivers on the idea. She is no longer the teen scream queen but a middle-aged woman who has struggled with PTSD symptoms and prepared herself to survive.

This, of course, had an impact on her family, in particular her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), who avoids her, and her teen granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), who barely knows her. Yes, it has been that long that Laurie has a grandkid in high school.

But the core or the films has always been to scare young people. The plot splits its focus to involve Allyson and her circle of friends as they prepare for a big Halloween party.

The film has some obvious moves at the start to get the action going. One of the first things that is announced is that Michael Myers is getting moved on a bus to another institution. The leads to rather predictable consequences.

The film quickly boils down to Michael Myers and his potential victims, which is everyone with a speaking part and several people who don’t have any lines.

A bit unexpected is a critique of the current state of media, with two unsympathetic podcasters trying to exploit Michael Myers and Laurie Strode to get ratings by twisting the already sorry facts into even more tawdry terms.

They are not the only unsympathetic characters. Some of the teens and few adults are also quite annoying, which puts the audience in the position of hoping that Michael Myers catches up with them sooner rather than later.

Then there is a sense of guilt for having such a negative wish fulfilled, mixed with joy at predicting the plot.

While the superior character development is a bonus, the main task at hand is horror. And here, John Carpenter is a master. Even though the actual directing is by David Gordon Green, one can see Carpenter’s stamp on the final product. There are only a few jump scares. Mostly, there is suspense as characters wander into unsafe situations, and the camera traps them even before Michael Myers turns up. And the camera does not shy away from the gore and dead bodies, which become quite numerous as the bloody day turns into an even bloodier night.

David Gordon Green, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is not known for horror at all, which is perhaps why this 11th installment seems fresh. He has made rather personal films and comedies since 2000, which saw George Washington, a film about alienated youth in North Carolina. He had a minor hit in 2008 with Pineapple Express, a comedy featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

He continues to look for the souls of his characters, even in such dark material as Halloween. We still don’t get much insight into Michael Myers soul, though, even though a psychiatrist comes along for the ride.

But the saving grace of the film is Jamie Lee Curtis, who with frazzled hair and tattered nerves seems like she has been living her character for the past four decades, hoping to finally confront it one last time so she can set it to rest.

She channels a bit of Sigourney Weaver’s attitude in the Alien sequels, becoming a tough woman of action because she has to. Curtis’ fans from her scream queen era won’t be let down.

But is this the last of the series? You have to sit through all of the end credits for a brief audible hint at the future. 

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