Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Toby Huss, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Rhian Rees, Miles Robbins, Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold
It’s hard to build tension when everyone knows what’s going to happen. We’re all now so familiar with the ‘Michael Myers’ bogeyman and how he operates, there are precious few surprises to be had in David Gordon Green’s and Danny McBride’s new sequel to John Carpenter’s original Halloween.
Director Green and writer McBride begin their plot with a with a pair of podcasters, Dana Haines and Aaron Korey (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) who are keen to explore the story of serial killer Michael Myers, who murdered five people in Haddonfield, Illinois, 40 years before. They manage to gain permission to see him at a high-security facility. Of course, all they (and we) actually get to see is the back of Michael’s unmasked head.
Michael has been silent for four decades and, desperate to be the first to elicit a reaction from him, (even though professionals have been trying for years) they imagine it might be a good idea to taunt him with his original rubber mask. However, they have no success (at least, not on that day), so they decide that an interview with surviving victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role) might be more fruitful.
Laurie now lives amongst a vast array of weaponry in a highly secured compound, almost estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) who resents her upbringing with a paranoid mother, and her more sympathetic granddaughter (Andi Matichak). Laurie frustrates the remainder of her family with her determination to avenge herself when Michael returns, as she knows he must.
Having failed to kill her in 1978, the silent Michael has become obsessed with completing his murderous track record, (Michael is played by James Jude Courtney, though Nick Castle, who played the part in the original, appears briefly in Michael and Laurie’s first reacquaintance). While Laurie is consumed with the idea of eradicating him from her psyche by eradicating him from existence. Though this film disregards all prior sequels, we find, as screenwriting contrivance would have it, that Michael is being moved by bus to a new asylum on Halloween night (always on Halloween). Needless to say, the mute bogeyman is struck with a fancy to revisit his old neighbourhood.
Accompanying Michael on the transference is psychiatrist Sartain (Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer) whom Laurie describes as ‘the new Loomis’. Unlike Donald Pleasence’s Loomis, he doesn’t see Michael as the embodiment of evil, but is obsessed with discovering his motivation regarding his merciless random killing.
Of course, Michael ‘The Shape’ Myers manages to escape the prison bus, leaving a trail of corpses, and makes his way back to Haddonfield where more victims await. So as not to disappoint the fans, Halloween now conforms to the pattern set out in the original film, returning to Haddonfield as inevitably as Michael does. Once again, we have the slaughter of hapless babysitting teens, trick-or-treaters and cops – all clueless, with the exception of the wary Officer Hawkins (Will Paton) who was there on the night of Michael’s original killing spree.
Director Green makes the most of the Haddonfield sequence, which unfolds in a single shot that moves along the sidewalk, the camera staying mostly outside the houses while observing Michael’s various murders through windows. Many shots of Michael in this Halloween are satisfyingly reminiscent of the original film – often ‘The Shape’ is framed in windows, between fences, bushes or trees, lit by pumpkin lights, with his mask faintly glowing in the darkness.
In effect however, this Halloween is about Laurie exorcising her demon by facing him again. Green and McBride offer some interesting (and timely) themes regarding trauma, recovery and finding female empowerment, but once the body count begins, these elements are all but abandoned. A vaguely comic aspect is also thrust into the film, winking at the audience’s prior knowledge, but this only serves to diffuse any tension the movie might hope to create.
Certainly, we have three generations of women coming together to vanquish an irrational and violent male. But Curtis, Greer, and Matichak never really have time to build credible familial relationships or any kind of chemistry.
The film does mark the return of original creator and director John Carpenter to the series – he composed the score with his son, Cody Carpenter, and guitarist Daniel A. Davies. However, Green’s Halloween doesn’t have the seriousness, simplicity, atmosphere or tension of Carpenter’s original slasher, in which you can feel Autumn in the air and the anticipation of dangerous Halloween shenanigans.
Green’s Halloween feels like an affectionate homage – a movie which never offers the perceptible unease of Carpenter’s original story of ‘The Shape’ – so named because Michael becomes Loomis’s embodiment of mindless Evil, and Evil is devoid of humanity. Death has no concrete form, it descends randomly and has no conscience – it is the ultimate bogeyman.
Green and McBride clearly have a great knowledge and affection for their source material, and their film is certainly better than some of the other attempts to capitalize on the success of the original 1978 classic, but in essence, it’s fan fiction, and will be most satisfying for those who are already invested in the Haddonfield horror legend.
Ren Zelen | Twitter: @RenZelen