After a nearly half-century-long wait, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and The Shape (Nick Castle) have returned to Haddonfield, Illinois, and subsequent to this solicitous swan song, it would appear that the epoch-making slasher from 1978 will finally be able to rest in peace. Although, we’ve been deceived by many a megaflop before.
Directed and co-written by David Gordon Green (Stronger) – who has made a living on low-budget efficaciousness, which, by the way, made him the ideal candidate for the Blumhouse production – Halloween has, rather astutely, jettisoned everything from Halloween II (1981) to, well, Halloween II (2009), and brought the kitchen knife-wielding mass murderer into the twenty-first century with malice aforethought.
On the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the boogeyman escaping from Smith’s Grove, Martin (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) – who host a popular crime podcast – arrive at the sanitarium and attempt to inveigle a response from the catatonic Michael by using his mask as the provocation. Having failed, the pair then set off to locate Laurie Strode, whom they soon find is equally as uncooperative.
Armed to the teeth, Laurie, now a grandmother and borderline alcoholic, has spent each and every waking moment since the attack prepping for the return of Michael and, as a result, has not only ravaged an already fractured relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), but grandchild Allyson (Andi Matichak) as well.
Off-screen, Michael’s made his escape, befittingly on All Hallows’ Eve, and returned to Haddonfield, where he’s slashing, clubbing and perforating his way through the community, which eventually – by process of elimination – has landed the boogeyman face to face with Allyson. Fleeing for her life, the third generation Strode is soon picked up by “the new Loomis” (Haluk Bilginer) and taken to rejoin her mother and grandmother for a showdown with The Shape.
Produced by horror maestro Jason Blum (Get Out) and charged with a chilling score from none other than John Carpenter – alongside his son Cody Carpenter and guitarist Daniel A. Davies – there was significant reason to believe David Gordon Green’s Halloween wouldn’t go the way of Rick Rosenthal’s abysmal 1981 sequel, but not enough evidence to the contrary, either. After all, we’ve witnessed this song and dance before and, until now, could predict the outcome with outright certainty.
Unfortunately – and I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this – Halloween doesn’t do much to buck the trend, or dispel the roughly half-century of subpar storytelling which has hampered the series every step of the way, for that matter. Riddled with an overabundance of contrived humor and an ill-advised dip into the gene pool, if you prefer a little more meatiness to your horror, you’ve most definitely come to the wrong place and deserve to be met with a cleaver at the door for ever thinking otherwise.
However, if you’re content to check your brain at the gate and simply enjoy the haunted house for what it’s worth, Green’s Halloween just might be the follow-up you’ve been waiting for all along. Perhaps far more concerned with broadening his fodder before dealing the death blow, ultimately, Green’s done something no other filmmaker was able to accomplish in the nearly half-century subsequent 1978. Namely, providing cost-effective fan service, mutilation and humor.
Make no mistake about it, though, Halloween is canon in name only. The film’s distinctly lacking any honest-to-God tension or discernible terror, which is what made the original such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. Come to think of it, the only thing unmistakably reminiscent from Carpenter’s thrilling magnum opus is Jamie Lee Curtis, who’s been carrying the weight of the franchise for only heaven doth know how long and, by my account, continues to do so.
Alas, there’s only so much the scream queen can do though to aggrandize this foolhardy venture and soon, it became crystal clear that each and every precaution that was taken by Strode – au fond to rid herself of Michael – no matter how extreme, was done in equal measure to ensure we won’t be heading back to Haddonfield ever again. Nevertheless, should Halloween prove to be a worthwhile enterprise, and given Blumhouse’s reputation with profitable franchises – The Purge, Insidious, Paranormal Activity – I’m certain we’ll be returning to the fictional little suburb before too long.
In the end, if you’re dead-set on watching Halloween, do so in a sold out theatre, where the shock and awe will augment your sensory perception of an otherwise middle-of-the-road experience, which seemed to work wonders on the midnight crowd at TIFF this past Sunday night.
While it doesn’t do much to elevate the genre, Halloween does tick each and every box, which should be more than enough to appease your run of the mill fanboy, but scare off anyone with half a brain.