Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Andi Matichak, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer, Toby Huss
(7-Very Good Film)
Adept. Brutal. Successful.
It’s the return of the original boogeyman: Michael Myers; master of hide and seek, teleporter, Trappist monk, hand-to-hand fighting expert, strongman champion of the world, and cat with nine lives. Forty years after he terrorized a neighborhood, stalking babysitters and their boyfriends in the original John Carpenter classic, this Halloween opens with Myers chained up in a rehabilitation hospital, where a couple of over-eager journalists hope to meet and interview him. You’ll note right away that writers, Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green (also director), wisely throw away all previous sequels. They even score a fun bit of meta humor off of it when one character asks, “Wasn’t it her (Strode’s) brother who murdered all those babysitters?” “No,” replies another, “He was not her brother, that’s something that people made up.” While Myers has been locked up and dormant for forty years, Laurie Strode (Lee Curtis), iconic final girl and retired babysitter, got married (twice) and divorced (twice), and had a daughter, Karen (Greer). Strode, embittered and cynical from the events of the first film (who wouldn’t be), becomes reclusive and a self-made soldier preparing for a day when Myers might return. She was also incredibly tough on Karen, who came to resent her for it, and now, seems to want nothing to do with her infamous mother. Her own daughter, Allyson (Matichak), is going through high school, and about the age Laurie Strode was in the first one. Sidenote: I understand that Laurie wants to confront Myers, and would wait in that small town of Hattonfield for him, but why the rest of the family still lives there is beyond me. I guess they’re counting on the lightning never strikes the same place twice principle. In any case, Myers escapes a day before Halloween, the town’s children still go trick or treating the night of, parents still go on dinner dates and leave their loved ones with promiscuous babysitters. It’s what we expect and want, and Halloween delivers and even surprises.
Halloween proves early that it’s going to be a well-made film. The actors are strong and each character is given adequate time to develop (at least, relative to other slashers). In fact, I’d say the strongest part of the flick is the structure which makes several characters the focal point of whatever scene their in at separate times. Obviously, we know Laurie Strode is the star, but by making it more of an ensemble piece, Halloween makes us identify with characters we know will die. Even worse are scenes featuring characters we aren’t sure about. With doomed characters, it’s only a question of when, but there were a couple of characters in the movie that I could see living or dying, and the suspense, then, is stifling. Will they or won’t they? Another great decision on the filmmakers’ part was to make Laurie Strode this traumatized vigilante with family issues. We are 99% sure she’s not going to die right? So how do you make a character interesting in a slasher when we’re basically comfortable anytime she’s on screen? Comfortable because she’s not going to die. We can breathe easy when she’s around, right? Laurie is obsessed with a reunion with Myers. She wants to kill him. By making her the predator, the suspense is on the other side. Will she get him?
The violence and gore, once it gets going, is visceral and memorable. David Gordon Green blends cutaways, reveals, shocking gore, and a very, beautifully limited amount of jump scares. You need to have at least 2 or 3 especially nasty moments in these movies to successfully establish what the audience should be afraid of. What are the consequences of being caught? In Halloween, the consequences of being caught are graphic and deeply unsettling. This makes the long sequences of quiet, like when one of the characters in this film cuts through the woods, truly suspenseful.
My problems with the film can barely be said to be problems. More accurately put, they’re limitations of the Michael Myers character that were present in the original and still persist here. It shouldn’t be a spoiler if you’re a fan of Halloween for me to say the guy just will not die. For some, it’s what makes him scary. Not for me. I find human villains scarier, or if not human, monsters with rules. Dracula can’t deal with sunlight. Werewolves can’t withstand silver bullets. The Thing is susceptible to fire. If a villain is unbeatable, I get really negative and start thinking why bother trying. If you can’t win, why play? A second limitation is that much of the enjoyment, thrill, and fear for Halloween come from not knowing when it’s coming (it being Myers). Now that I’ve seen the film, will it be as enjoyable the second time? The masterpieces of the genre( The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Thing) get under my skin every time.
Halloween is everything I could have hoped for in a sequel made forty years after the original: a deeper Laurie Strode, excellent script and direction, same old brutal Michael Myers.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-