Halloween ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I really can't pretend to have been as stoked for this as most of the horror-loving planet was. I happened to catch it at an IMAX with my 15 year-old niece, mainly to avoid seeing A Star is Born with the rest of the family. She told me she'd tried to watch the original Halloween but thought it was boring. I think she was surprised when I reassured her that I had the same reaction to it when I was about her age. By that time, I'd already seen all the Freddys and some of the Jasons and even Halloween II. While I could appreciate that John Carpenter's movie did it all first, I found the actual movie too tame and low on creative gore effects compared with almost every single movie that followed its template.

Of course, I came around when I got older and learned to appreciate things like atmosphere and suspense, which remain the greatest strengths of Halloween '78, and which the rollercoaster of spotty sequels and baffling reboots never got as right again. I guess when it comes down to it, I find Michael Myers a far more effective villain without all the family/mystical baggage he accumulated. To me, a brawny, blank-faced murderer with a mere whisper of backstory evokes a more elemental fear than does the wisecracking ghost of a child-killing janitor or a well-armed zombie in sports gear. Yet, a purer, more prosaic menace is simply not as compelling to me, hence my perpetual lower ranking of Myers' oeuvre.

From that perspective, this latest revival's attempt to throw out all that wobbly mythology was the best choice, although that's not entirely the movie we got from the director of All the Real Girls and Your Highness. Instead, Halloween '18 toes the line between a respectful follow-up to one single 40 year-old movie and one that can't help itself from acknowledging the series' cultural impact. Not just stuff like the immediacy of the (excellent!) updated score or the kids in the Silver Shamrock masks, but the idea that the Shatner mask this guy stole from that hardware store to hide his identity has become an iconic totem of his killing impulse. That absolutely makes sense for this version of traumatized Laurie (as well as H20's, actually) and for ol' Mike himself, as a symbol of their unfinished business. But I don't see why that one particular item holds so much power and significance for his cackling asylum mates or his frankly ridiculous new shrink unless they've seen a few of the movies. Seeing how this non-druid-controlled sexagenarian can easily locate Laurie's rural compound AND the suburban neighborhood where her daughter's family lives, some residual supernatural traits are obviously seeping in from those sequels David Gordon Green and team "ignored."

I realize I may sound down on this new Halloween (it's gonna be so confusing for future generations... why not use a different title than the movie you're sequelizing, especially if it was already remade with the same title?). I really am not. This is honestly as solid a mainstream, wide release slasher movie as we can expect in 2018. The killings are gnarly enough to appease my inner 15 year-old hesher, and Green pulls off some genuinely tense sequences to balance the ineffective jump startles (incorporating both, the bit with the motion sensor light actually got me). The ads made me skeptical of treating Laurie as Commando Compound Grandma, but Jamie Lee Curtis sells the alarmed intensity with everything she has and won me over pretty quickly, even if the always welcome Judy Greer never seemed as believable to me as her naysayer daughter. Laurie's booby trap basement is cool as hell! No complaints with this Michael, either. He instantly got on my good side by taking out those cheeseball true crime podcasters, who I was worried would be in the whole movie. The main teens didn't annoy me and I LOVED that little kid doing the Seth Rogen banter with his doomed babysitter.

So, take it from me, a guy with some interest but not a ton invested in the Halloween brand: this was pretty good. Probably better than pretty good if Michael Myers is your boy. I'd watch another one like this.

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