3 out of 5 stars.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” the slasher movie that reinvented the horror genre and made Michael Myers one of the scariest villains in film history. It has also spawned a whopping seven sequels (not including a remake and a sequel to the remake) over the years, but the newest installment in the franchise, also titled “Halloween,” effectively ignores all of them. Directed by David Gordon Green, this reinvention of the series throws out all the over-complicated mythology built up by the sequels over the years, resulting in a film that pays homage to the original while also making a statement of its own—though not always a particularly good statement.
As in real life, in the film it has been 40 years since Michael Myers terrorized the town of Haddonfield, IL and Laurie Strode, then a teenager who survived his attacks. Now he’s back, having escaped during a prison transfer, and he’s looking for Laurie again—and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
Nick Castle and Jamie Lee Curtis both reprise their roles as Michael (but as in the original film, he is billed only as The Shape) and Laurie. And while Curtis has appeared in a few of the sequels, something feels momentous about her appearance here, opposite the original Michael. When we see Laurie in this film, the stress of the attacks has taken its toll on her, even all these years later. She lives alone, in a highly secluded (and fortified) home, having been divorced twice; she drinks heavily; she is estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) because of the way she raised her, preparing her for the horrors of the world by teaching her to fight and shoot at a young age, and she is distanced from her teenage granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) as a result. There’s simultaneously a frailty and toughness about her, because when she finds out Michael is on the loose again, she’s almost joyous. She’s been waiting decades for the opportunity to kill him herself, and this time, she’s ready.
That final confrontation between Laurie and Michael doesn’t come until the end of the film, and in many ways, it’s worth it. But while it sounds like this movie focuses primarily on Laurie, it actually doesn’t, and we only get a few scenes with her every now and then up until the climax. That time that could have been spent developing the Laurie/Michael dynamic is instead spent on new characters who mean absolutely nothing, outside of giving Michael someone to terrorize. There doesn’t appear to be any logic behind Michael’s killing either. It would be less troublesome if so many of these side characters weren’t built up to seem like they were playing a larger role, only to ultimately be pointless after spending so much time with them. Even Laurie’s granddaughter isn’t a necessary character, because Laurie has virtually no relationship with her. Although it yields a great feminist moment at the end, that time also could have been devoted to Laurie’s obviously troubled relationship with her daughter.
The film looks great, with a variety of spooky settings, including Laurie’s fascinating and weird home. There are so many instances where Green pays homage to the original film, from the use of the iconic score to the orange opening titles and end credits to the suburban setting on Halloween night. And he manages to build up so much anticipation and tension in each scene, it’s hard not to have that tension passed on to you, regardless of whether or not you care about the characters on screen. Sure, the film is relatively scary, but so much of it is the audience projecting their own fears and anticipation at knowing what is eventually coming back onto themselves. What kills the mood are the moments where the tone becomes uneven, thanks to some badly timed attempts at humor. In one creepy scene, for instance, we get the scare immediately followed by a one-liner. Not only is it not especially funny, but it undermines the villain’s effectiveness.
This new “Halloween,” by erasing what happened in the sequels, is a return to the simplicity of the original film. At the same time, Green makes the film his own, but in doing so overcomplicates the plot just a tad, throwing different characters and subplots at the audience that lead nowhere. Ultimately, the film ends with a lot of loose ends. This may or may not be saying much, but this is the best “Halloween” film since the original. It’s just too bad Green also didn’t pay homage with some tighter direction.
Runtime: 106 minutes. Rated R.