At this point in 2018, a film featuring three generations of female victims facing off against a predatory man is bound to find an audience. nostalgia and catharsis; splash and brotherhood. the new “halloween” could not be missing even if it was set on the day of the tree.
is a pretty fascinating fan service, with lots of clever touches and some disappointing ones. Director/co-writer David Gordon Green’s image changes tone erratically, and the kills are something of a drag after a while, on the way to a rousing revenge finale. still, enough people die in it, bloodily, in different ways (knife, hammer, barbed wire, blows to the head, crushing of the head) to satisfy the target demographic.
And there’s Jamie Lee Curtis for the rest of us, reprising the role of nanny Laurie Strode, in which she made her screen debut 40 years ago. forty years. the ruby anniversary, appropriately.
“Fan service” doesn’t mean all “halloween” fans will love the green version of things. I came to this sequel, which ignores all the devious narrative developments of the previous nine sequels or reboots, a half-hearted fan of director John Carpenter’s astute 1978 original. what’s good now is exactly what was good then, before all the shoddy “halloween” copycats: long sliding shots; the hilariously direct correlation between sexual activity and impending massacre, heightened by the fourth-rate “Friday the 13th” later universe; the lingering, three-note, 5/16 theme song co-written by Carpenter himself, signaling serial killer Michael Myers’s insidious method; the man in the william shatner latex mask (no kidding) with the creepily enlarged eye holes.
This was always myers’ appeal as a boogeyman. The man who, as a child, fatally stabbed his negligent sister followed George A’s example. Romeo’s big, grimy “Night of the Living Dead” a decade earlier. myers still plays with space “traps”, which appear suddenly, but does not run; he walks. (The actors taking turns behind the mask are Nick Castle, returning from the original, and James Jude Courtney.) Furthermore, at one point in Green’s film, Myers executes an alarming, robotic sit-in. It’s a nod to the ’78 movie, as is Curtis’ wordless appearance outside of high school, standing in Myers’ old place.
laurie has lived with the traumatic baggage of the “babysitter murders” (original title of the film) through failed marriages and a drinking problem. she has spent her adult life with fear and resolve, transforming her home into a justifiably paranoid wonderland with a booby trap. Her semi-estranged adult daughter (Judy Greer) doesn’t understand why Mom can’t move on. Meanwhile, it’s Halloween again, and the character’s daughter Greer (Andi Matichak, a wily cast and a welcome presence) is dealing with a wayward boyfriend and a feeling that the merry goblin holiday isn’t going to go as planned.
The prologue to Green’s Asylum, a tense overture, very ’70s in style and approach, makes that quite clear. When someone says “we’ve got a 10-50” into a police transmitter, it’s clear that 10-50, in nearby fictional but infamous Haddonfield, Illinois, translates to “we’ve got a bus full of psychos going around.” an overturned transport vehicle on a dark highway, and the big one has its own horror franchise.”
this is curtis’s fifth “halloween” photo. She’s a tough, terse, and authentic presence, and pushing Sarah Connor into “Terminator” territory highlights the actress’ edge. Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride’s screenplay never quite discovers the right combination of gristle and jokes (at one point, two local cops babble about the new banh mi sandwich spot in town). I suspect the audience will forgive and forget all of that, simply because the grand finale delivers a grand finale. Nothing unites American film audiences in every corner of this fractured nation like a home invasion premise, requiring a large arsenal of firearms. Add a psycho and it’s like Christmas in July.
michael phillips is a critical tribune.
“halloween” — 2.5 stars
mpaa rating: r (for horror violence and gory imagery, language, brief drug use, and nudity)
open: Thursday night
[from the chicago international film festival: why ‘the hate you give’ speaks of america in 2018]
[also on ciff: nina metz talks to filmmaker and star mckenzie chinn about his chicago indie ‘olympia’]
[ review: ‘bad times royale’ proves that upcoming “widows” co-star cynthia erivo has what it takes]