The latest classic movie to be brought back from the dead is John Carpenter’s Halloween. This is far from the first time the franchise has been revisited. There were five movies in the franchise that followed up Carpenter’s original, each more unsuccessful than the last. Then there were the late 90’s revivals that had a loose connection to the original (Jamie Lee Curtis dies in one of them) and were as bad as its predecessors. Most recently came the Rob Zombie versions of the story that were as bad as you would expect. All of this failure would typically (and should) kill a franchise but not Michael Myers. He’s survived 10 movies, most of which were critically panned and is back ready to take a stab at another reboot.
There is a big difference this time around. Everything about this Halloween has been different and encouraging if you’re a fan of the franchise. The first and most encouraging news was how this movie fit into the unnecessarily complicated cannon that makes up this franchise. The decision was to forget everything that followed Carpenter’s classic and make this a direct sequel. Next was who joined the project. Director David Gordon Green (Stronger) instills some confidence, as does the involvement of Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) as a writer and producer. The news of John Carpenter’s involvement was the most encouraging news on this front. The build up to the film’s release did little to quell the excitement. From the “Mike Myers” that were showing up at screenings to the on set photos, everything seemed to be pointing to a very good Halloween movie. A movie’s build up can sometimes be misleading (we all have been deceived by a trailer or two). Halloween was not misleading at all, it was everything that it promised to be and more.
The tone was set right out the gate when the opening credits roll in the same fashion as the original. It’s impossible not to get a rush of excitement if you’re a fan of the original when those credits start and that music hits. Callbacks like this were commonplace in Halloween and they all were as effective as this one. That was one of the secrets to the success of this movie. It got the balance right of paying homage and making something new. Each callback was a wink to fans and elevated the whole experience for them, but there was also a spin on each callback so it wouldn’t isolate those that haven’t seen the original. This speaks to a cleverly made movie and Halloween is that on more than just the callbacks.
The screenplay, written by Green, McBride and Jeff Fradley was well written and very smart. It’s a “slasher” film in the most traditional way possible but it is also a movie that works for a modern audience. This is possible because there is depth to the story. It’s not overly complicated or intricate but it’s a full story that reaches beyond surface level. Opening 40 years after the events of the first film is smart, as was the decision to make this about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers. Taking the time to show how Myers had impacted Laurie’s life gave depth to the character and her experience. Which in turn allowed all the events in this movie to have more depth. That isn’t complicated storytelling, just good storytelling and it made Halloween so much better because of it.
Another incredibly interesting element of the screenplay is the depiction of the Strode family, or at least the women. The horror genre often times paints its women as helpless victims. They are terrorized by some man, usually for superficial reasons and need to be saved from him. Halloween flips that on its head. These women, Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), have been affected by Michael Myers. The movie starts by depicting these women as victims of their circumstance, but as the movie unfolds we see that they are far from that. The metaphor is that this man has been terrorizing (whether directly or indirectly) these women for the past 40 years. They have to come together to overcome him and eventually set fire to all of the oppression and fear that he caused in their lives. Laurie Strode is a strong woman and while some saw her as crazy she refused to be a victim. That was something that ended up being true about all the Strode women and in the end was a very powerful message.
It feels weird calling Halloween a smart movie, but that is a great word to describe it. Everything about the movie was thoughtful and smart. It was a fun movie that had a sense of humor about itself without being tasteless. It acknowledged its fans without being too self-serving and in the end we got a movie that had all the great feelings of the classic horror film updated in a way that felt natural. You don’t have to have seen the original to enjoy this one and you definitely don’t need to dive into the complicated film history of the franchise. Halloween is a great time and it’s a great horror movie in all the ways horror movies can be great.
4 out of 5 stars
Director: David Gordon Green Writer: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak Release Date: October 19th Rated: R Runtime: 1 hour and 46 minutes