John Carpenter’s original Halloween film splattered screens forty years ago, and I just got out of a preview screening for the new film with the same name.
Carpenter’s original found the him co-writing the script, directing the picture, and writing and performing its iconic synthesizer score. In 1978, Halloween seemed wholly original with its fighting female heroine played by Jamie Lee Curtis in a now-classic performance, its music, the look of the masked maniac Michael Myers, and especially Carpenter’s use of handheld camera and point of view shots that put the audience in the killer’s shoes and established a new genre of horror cinema: the slasher film.
Carpenter is on music duty in this new film, but it’s helmed by David Gordon Green. Green is best known for comedies and character-driven dramas and he brings lots of unexpected – but welcome – laughs here along with the kind of intricate character building that most horror films won’t take the time for. This new Halloween film takes place here and now, exactly 40 years after the events of the first movie. Curtis and other actors from the original are back this time around, and this new chapter does a good job of revisiting the original Michael Meyers massacre while building the plot toward a showdown between Curtis’ Laurie Strode and the killer. The idea is that they’ve both spent the last four decades dwelling on their unfinished business, and when Meyers manages to get free of his confines at a mental institution the pair embark on a collision course.
This movie could be super dumb. Strode might have had some macho one liners to spew while she’s busy strutting around tough as nails. In short, she might have been written as a typical male action hero as a cypher for a “strong female lead.” This happens all the time in lesser movies and it’s probably one of the worst things about contemporary cinema. This film is better than that, and even though Curtis is armed to the teeth and full on gunning — literally — to take Myers out, I believed it because I also saw her slugging alcohol to calm her nerves and coming unhinged at a family outing. She’s paranoid, and damaged, and maybe even kind of dangerous to be around, but she’s also relentlessly driven to fight her monster and finish him.
Halloween can’t be a groundbreaking classic this time around, and its not. But it’s a super entertaining film that revives the chills of the original while also offering a worthy second chapter to Strode and Meyers’ saga. It also honors the feminist tones of the first film in a breathless, unhinged climax of murderous catharsis that feels strikingly in tune with these strange spooky times.