By MONTE YAZZIE
In 1978 a low budget horror film featuring a group of teenagers and a stalking killer in a pale white mask changed the landscape of genre film forever. It also introduced the cinematic world to a young director, eventual master of horror named John Carpenter.
“Halloween,” as simplistic of a premise as it may have been, is undeniably an iconic film responsible for the explosion of horror films in the 1980s, and ultimately influenced generations of filmmakers that are still trying to evoke the fear of the boogeyma
The iconic film is also responsible for the introduction of Jamie Lee Curtis in her first film role as, Laurie Strode, the lone survivor of Michael Myers’ Halloween night carnage.
Director David Gordon Green, who has done everything from arthouse films like the exceptional “George Washington,” to goofball comedies like “Pineapple Express,” returns 40 years later to Haddonfield, Ill., and back into the life of Laurie Strode. Mr. Green builds an homage to the brilliant classic in the designs and story, however the highlight here belongs solely to Jamie Lee Curtis.
Laurie Strode survived the horrific events of Halloween night in 1978 and has dedicated her entire life to preparing for an eventual second encounter with Michael Myers. However, in doing this, Laurie has been divorced two times and has estranged herself from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
During this time Michael Myers has been silently waiting in a mental institute, being studied by his psychiatrist (Haluk Bilginer). He is also interviewed by a couple of podcasters (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) that are researching the extent of Michael’s actions, and they go as far as bringing him his mask.
The director demonstrates a keen understanding of all the moving parts that have come before in this long-running series. Green, who co-wrote the script with Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley, provides enough knowing nods to different aspects of the Myers mythology that fans will have fun seeing it all come to life.
Green uses these aspects to toy with expectations as well, showing the recognizable closet slates or a lingering clothesline to evoke tension associated with the imagery. Accompanying all this is a new score by John Carpenter, building on the original themes in unique ways while also adding a few new elements that ratchet up the unease. And there is more but the fun won’t be spoiled further.
Curtis is exceptional throughout the film. Laurie’s flowing gray hair and piercing expressions display a victim who is determined to never be unprepared again. Curtis captures the essence of this character nicely, displaying the tough-as-nails heroine, the slightly unhinged doomsday prepper and a traumatized woman who barely escaped death.
Greer is good although slightly underutilized playing Laurie’s daughter Karen. Newcomer Andy Matichak has a natural presence on screen, doing her best version of the type of young characters found in Carpenter’s original film.
The narrative, amidst the amusing elements that call back to the past, builds towards an eventual showdown between good and evil. Mr. Green does a nice job keeping the tension palpable, and the horrors horrific, as Michael stalks from house to house seemingly choosing victims simply because they were home on Halloween night.
It’s menacing to watch the brute force that Michael possesses, even though the film makes no mystery that Michael is a well-aged man, the kills are vicious and gruesome.
Still, the eventual encounter between Laurie and Michael, which is what the film is always aiming towards, doesn’t hold the gravity that it should. This is partly because the film turns into a standard slasher film with tropes so familiar that you can feel the beats developing well before they happen. Where Carpenter’s original film took its time building angst and composing the frights; Green’s film seems content to rush through the scares, which take away from the foreboding nature that the encounter should have composed.
But these are minimal qualms for a film that is ultimately a highlight amongst the franchise. Mr. Green does a fine job keeping the focus on Laurie Strode, and Mrs. Curtis is so good at playing the character.
John Carpenter’s “Halloween” will never be bested, but for those that have grown up with The Shape as a constant icon of terror during the month of October, this 2018 return will be a welcomed arrival.
Dir: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Virginia Gardner, and Andi Matichak
3.75 out of 5.00