Halloween review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
It’s unfortunate that David Gordon Green’s take on Halloween comes labeled as just Halloween, despite acting as a direct sequel to the 1978 original film. Now in the years to come when one refers to Halloween, I’ll need to specify whether it’s the John Carpenter version (1978), the Rob Zombie version (2007), or the David Gordon Green version. Despite the confusion, it’s such an effectively tense picture that it could come labeled as the better sequel.
Yes, despite the title, this is indeed a continuation of the original story, acting as though the events of the previous sequels more or less never happened. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role of Laurie Strode, aged forty years and still terrified of Michael Myers after that fateful and frightening night of killings. Though Myers has been held in captivity at a mental institution without escape for many years, Laurie can’t sleep easy. She has been preparing for his eventual escape, knowing full well that Michael won’t stop his rampage until he is dead. She trains herself with firearms, builds a panic room in her basement, and formats her house to be a trap for any killers wandering inside. And despite all those decades of crazy prep result in the loss of faith from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and distance her from her granddaughter Alyson (Andi Matichak), it is about to pay off.
Michael Myers will eventually break out of his containment and it’s back to basics for the silent psychopath. Dark jumpsuit with strong boots? Check. Filthy Halloween mask that looks as though it hasn’t been washed since the 1970s? Check. Suburban neighborhood killing spree with common household tools? Check. Intimidating presence? Double check. He also has a host of victims to assault, from police officers to unlucky mothers to naughty teenagers.
David Gordon Green makes the smart call by loading his version of Halloween up with heaps of atmosphere more than money-shot kills. While Michael Myers does get in a good head-stomping or neck piercing here and there, he also makes simple kills of snapping necks and choking victims to death. But thanks to some clever shooting, lighting, and an oh-so-delicious throwback to Carpenter’s classic score, the mood is all there for the good old-fashioned Halloween vibe before sequels and reboots muddied up the name of Myers.
Green’s film naturally functions as an homage but takes care never to wink too hard. Laurie isn’t the only one who has gotten wiser with time. One teen remarks how the five murders of Myers in the 1970s seems almost quaint. A young kid with a soon-to-be-targeted babysitter is so up on slasher movie logic he makes the smartass calls of when to leave and how to react. There are even some nice and subtle callbacks in the cinematography, as with an alternate take on the climactic shot from the first film. It also avoids the greatest pitfall of trying to decipher Michael's origins and motivations. He is kept as tight-lipped as Laurie and the intrusive nature of the investigating podcasters and an obsessed doctor will receive no concrete answers; only a silent bloodbath amid Michael's heavy breathing.
I can already tell there are a few jaded horror fans that are going to take arms against this Halloween for one specific reason: they don’t find it as scary. And after leagues of horror movies high and low, I, too, admit that Halloween doesn’t quite chill the bones as much as the deeper terror of Hereditary and It Comes At Night. But for being more of a ride of a slasher picture with all the nostalgic details lovingly grafted, it’s hard to deny that Green’s film gets Halloween right and presents about as satisfying of a follow-up film as one could hope for from this franchise.