40 years later, ‘Hal­loween’ slashes again

The Myanmar Times - - Metro -

WITH hol­low eyes and sag­ging cheeks, the flabby white mask of Michael My­ers is hor­ror’s great blank slate. Project your fears here, it says. My­ers doesn’t speak. His move­ments never rise be­yond a de­lib­er­ate gait (well, aside from all the stab­bing and stran­gling). Even his name is pur­pose­fully bland.

Decades af­ter John Car­pen­ter’s slasher land­mark, David Gor­don Green has res­ur­rected the face­less Boogey­man of Hal­loween and set him loose on an­other Hal­loween night, 40 years later. Time has done lit­tle for Michael’s per­son­al­ity. He is still a poor con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist. (He hasn’t ut­tered a word in the in­ter­ven­ing decades, says a doc­tor at the sana­to­rium that holds him.) He is still handy with a knife.

There are no ro­man nu­mer­als in the ti­tle of Green’s film, nor any of those dopey sub­ti­tles like 1998’s Hal­loween H20, which pre­sum­ably delved into the very real fears of de­hy­dra­tion. As if to draw closer to the orig­i­nal (and to ig­nore the nine se­quels and re­boots in be­tween), this Hal­loween has sim­ply taken Car­pen­ter’s 1978 ti­tle. And with glid­ing cam­eras, Car­pen­ter’s score and orig­i­nal cast mem­bers Jamie Lee Cur­tis and Nick Cas­tle (the man un­der the mask), it has tried very hard to take much more, too.

But while Green’s Hal­loween, which he penned with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, has faith­fully adopted much of what so res­onated in Car­pen­ter’s genre-cre­at­ing film – the stoic killer, the grue­some ex­e­cu­tions, the sub­ur­ban night­mares – what makes his Hal­loween such a thrill is how it de­vi­ates from its long-ago pre­de­ces­sor.

Set­ting the tem­plate for count­less slash­ers to fol­low, Car­pen­ter’s film of­ten re­served its most painful end­ings for more pro­mis­cu­ous girls or drug-us­ing teens. As a grim reaper car­ry­ing out a metaphor­i­cal reck­on­ing, Michael had ques­tion­able bi­ases.

But what Car­pen­ter did do was equate sex with vi­o­lence, a con­nec­tion that Green has elab­o­rated on with a more fem­i­nist streak. Hav­ing sur­vived the Babysit­ter

Mur­ders of 40 years ago, Lau­rie Strode (a fab­u­lously fierce Jamie Lee Cur­tis, repris­ing the role that was her film de­but) is now a self-de­scribed “twice-di­vorced bas­ket case” liv­ing in a run-down house on the out­skirts of the fic­tional Had­don­field, Illinois. She has turned her home into a train­ing ground and do­mes­tic for­ti­fi­ca­tion (be­neath the kitchen is­land is a well-armed shel­ter) for the sec­ond com­ing of Michael she’s al­ways been sure will hap­pen.

Her daugh­ter (Judy Greer) and her son-in­law (Toby Huss) have grown tired of Strode’s fa­nat­i­cal sur­vival­ist para­noia. Cer­tain that the world isn’t so bad a place as Strode in­sists, they plead for her to get over it. Their high-school daugh­ter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) isn’t so sure, and she nat­u­rally grav­i­tates to the grand­mother she’s been shielded from.

The cu­rios­ity of Se­rial-like pod­cast jour­nal­ists (Jef­fer­son Hall, Rhian Rees) in­tro­duces us to both the locked-up My­ers and the with­drawn Strode. Be­fore curtly dis­miss­ing them, Strode in­sists their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into My­ers is point­less. “There’s noth­ing to learn,” says Strode, surely no fan of, say, neo-Nazi news­pa­per fea­tures. Hunt evil, she be­lieves, don’t an­a­lyse it. It’s a mes­sage pep­pered through­out

Hal­loween with clear ref­er­ence to to­day (and to some of the ear­lier Hal­loween in­stall­ments that sought to un­der­stand Michael).

Need­less to say, both those who dis­miss Strode’s deep-seated trauma and those who would rather study evil than con­front it are gonna get their come­up­pance. When Michael is trans­ferred to an­other fa­cil­ity, hell pre­dictably breaks loose. Once Michael is again stalk­ing the sub­ur­ban streets of Had­don­field, cus­tom kitchens start see­ing their cut­lery dis­ap­pear, and the shad­ows and clos­ets of seem­ingly safe neigh­bor­hoods are again rife with dan­ger. Evil – soul­less and un­kil­l­able – lurks ev­ery­where, even if does wear a silly mask.

Green, the some­times bril­liant, some­times con­found­ing film­maker of art-house indies

(Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton), broader come­dies (Pineap­ple Ex­press) and, more re­cently, a few starry stu­dio projects (Our Brand Is Cri­sis), can’t recre­ate the eeri­ness of Car­pen­ter’s orig­i­nal. But he pumps more blood into the story, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. Foggy nights and gas-sta­tion bath­rooms turn pre­dictably gory, more so than the orig­i­nal. But the scenes that fall be­tween those fore­bod­ing, twin­kling pi­ano notes have far more warmth and spirit than you’d ex­pect. You al­most wish Green – eas­ily the most tal­ented film­maker in the fran­chise since Car­pen­ter – was in­stead mak­ing some­thing orig­i­nal here on the same streets, with the same cast (in­clud­ing the scene-steal­ing Miles Rob­bins) and none of the skull crush­ing. But there are rit­u­als to ob­serve, and this

Hal­loween lives up to its name.

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