By Chic DiCiccio
For many, many people, the last 40 years worth of “Halloween” movies are best forgotten. They attempted to create a weak mythology that turned Michael Myers into some kind of unstoppable monster who never could be killed. There was also the whole eye-roller that turned Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) into his sister.
The newest “Halloween” scraps all that nonsense. It throws all the sequels into the trash (where they belong) and this 11th film actually retcons itself as a direct sequel to the 1978 original. It even makes a handful of jokes at the expense of the goofy history created in all the sequels, which is to be expected when you learn who the creative team is.
When the names “David Gordon Green” and “Danny McBride” appear during the super cool opening credits, it could cause several double takes. Green already has an eclectic directorial resume and this adds horror to his ever-expanding genre takes. But McBride? The guy behind HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals?” It’s equal parts intriguing and head scratching.
It works. It abandons traditional gory violence and jumpy scares for creepy thrills and a psychological edge that hasn’t really been explored prior to this film. It’s mostly due to Jamie Lee Curtis’ fantastic reprisal in the role that made her famous and abandoning the damsel in distress motif.
This time, Curtis’ Laurie Strode is a bonafide badass, complete with an underground bunker loaded with guns and a hilariously salty attitude.
Laurie is also suffering from some big time PTSD due to the fact that she was almost murdered by a crazed madman. She’s transferred her trauma down to her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), who was raised as a child with one mission: kill Michael Myers. Now married, Karen grows up and bails on her upbringing/training and has largely ignored her mother, which creates a strained relationship with her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).
That’s an awful lot of family drama to unpack for a horror movie, but director Green keeps it moving along nicely and ignores most horror movie stereotypes.
Yes, Michael Myers escapes custody in a highly auspicious way (on October 31st no less) and he doesn’t so much as speed walk, but it doesn’t matter. The second he slides that iconic mask on his face, you’ll believe he could slow walk and catch Usain Bolt.
There is some brevity in the form of jokes, but writers Green, McBride and Jeff Fradley know this can’t become a yukfest. They also avoid bloody kills that turn modern horror flicks into torture porn. These three dudes have actually written a movie that screams “girl power” in a completely unexpected, out of nowhere way. Each of the three stars get extremely cool moments that turn the tables on Michael, with Greer’s Karen in particular stealing the entire movie in about 10 seconds.
It will always be cool to see Curtis as Laurie, even in the subpar sequels in which she’s appeared. This “Halloween” is not only the best since the original, it is more than worth her time and one of the finest performances that she’s ever put to film. She’s funny, tough, smart, mouthy and easily the toughest grandmother in movie history.
In an odd way, “Halloween” stays true to the original film while transcending horror. The topics are actually quite heavy but framed around a murderous stalker hellbent on killing an old lady and anyone that gets in his way. This is a horror movie for people that don’t think they like horror.
And John Carpenter, the original writer/director, returns to score the film. So yes, the “Halloween” theme music returns and like the rest of the movie, it’s exceptional.