40 years later, another haunting Halloween
Review by Jake Coyle of the Associated Press
With hollow eyes and sagging cheeks, the flabby white mask of Michael Myers is horrors great blank slate. Project your fears here, it says. Myers doesnt speak. His movements never rise beyond a deliberate gait (well, aside from all the stabbing and strangling). Even his name is purposefully bland.
Decades after John Carpenters slasher landmark, David Gordon Green has resurrected the faceless Boogeyman of Halloween and set him loose on another Halloween night, 40 years later. Time has done little for Michaels personality. He is still a poor conversationalist. (He hasnt uttered a word in the intervening decades, says a doctor at the sanatorium that holds him.) He is still handy with a knife.
There are no Roman numerals in the title of Greens film, nor any of those dopey subtitles like 1998s Halloween H20, which presumably delved into the very real fears of dehydration. As if to draw closer to the original (and to ignore the nine sequels and reboots in between), this Halloween has simply taken Carpenters 1978 title. And with gliding cameras, Carpenters score and original cast members Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (the man under the mask), it has tried very hard to take much more, too.
But while Greens Halloween, which he penned with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, has faithfully adopted much of what so resonated in Carpenters genre-creating film the stoic killer, the gruesome executions, the suburban nightmares what makes his Halloween such a thrill is how it deviates from its long-ago predecessor.
Setting the template for countless slashers to follow, Carpenters film often reserved its most painful endings for more promiscuous girls or drug-using teens. As a grim reaper carrying out a metaphorical reckoning, Michael had questionable biases.
But what Carpenter did do was equate sex with violence, a connection that Green has elaborated on with a more feminist streak. Having survived the Babysitter Murders of 40 years ago, Laurie Strode (a fabulously fierce Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role that was her film debut) is now a self-described twice-divorced basket case living in a run-down house on the outskirts of the fictional Haddonfield, Ill. She has turned her home into a training ground and domestic fortification (beneath the kitchen island is a well-armed shelter) for the second coming of Michael shes always been sure will happen.
Her daughter (Judy Greer) and her son-in-law (Toby Huss) have grown tired of Strodes fanatical survivalist paranoia. Certain that the world isnt so bad a place as Strode insists, they plead for her to get over it. Their high-school daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) isnt so sure, and she naturally gravitates to the grandmother she has been shielded from.
The curiosity of Serial-like podcast journalists (Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees) introduces us to both the locked-up Myers and the withdrawn Strode. Before curtly dismissing them, Strode insists their investigation into Myers is pointless. Theres nothing to learn, says Strode, surely no fan of, say, neo-Nazi newspaper features. Hunt evil, she believes, dont analyze it. Its a message peppered throughout Halloween with clear reference to today (and to some of the earlier Halloween installments that sought to understand Michael).
Needless to say, both those who dismiss Strodes deep-seated trauma and those who would rather study evil than confront it are gonna get their comeuppance. When Michael is transferred to another facility, hell predictably breaks loose. Once Michael is again stalking the suburban streets of Haddonfield, custom kitchens start seeing their cutlery disappear, and the shadows and closets of seemingly safe neighborhoods are again rife with danger. Evil soulless and unkillable lurks everywhere, even if does wear a silly mask.
Green, the sometimes brilliant, sometimes confounding filmmaker of art-house indies (George Washington), broader comedies (Pineapple Express) and, more recently, a few starry studio projects (Our Brand Is Crisis), cant recreate the eeriness of Carpenters original. But he pumps more blood into the story, both literally and figuratively. Foggy nights and gas-station bathrooms turn predictably gory, more so than the original. But the scenes that fall between those foreboding, twinkling piano notes have far more warmth and spirit than youd expect. You almost wish Green easily the most talented filmmaker in the franchise since Carpenter was instead making something original here on the same streets, with the same cast (including the scene-stealing Miles Robbins) and none of the skull crushing.
But there are rituals to observe, and this Halloween lives up to its name.