Review | Halloween | 2018

It has been 40 years since John Carpenter's original Halloween made the slasher a film a genre all its own, spinning off eight sequels and two remakes, not to mention countless, equally prolific imitators like Friday the 13th.

While Halloween is arguably the best of the slasher genre, its sequels have always lead from behind, allowing its imitators to innovate while Halloween struggled to keep up with the rest of the slasher landscape. Yet one thing that has always separated it from the rest of the pack is the presence of a clear protagonist - Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). While Some of the later sequels abandoned her altogether, her presence was always keenly felt, giving her a daughter who carried the fourth, fifth, and sixth entries, before returning to Laurie for the 20th anniversary film, Halloween H20, in 1998.

Halloween H20 ignored all the sequels except for the original Halloween and its sequel, Halloween II, which took place on the same night as the first film, picking up the moment its predecessor left off. Once again ignoring all previous sequels, David Gordon Greene's Halloween takes the series back to its roots, in the process also throwing out Halloween II as if it never existed. In ret-conning Halloween II, Greene erases the series' most enduring plotline - that Laurie was actually the sister of serial killer Michael Myers, whose guiding motivation was to wipe out his entire family.

That one change brilliantly allows the entire franchise to reset, returning Myers to his most simple and terrifying form - a faceless serial killer who murders without reason or remorse. He is evil incarnate, with no real motivation or guiding philosophy - the kind of evil it is impossible to understand or fight. The resulting film allows the now 60 year old Laurie to confront her traumatizing past once and for all, and the man who changed her life forever 40 years ago.

Halloween is a horror movie for the MeToo era, a brutal reckoning with the legacy of trauma and the collateral damage it inflicts on three generations of women, in the form of Laurie's daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Karen's childhood was also dictated by Laurie's childhood trauma, and when Myers (Nick Castle, who also played the role in the original Halloween), the lines of his mask now reflecting Laurie's own careworn visage, escapes from the asylum that has held him for the last four decades, his ensuing murderous rampage demonstrates that personal trauma has a way of affecting everyone, not just the person to whom it originally happened.

This time Laurie is ready to confront her past head-on, setting the stage for an epic showdown 40 years in the making. It's a near-perfect blend of nostalgia and innovation, updating the concept for the modern era while hewing close to what made the original film so great in the first place. Green's direction is crisp and straightforward, not unlike Carpenter's no-frills thrills from the original film, and the screenplay he co-wrote with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley imbues the concept with not only a sense of humor, but a kind of dramatic weight not often felt in films of this nature. Green deftly switches Laurie and Michael's roles, allowing Laurie to at long last turn the tables and exact her revenge in spectacular fashion on the man whose abuse overshadowed her entire life. And Carpenter returns to provide the score once again - co-written by Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, Carpenter's music takes his iconic theme and turns it into a kind of requiem for a life interrupted, inescapably colliding with the ghosts of the past.

Of course, in the venerable slasher tradition, Halloween leaves the door open for yet another sequel. But here it feels earned, even inevitable - even after Laurie finally puts the trauma of the past behind her, it never really goes away, always waiting just around the corner to rear its ugly head. It's a new Halloween for a new time, a thrilling and emotionally satisfying return to Haddonfield, Illinois that is at long last the sequel that Laurie Strode, and Jamie Lee Curtis, deserved all along.

GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)

HALLOWEEN | Directed by David Gordon Green | Stars  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patto,n Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Miles Robbins, Toby Huss | Rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity | Now playing in theaters everywhere.


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