HALLOWEEN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: David Gordon Green

Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilginer, Nick Castle, Rhian Rees, Jeffereson Hall, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, Drew Scheid, Virginia Gardner.

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018)Set forty years after the events of the original, David Gordon Green’s take on John Carpenter’s classic genre defining slasher film from 1978 works effectively as a direct sequel. This new Halloween pretends that those other nine or so increasingly crappy and ridiculous sequels and Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake didn’t exist, and is all the more effective for this bold decision. This new take on the classic Halloween has been produced by Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse production company specialises in low budget horror films like the successful Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises.

Original 80s scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, the former teenaged babysitter who was the intended victim of Michael Myers’ killing spree on that dreadful Halloween night forty years earlier. Laurie has been left traumatised by those events, and her ongoing paranoia about Michael has virtually destroyed her family. She has two failed marriages behind her. She lives as a virtual recluse on a heavily fortified, booby-trapped compound on the outskirts of Haddonfield. She has built an underground bunker, which is fortified with heavy weaponry, and has something of a survivalist’s mentality. She even trained her young daughter in the use of weaponry to help prepare for Michael’s inevitable return.

Her estranged daughter Karen (played by Judy Greer) was taken away from her by social services, and as an adult is still emotionally distant from Laurie. Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak) tries to bring Karen and Laurie closer together and heal the rift between them, but finds it frustrating to be caught in the middle of their emotional standoff.

But then Michael (played as usual by Nick Castle) escapes when a prison bus transporting him, and a bunch of criminally insane inmates, to a new secure facility crashes. Soon the town of Haddonfield becomes a killing field as Michael relentlessly makes his way towards a final showdown with Laurie. Early victims of Michael’s killing spree include pair of podcast journalists in Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) who have a fascination with Michael’s story. As the body count rises, Laurie relives the trauma of those events from forty years earlier.

Psychiatrist Dr Sartain (Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer, from the awful and pointless 2016 remake of Ben Hur, etc) has been overseeing Michael’s incarceration and studying him to try and understand his motivations ever since the death of Dr Loomis. But his air of desperation and obsession over Michael has blinded him to the dark truth about Myers’ evil nature.

The script from Green and his regular collaborator Danny McBride, and co-producer Jeff Fradley, treats Carpenter’s film with reverence, and follows the template established by Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill. There are some meta references to the original, including that iconic and haunting score, but the script removes most of the preposterous supernatural elements that dogged the numerous sequels. Green collaborated closely with Carpenter himself to get the tone of the film right. Here Myers is a mere man, and although older he still has a formidable and menacing presence. The film becomes more of a psychological study of two damaged and traumatised individuals as well as providing a glimpse into the dysfunctional relationship of Laurie’s family that has been shaped by her obsession with her nemesis.

Halloween is the first foray into horror for Green, who is better known for his stoner comedies like Pineapple Express, but he handles the material effectively. There are a few jump scares, and the film is certainly gory and bloody enough, although Green exercises a measure of restraint and much of the violence occurs off screen. Halloween has a higher body count than the original. Nonetheless, this is still a fairly formulaic slasher film, and it follows the usual tropes of the sub-genre. The film fondly recalls the genre that dominated 80s horror films with the likes of Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street, etc, with its remorseless and relentless nightmarish bogeyman terrifying teenagers.

Curtis here is pumped up, feisty and fighting fit, resilient and strong, and her physical presence is reminiscent of both Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies and Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise. Curtis also brings a vulnerability and sense of regret to her performance as a woman still living with trauma and unable to let go of the past. Will Patton plays Sheriff Hawkins, who, forty years ago, was a young policeman who helped take Myers into custody.

It may have taken four decades, but at last we have a worthy sequel to Carpenter’s original Halloween.

★★★☆

 

 

 

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