Jamie Lee Curtis gives riveting performance in ‘Halloween’
After some 40 years of sending half-naked girls to their deaths at the hands of an emotionless male psychopath, t he “Halloween” franchise finally turns the tables. In David Gordon Green’s “Halloween,” which shares its title with John Carpenter’s genre- defining original from 1978, the hulking figure of Michael Myers — he of the face mask, jumpsuit and chef’s knife — returns to his old hunting ground of Haddonfield, Illinois, but becomes almost as much predator as prey. In a symbolic twist, his foe is the familiar face of Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role as Laurie Strode, the baby sitter he failed to kill the first time around.
“Halloween” is a horror film that tries to meet the new feminist moment and — although written and directed by men — most- ly succeeds. Its strength is Curtis’ Laurie, no longer a quavering teenager but a grizzled trauma survivor. Now a gray-haired recluse living in a weed- choked compound, Laurie isn’t the aging hippie she might appear to be but a doomsday prepper stocked with supplies and munitions. Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), long ago shut her out and now keeps her own daughter, Allyson ( Andi Matichak), away from Laurie’s “boogeyman” ravings.
Technically, Laurie died in “Halloween: Resurrection,” but so what? ( This film ignores most of the franchise.) The new Laurie is a great twist on an old archetype, and credit goes not only to Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride but to Curtis, who brings a sinewy physicality and a flinty intelligence to her former scream-queen role.
“Hal l o wee n ” gets off to a slow start as it explains Laurie’s past and sets Michael (James Jude Courtney) up to escape from his imprisonment. Once he does, the movie becomes a reasonably effective slasher film, with Michael going from house to house and teen to teen.
Still, “effective” isn’t what we want f rom a long-gestating showdown between two horror-movie icons. The slow- burn buildups go too quick, and the bloodshed feels brutal but routine: knives into throats, boots into brains, etc. And when Laurie and Michael finally meet again, we get a few clever twists but not the emotional catharsis we expected. “Halloween” could have t ruly exploded some of its own myths; instead, it’s content to keep the franchise alive.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie, front, and James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers in “Halloween.”