Few great B-movies have suffered the ignominy experienced by John Carpenter’s Halloween, which ushered in the “golden age” of slasher flicks back in 1978 (but took a couple more years to reach local cinemas).
That shame lies in no fewer than seven middling to abysmal sequels (one of which did not even feature its iconic masked serial killer), not counting the two abominable, abhorrent Rob Zombie efforts.
That’s a lot of “abs” for one paragraph, but please excuse me.
It’s just that the original Halloween – from its creepy/catchy synthesizer score to its unstoppable, relentless killer Michael Myers, from launching Jamie Lee Curtis’ Scream Queen career to setting a high-water mark in the genre – has always held a special place in this cranky reviewer’s heart.
Probably only Halloween: H2O, the 20th anniversary effort that brought Curtis back to the franchise she left after the second film, came close to being a worthy sequel (until the folks helming the franchise made a dog’s dinner of the one after that, Halloween: Resurrection, and ruined everything H2O achieved).
Twenty years on from that, and 40 years after the original, Carpenter and Curtis now share executive producer credit on the plainly titled Halloween, which chooses to ignore (yay) everything that came after the first movie.
Michael has been incarcerated ever since that murderous night, and has not spoken a word to anyone – not even to the obsessive Dr Ranbir Sartain (Haruk Bilginer), his primary psychiatrist since Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence’s character from the original and four of the sequels) passed on.
Laurie Strode (Curtis), whose life has been haunted by the trauma of Halloween night 1978, is estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and only marginally attached to her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
With her Sarah Connor combat skills and Doc Brown hair, Laurie lives in a state of perpetual readiness for the night Michael chooses to come home again.
He does precisely that, when the state authorities foolishly decide to move him to a high-security mental institution under minimal guard – and on Halloween eve at that.
The new Halloween does a number of things right. Director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, The Sitter) effectively evokes an atmosphere of oppressive, creeping dread, even in the outdoor scenes, as costumed kids run from house to house seeking sweet treats while Michael uses back doors and side entrances to claim one victim after another.
Green and his co-writers Danny McBride (yep, that Eastbound & Down Danny McBride) and Jeff Fradley also wisely refrain from attempting to shed any kind of light on Michael and his connection to Laurie.
Yes – no druidic origins, no Terminator-like men in black showing up to lay waste to police stations. Even the supposed brother-sister connection with Laurie is curtly dismissed with a line of dialogue. Goodbye, Basil Exposition, you belong in the past.
This preserves the mystique of Michael Myers, as it was in the original, and makes him that much more terrifying a figure.
The new movie also makes Laurie a highly sympathetic figure, even if the characters around her don’t seem willing to cut her much slack.
The inevitable showdown between stalker and victim is a suspenseful affair, with some nice callbacks to the original and interesting role reversals.
It’s in getting to this good stuff, however, that Halloween 2018 falters a little.
The early proceedings are rather formulaic (and thus predictable, even if Michael’s killing spree does make you feel for his hapless victims) right up until one startling swerve kicks the third act into high gear.
If the film were to fully live up to the legacy of the pacesetting original, we should only be squirming in our seats from anxiety – and not impatience.
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Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees, Andi Matichak, Haruk Bilginer