The Strode Warrior
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.