HALLOWEEN Review: A Suspenseful Companion Piece to a Horror Classic

The most anticipated showdown of the last 40 years has arrived

Only a small handful of movie franchises ever get to have quite the legacy that Halloween has enjoyed in the many years since its release. The small slasher took its time being discovered before becoming one of the defining titles that would help shape this long-favorite sub-genre of horror. Over the years, the assortment of sequels have proven be a mixed bag of horrors all their own. There was the experimental Season of the Witch, the forgettable The Curse of Michael Myers, the admirable H20, and the absurd Resurrection, which seemingly spelled the end of the franchise for good. But this is the age of nostalgia and reimaginings when it comes to beloved movie properties. This of course means that Michael has once again been given a knife and a license to slash, thanks to director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride, who have done right by the John Carpenter movie in crafting the ultimate companion piece to the still-potent classic.

Pretending that the multitude of movies bearing the Halloween brand never existed, this Halloween is set 40 years to the night since Michael Myers wreaked his murderous havoc all over town, while turning young Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) into a reluctant heroine. Now, Laurie is a semi-recluse living with the effects of that fateful night in a heavily guarded fortress awaiting the moment she and Michael will meet again. That time comes when a bus transferring Michael to a new mental hospital crashes near Haddonfield, Laurie’s hometown. Not wasting any time, Michael sets out to find Laurie, culminating in a match to the end.

For those who like their horror movie violence, Halloween is more than happy to provide, which it does to almost startling effect. The movie’s brutality goes for broke in not only who gets killed, but how, employing some of the most shocking methods of offing people on screen since 2016’s Green Room. Adding to the shock value is the way the movie relishes Michael’s acts, letting a number of them play out for all their worth. One death in particular sees Michael smashing a character’s face into a edge of a bathroom stall repeatedly for at least two minutes. Once Michael has finished, the camera lingers on his latest victim, steadily chronicling the life draining from him. If only the same kind of deeper attention would have been paid towards exploring the trauma Laurie has lived with since her initial encounter with Michael. The events of that night have clearly dictated the course of her life, which includes a shaky relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and a loving, if slightly distant, one with her granddaughter (Andi Matichak). But Halloween sadly handles the psychology side of things in a manner too simple and pedestrian to be anything close to credible, giving Laurie some textbook dialogue and a couple clunky public scenes to show the effects of Michael on her life. Maybe this was because they didn’t want to take away from the fun of it all; and there is fun to be had.

Where Halloween is sure to delight genre fans is in the chills it will undoubtedly give them. The suspense throughout Halloween is so on point and effective, that any fears of the trailer giving away key scares proves unfounded as Green’s film shows itself as a movie that knows how to creep. The amount of intensity within the movie rises to excruciating levels thanks to the minds behind the camera who thankfully know that the key to suspense lies in holding it. The most effective of the movie’s frights comes when a minor character is cutting across a fenced in backyard when Michael shows up, triggering off lights operated by motion sensors. It’s a classic predator and prey scenario that grows all the more tense each time the lights go off and come back on to an approaching Michael. The suspense continues into the finale; a showdown between Laurie and Michael in which the lines between cat and mouse, killer and victim are blurred in one of the most palpable on-screen showdowns in quite some time. It’s a fight to the death between them that has been a long time coming, and for Laurie, one which has come to represent her very existence.

Curtis hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to her signature role. The actress knows Laurie so thoroughly that she’s able to bring her to life all these years later with the same strength and determination Carpenter and the late writer/producer Debra Hill did back in the ‘70s. Curtis’s strength as an actress has always been in her face and the story she is able to tell through her eyes. Here, she perfectly captures her character’s longing, regret, and above all, unshakable will to survive. The rest of the cast is as good as they need to be, particularly for a genre piece, with special attention going to Matichak and (especially) Greer, both of whom give Halloween their own unique jolts of energy.

Green and McBride have plenty of fun with the fact that they are actually making a Halloween movie by inserting a number of nods into the Haproceedings. The biggest of these is the inclusion of the iconic score (itself slightly reworked by producer Carpenter), the original credit font and one specific shot in particular which is guaranteed to draw collective applause. Tributes aside, Halloween works because its makers have a firm grasp on the strength of its grandfather film and its exploration into the power of the classic boogeyman. It’s because of this that Halloween is so much less of a fanboy fantasy and more of a solid exploration back into the darkness.

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