The Strode War­rior

SFX - - Reviews - Jor­dan Far­ley

re­leased 19 Oc­tO­ber 18 | 109 min­utes Di­rec­tor david Gor­don Green Cast Jamie lee cur­tis, Nick cas­tle, Judy Greer, andi Matichak, Will Pat­ton

Out­side of Star Trek and Star Wars you’d be hard pressed to find a se­ries with a more con­vo­luted canon than Hal­loween. The good news for view­ers only ca­su­ally ac­quainted with the slasher king’s un­wieldy cin­e­matic legacy is that this new Hal­loween, pro­duced by hor­ror hero du jour Ja­son Blum, is a di­rect con­tin­u­a­tion of John Car­pen­ter’s clas­sic 1978 chiller, with ev­ery­thing from Hal­loween II to Rob Zom­bie’s ris­i­ble re­boots un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously con­signed to the bin. And while there’s no ques­tion this David Gor­don Green-di­rected Hal­loween is one of the bet­ter se­quels to emerge from a se­ries that could gen­er­ously be de­scribed as “patchy”, there’s not enough here to war­rant such a fla­grant act of fran­chise-oblit­er­at­ing hubris.

Re­leas­ing on the 40th an­niver­sary of The Shape’s de­but, it sees Jamie Lee Cur­tis re­turn­ing as Lau­rie Strode for the first time since her “death” (now ret­conned) in 2002’s Res­ur­rec­tion. Re­tooled as a Sarah Con­nor-style sur­vivor, Lau­rie’s spent the in­ter­ven­ing decades pre­par­ing for Michael’s in­evitable re­turn – trick­ing her house out with traps, and arm­ing her­self to the teeth. But this dooms­day proph­esy­ing has come at the ex­pense of Lau­rie’s re­la­tion­ships with her daugh­ter Karen (Judy Greer) and grand­daugh­ter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who roll their eyes at any men­tion of the boogey­man. When Michael es­capes on Hal­loween night, 40 years to the day since he last stabbed his way through Had­don­field, Lau­rie is the only one ready for his re­turn.

For fans of the se­ries, there’s a lot the lat­est Hal­loween gets right. It comes re­mark­ably close to repli­cat­ing the feel of Car­pen­ter’s trail­blaz­ing babysit­ter slasher, down to the pe­riod grain and bouts of abrupt si­lence – clearly it’s a film that’s been made with a great deal of af­fec­tion for the source ma­te­rial. Car­pen­ter’s in­volve­ment as com­poser is wor­thy of spe­cial men­tion. In­cor­po­rat­ing themes old and new, his score is an im­mense evo­lu­tion, and the one as­pect of this Hal­loween which feels like a true step for­ward.

Car­pen­ter’s propul­sive sound­track also con­trib­utes to the film’s re­lent­less pace. Af­ter a flat open­ing se­quence set in the asy­lum Michael’s called home for four decades, the first killing swiftly opens the blood­gates. Eas­ily reach­ing a dou­ble-digit death count, My­ers’s mas­sacre has a pleas­ingly nasty streak. Heads are crushed un­der­foot like ripe wa­ter­mel­ons, teenagers are skew­ered by ab­surdly large kitchen knives, and Michael’s in­dis­crim­i­nate butch­ery throws up some shock­ing vic­tims. If all you want from a Hal­loween film is to wit­ness The Shape (played in part by orig­i­nal ac­tor Nick Cas­tle) butcher­ing folk, you’ll have a hoot.

But this My­ers-like sin­gle­minded fo­cus on slaugh­ter comes at the ex­pense of progress; there’s only so much mileage you can get out of a lov­ingly crafted pas­tiche. Cur­tis con­sis­tently de­liv­ers the goods as the bat­tle-hard­ened Strode, but the idea that Lau­rie is still trau­ma­tised by her first en­counter with The Shape is dealt with in such a cur­sory man­ner it’s

Slaugh­ter comes at the ex­pense of progress

ar­guable that H20 pre­sented a more nu­anced take on the psy­chol­ogy of the Fi­nal Girl. It’s also a film that pan­ders to its au­di­ence in fun but flimsy ways, with fan-pleas­ing twists on fa­mous shots that only die-hard Hal­loween fans will get a kick out of.

Co-writ­ten by fun­ny­man Danny McBride, it also aims to tickle the funny bone while go­ing for the jugu­lar. But too of­ten the know­ing gags come at the ex­pense of scares – with one bru­tal babysit­ter killing ac­com­pa­nied by a comic re­lief kid’s run­ning com­men­tary, un­der­cut­ting any ten­sion. The hu­mour isn’t de­ployed in par­tic­u­larly smart ways ei­ther. Rather than a Scream-style de­con­struc­tion of slash­ers,

Hal­loween is con­tent to poke fun at hor­ror tropes (“I know a short cut!”) while si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­ploy­ing them. It’s telling that the film is at its best in the midst of the fi­nal stretch, when the jokes are jet­ti­soned for a nail­bit­ing show­down.

Wisely, Green and McBride re­sist the urge to fill in My­ers’s back­story (even mak­ing light of the idea that Michael and Lau­rie are sib­lings) but this re­luc­tance to de­velop char­ac­ter also ex­tends to the rest of the cast, par­tic­u­larly Allyson, who has no dis­cernible per­son­al­ity beyond oc­ca­sion­ally get­ting a bit em­bar­rassed by her grandma. Frus­trat­ingly, the film’s sin­gu­lar good idea – that Lau­rie’s fate­ful en­counter with The Shape has cre­ated a mon­strous par­al­lel be­tween the two – is never de­vel­oped in a mean­ing­ful way. That’s in­dica­tive of a film that, for all the fresh blood in­volved, is bereft of fresh ideas.

Jamie Lee Cur­tis has now ap­peared in more Hal­loween films than any other ac­tor (six, in­clud­ing Hal­loween III’s voice cameo).

He re­alised he’d for­got­ten to bring flow­ers.

It’s so an­noy­ing when the re­mote falls un­der the sofa.

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