Halloween Review: A Refreshing Love Letter to Classic Horror
R: Horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
Universal Pictures, Miramax, Blumhouse Productions, Rough House Pictures
1 Hr and 45 Minutes
Dir: David Gordon Green | Writers: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle
Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
A friend of my copy editor’s (Myan) gave us this golden statement:
“Jamie Lee Curtis came here to do 2 things: eat some Activia and fuck Michael Myers up! And she just finished her Activia.”
Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode, and by God this is HER movie. There are many factors that carry the narrative, but her performance is number one. In the original, she was one of the many victims of Michael’s attacks and was the only person who survived, but here they explore the psychological trauma she has faced over the last 40 years as a result. It’s tragic and depressing as hell, but it’s real and I respect that this horror film gradually explores her PTSD as Curtis gives a raw performance that feels authentic. You see the toll this one night took on Laurie over the course of her life and her relationships with others, especially her family, through her actions and her character. It’s heartbreaking to see this grade-A 16-year-old student grow up to become a tensed-up alcoholic who drinks to forget about her traumatic past, but is ready to kick ass when the situation calls for it.
While this is primarily a horror movie, it also crosses into the dark comedy territory. It’s similar to “The Predator”, except that it actually works in this film. “Halloween” has emotional depth, character complexities, style, and cleverly-written scenes of humor, aka all the things that “The Predator” lacked. The humor works. It’s not jarring or a distraction of tone, but it almost satirizes cliched horror tropes. This comes from the guys who made the HBO series “Vice Principals” where Danny McBride and Walton Goggins play vice principals at a high school. I swear that some of the characters in this film are the same types of characters from the series, especially the students.
While I personally think that the high school characters were very miscasted (they all look like they’re in their late 20s rather than their late teens), they do speak similar to how actual high schoolers talk. Even the younger characters are show stealers at times. There is this little kid that a friend of the youngest Strode girl babysits and he hilariously steals the show. This kid’s name is Jibrail Nantambu and he has the best comical timing I’ve ever seen in a child actor. He has a natural innocence and charm, but also this amazing, snarky delivery that makes you cackle and screech.
Laurie is the tragedy while everything else around Haddonfield is the comedy. This is not just Laurie’s story, but a story about the entire town of Haddonfield. She is the emotional centerpiece but, like the original, the setting is the primary character. Laurie is the Batman of “Halloween” where she plays vigilante for the night as she looks all over town to destroy the monster who got away. I’m not joking about the Batman line. You see how long Laurie was awaiting Michael’s return and she even tricked out her entire house into a superhero fortress, which leads to a creative and well-constructed climax. When it deviates from that, it focuses on sequences of horror, which are presented well and are genuinely terrifying.
Let's be honest... in the original John Carpenter classic, Michael Myers was out targeting babysitters who were trying to get some. Just think about it. He exclusively killed babysitters, including his own sister, who were out trying to have sex. If you were going to a boy’s place, then that was your ass. But now he’s out for EVERYONE!! Mercy is not in Michael’s vocabulary because he kills nearly anyone he comes across which gives this entry an incredibly unnerving level of tension.
Through the direction of David Gordon Green, you see Michael Myers as a legitimate threat who should be feared. SEE, ROB ZOMBIE?! THIS IS HOW YOU PAY HOMAGE TO A CLASSIC HORROR FILM! Unlike Zombie’s versions, the violence here isn’t over the top and you get just the right amount of gore to give the film the effective thrills that are needed. David Gordon Green orchestrated many excellent sequences that mimic the original, but he does it in a refreshingly stylistic way. There is an incredibly-crafted tracking shot of Michael going on a mass murder spree in one block. It does feel familiar and reminiscent of Carpenter’s style, but it still manages to stand out as its own thing. He even incorporates clever parallels to the original and it makes for really impressive moments.
I also love the initial setup of this where two investigative journalists, in the vein of the Sarah Koenig podcast “Serial”, are investigating the night of Michael Myers’ attack. It’s a relevant modern device that makes the narrator feel organic. At times, it feels as if they’re only there to spill exposition in terms of Laurie Strode's life and recap the events of the predecessor, but they serve a purpose.
John Carpenter may not be this film’s director, but he still provides the score (along with son Cody Carpenter and Godson Daniel Davies) which perfectly accompanies the film. That new rendition of the Halloween theme is a fucking banger and should be played at your next Halloween party function. I’m telling you me, Myan, and several critics in the audience were all bobbing our heads in our seats through the opening title sequence and it became a mini dance party. Once that piano and synth mixed together, I was looking like Michelle Obama.
You can tell when certains lines of humor are specifically from a certain screenwriter.
“I got peanut butter on my penis”. That's a McBride line. Questionable moments of dialogue occur throughout, but when the third act happens, the film often derails for the sake of random acts of comedy. Like, it’s funny and all, but there are scenes that just don’t fit and they go nowhere. It disrupts the tense tone instead of alleviating it.
I love Judy Greer, but she’s a bit stiff at times. There's a scene where she tells her daughter about her rough childhood and she expresses it so blandly and nonchalantly while the visuals of her backstory that accompany it are rather intense. She does deliver a great performance overall, but in the beginning, I wasn’t really vibing with her or her character. She was kind of stubborn, but you start to understand why as the film progresses.
Out of the Dimension and into the Blumhouse, the safe home for horror franchises. While Blumhouse has the odd switch to be either terrible or incredible with their releases, I’m glad to say David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” falls into the latter. There was an ample amount of effort put into the filmmaking, Curtis’ performance was noteworthy, and the screenplay is present and effective. Out of all the horror remakes, reboots, and rehashes, this doesn’t just serve as a perfect continuation to the first that all the sequels failed to accomplish, but it’s also an affectionate, modern day love letter to classic horror cinema.
Oh man, this movie was fun. I will admit that the dark humor woven into the dialogue prevents this “Halloween” sequel from being full-blown terror, but there are a few gory deaths to make you squirm throughout. I’m a fan of horror films through and through. I’ve seen most of the classics that changed the genre before I was even born. I’ve seen the torture porn, the ghost films, the creepy cult stuff, the handheld cam ala Blair Witch aesthetic, the endless bouts of mediocre “scares” Netflix has to offer… you get the idea. Still, I gotta admit that David Gordon Green’s stab (haha) at Michael Myers’s story is an enjoyable feat.
You still have the classic corny horror tropes (people slipping while running from danger, idiots wandering out of their safe situations to investigate danger, etc), but as a whole, the film is a nice homage to the original 1978 installation. The nostalgia is real during this one, especially when you hear the classic Halloween theme song. You know the one.
David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” slashes and dashes past all the terrible non-canonical sequels that fail to capture the same flair that Carpenter has and provides a well-crafted, and often fun, horror film perfect for the titular holiday.