John Carpenter’s original, trail-blazing Halloween (1978) 40 years ago is here sequelised directly, with that film’s survivor Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode, some nice modern touches and a few damn good scares.
Boldly pretending that the two Rob Zombie Halloweens never happened and that all those chronologically-complicated ‘canon’ sequels also took place in some alternate universe (including 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, in which Curtis’ Laurie is actually murdered), this benefits greatly from JLC’s powerful presence.
Just about the very first proper screen ‘Scream Queen’, she delivers a memorably tough performance as a getting-on avenger some have likened to Sarah Connor in the Terminator films, but while Sarah grew into the role, Laurie, instead, has spent her life isolated, haunted and afraid, and Jamie Lee bares the character’s psychological bruises.
We open with a pair of English true-crime podcasters, sorry, ‘investigative journalists’ (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) travelling to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to interview Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), obviously obsessed psychiatrist of serial killer Michael Myers and filling in for the late Dr. Loomis (played by the late great Donald Pleasence in several of the series’ installments). They also have an ominous audience with the silent Michael himself, and although we don’t see clearly his face, he’s played by Tony Moran without his famous mask and, when he finally puts it on, by original ‘Shape’ Nick Castle.
Michael must be about Laurie’s (and Curtis’) age – 60ish – so you’d think he might be a bit too long-in-the-tooth to be a proper serial killer once again but, naturally, when he’s taken by bus to a maximum security prison to live out the rest of his days, he gets free. Exactly how and why? It doesn’t really matter, we aren’t shown, and there’s no movie if he doesn’t.
Prior to this we see what PTSD has done to Grandma Laurie in her home fortress and learn about her alienation from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who now has a teenager of her own, Allyson (virtual unknown Andi Matichak). Allyson seemingly doesn’t understand why her grandmother is so damaged and estranged, while also somehow being up-to-date on granny’s celebrity as survivor of the 1978 ‘Babysitter Murders’ (and odd that). When Michael journeys to Haddonfield, Illinois, for, of course, Halloween, Karen and Allyson at last have to admit that Grandma was always right in being prepared (and terrified), and when he eventually comes for them, they’re ready. Hopefully.
Trying to make some of the same points about the trauma and denial that drives families apart also present in Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House (yet more awkwardly), this is rather surprisingly directed, co-written and co-produced by David Gordon Green, best known for comedies like Pineapple Express, and has one of that film’s stars, Danny McBride, on board as a co-writer (and he probably contributed the jokes about peanut butter in inappropriate places). Nevertheless, Gordon shows that he’s no slouch in the horror department, and there are plenty of subtle visual puns and tricky script turnarounds drawn from the original film and, if they aren’t enough, John Carpenter’s famous Halloween score (with its unnerving 5/4 timing) is creepily fiddled with throughout.
And isn’t there something more than a touch #metoo in the satisfying spectacle of three generations of women uniting to take on the big bad man who’s ruined their lives?