Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
If you’re a true horror movie fan, there is no way you could have overlooked John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 Halloween, the granddaddy of the slasher flick sub genre. Which means there will be no way you can miss the referential winks and loving fan service embedded in David Gordon Green’s sequel, also titled Halloween. (Shouldn’t it be titled Halloween 2, then, just to set it apart from Rick Rosenthal’s flaccid 1981 sequel or Rob Zombie’s needlessly dour 2009 follow-up to his own reboot, both titled Halloween II?) From the opening title featuring that distinct orange ITC Serif Gothic font set against black to John Carpenter’s retooled score, now featuring a hint of character themes in its even more ominous bass notes, this installment is sure to give diehard fans nostalgia goosebumps.
But even if you’re entering the theater as a casual observer of pop culture, this horror movie works perfectly well as a stand-alone. The script by Green, frequent collaborator Danny McBride and longtime friend Jeff Fradley erases the missteps and increasingly elaborate mythology of the intervening nine installments and returns to the basics of the original. The movie opens with true-crime podcasters Dana (Rhian Rees) and Aaron (Jefferson Hall) coming to interview the taciturn Michael Myers (original actor Nick Castle, with James Jude Courtney substituting for fight and stunt work) at the high-security facility which has been moldering away for the past 40 years. This on the eve of a transfer to another prison where Michael will presumably be forgotten for good. These podcasters exist to give new audiences a convenient entry point into the series, working Michael up as a formidable—almost supernatural—figure of evil. And if for nothing else, to return Michael’s chilling William Shatner mask to him.
Aaron also verbalizes the movie’s sneakily clever premise. On the way to interview Michael’s most famous victim, he takes note of the fact that Laurie Strode has, in many ways, become like the masked killer she is so deathly afraid of and so desperately wants to kill once and for all. Laurie has also become a prisoner in isolation, walling herself off in a compound behind high barbed-wire fences and a house rigged with booby traps, survivalist gear, and a wide-ranging arsenal. She has seen two marriages collapse, had her daughter Karen (a smartly cast Judy Greer) taken away after raising her in paranoia and survival training, and is now forging an uneasy détente with her granddaughter Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak). As Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), the new doctor overseeing Michael’s case whom Laurie dismisses as “the new Loomis”, puts it: “I would suspect the notion of being a predator or the fear of becoming prey is what keeps them both alive.”
And then—of course!—Michael’s transfer goes horribly awry, and he returns to his old stomping ground (literally, as you will see in one memorable death) of Haddonfield to wreak more grisly-creative murders. Green stages one bloody rampage through the suburb in one long tracking shot, perhaps with a smidge less bravado than the point-of-view tracking shot which opened the original, but still slickly executed. Many such callbacks are sprinkled throughout the movie, but the best nods to the original concern Green and company’s interest in the hidden symmetries that exist between Michael and Laurie. Director of photography Michael Simmonds, lovingly recreating Dean Cundey’s low-tech, misty aesthetic, often frames Michael and Laurie as reflections of each other, hunter and hunted blurring.
A month shy of 60, Jamie Lee Curtis has fully grown into her role as a midnight-movie goddess. She may be donning a grey fright wig and bell-bottom grandma jeans, but Curtis gives Laurie a force-of-nature determination that roots her story firmly in a time when women are more and more empowered to seek redress for their grievances, just as Michael is a personification of the present American age’s white man anger, a distillation of its random violence and free-floating dread. The movie may be titled Halloween, but it is a horror movie for the ages.