New Halloween film has some new blood, but few new ideas
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and Virginia Gardner. Directed by David Gordon Green. Opens Friday at theatres everywhere. 106 minutes. 18A
Some day a brave filmmaker will make a horror movie where the psychos are securely locked up, the cops and docs aren’t incompetent or insane and people turn on the freakin’ lights when they enter a darkened room.
That filmmaker won’t be David Gordon Green, based on the bloody evidence of Halloween, his adoring, 40-years-after sequel to John Carpenter’s slasher classic. The new movie pretends that nine other sequels/reboots never happened.
Green comes not to challenge the boogeyman, but to love him. Which is all well and good from a fanboy’s Stalkercam point of view, if all you care about is the thrill of reuniting Jamie Lee Curtis with Nick Castle, the original 1978 combo of babysitter Laurie Strode vs. psycho killer Michael Myers, a.k.a. The Shape. (Castle, now 71, shares the role with James Jude Courtney, whose previous credited roles include “Thug,” “Mafia Goon” and “Huge Goon.”)
Writer/director Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley add a few new rips to the recitation. These include the welcome cast additions of Judy Greer as Karen, Laurie’s fed-up adult daughter, and Andi Matichak as Allyson, Laurie’s quizzical granddaughter, who both wish grandma would get over her paranoia and get help for her drinking problem.
But it might as well be James Bond behind Michael’s latex mask, noticeably weathered by four decades of abuse, for all the deviation from franchise formula we see on the screen.
Michael is still murderously insane, still “pure evil” and still mute — people scream “Say something!” at him.
He’s also still being coddled by sandwich-munching cops and delirious docs who think it’s safe to transfer him to a new psychiatric facility, along with lower-threat patients, in a bus that could have been borrowed from Scooby-Doo, for all the security it provides.
Natch, Mike escapes, just in time for Halloween. He heads for home, fictional hicksville Haddonfield, Illinois, where just about the only person still shook up from the infamous Babysitter Murders of 40 years previously (he also ate a dog, don’t forget) is Laurie, who has driven herself batty.
Grey of hair and dark of demeanour — she actually aged worse than Michael — she has turned her home into an armed fortress, replete with hidden basement dungeon, waiting for that inevitable day when Michael returns to town. She also acquired a ferocious alcohol habit, blew up two marriages and lost custody of her 12-year-old daughter, Karen, who has grown to be a righteous mom who wants to believe in the good things of life, not the bad ones.
Cue the jump scares and classic Carpenter-synth spookiness (the latter updated with an assist by son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies), as Michael sets about his slashing routine with a relentlessness that only time, taxes and Trumpian tweets can match.
Sexy teens punished for their lust? Check. A scared kid (Jibrail Nantambu, aces) who is smarter than the adults? Check. A series of murders, each more grisly than the last, as Michael plays peek-a-boo in darkened rooms that people are too stupid to light? Check and triple check.
It’s all leading to an inevitable climax, and you don’t have to be a Halloween cultist or even a horror fan to appreciate how this film gives strength and agency to its female characters.
Still, it seems like a missed opportunity to explore the traumatic psychic links between stalker and prey, which the movie briefly touches on but fails to fully examine. This isn’t an art film, to be sure, but Green showed depth as a director with films like his debut George Washington in 2000 and Joe in 2013 that isn’t much in view here.
He’s content to give Halloween fans what they want and hit all the expected beats, which includes the certainty that this franchise will never be stomped. Green hints as much during the opening credits, as a rotten and flattened pumpkin rises to become a grinning jack-o’-lantern.
But I can happily report that no dogs were eaten in the making of this movie, near as I can tell, so I guess that’s some kind of progress.