Written by: Kimberly Pierce, CC2K Associate Editor
Much like their iconic and often indestructible main characters, slasher franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th keep coming back for more. The formulas and characters change, but the general concept remains the same. This week, the now forty year old “Halloween” series brushes off the cobwebs to hit theaters once again. As we often find ourselves asking in this day and age, does this story really need to be told yet again?
Halloween opens forty years after the events of the first entry. All at once, things feel simplified and somewhat back to normal. It seems Michael Myers is being transferred to another mental facility… anyone with a knowledge of horror tropes understands, this isn’t going to go well. The film stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak and Will Patton. David Gordon Green directs the movie from a script he co-wrote with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley.
The film is a much hyped return to the initial continuity after the “Halloween” movies became a trifle… muddled… in its later years. The recognized series spanned 22 years and 8 features (not counting the two additional works from Rob Zombie in the late 2000’s). In the hands of Green and his creative team, they’ve put a fresh pair of eyes and a steadying hand on the lengthy and complicated series. Fans of the series as a whole will undoubtedly have their own opinions on some of the omissions, but such is the danger of digging up a popular, long-running and much-treasured horror franchise.
Facing a movie with Danny McBride’s name attached can often feels a bit like a game of Russian Roulette. It’s difficult to gauge quite what you’re going to get with his material. The quality wavers widely in his (usually!) “bro-ey” material. However, in their crafting of this script, the writing team brings a refreshing and timely take on the long-running franchise.
The “Final Girl” is a common trope in horror cinema. In fact, in her take on Laurie Strode in the initial 1978 film, Jamie Lee Curtis largely defined the caricature. Rather than yet another examination of this, Halloween is far more invested in its female characters, particularly: Laurie, Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Matichak). (The men are borderline useless). In choosing to bring back Laurie Strode for another go-around, the story walks an interesting tight-rope. The early scenes follow two podcasters constructing an exposé on Michael, and in their interactions with Laurie, the youngsters are quick to pigeon-hole the woman as “the victim”… or even the hunter and the hunted. This is seemingly backed-up by the hyper-paranoid existence she’s crafted for herself in the years following the attack. However, as the movie plays out, each of the women rises above any passivity to take actions into their own hands. (No Spoilers!). One thing is certain, Laurie’s ability to kick ass feels timely and is certainly satisfying in the scope of the narrative.
The redemption arc stands particularly strong with Allyson and Karen. A high-schooler, Allyson emerges as a more relatable image of a young woman than is often seen in Hollywood horror. She’s not a “nerd” and she’s not purely sexual. Allyson is a teenage girl with all the joy and pain which comes with it. Meanwhile, Karen faces the very real trauma resulting from her unconventional upbringing with her mother (Laurie). In a franchise often willing to break the bounds of believability, the arcs of the film’s main female characters are grounded in reality, allowing them to rise above previous, one-dimensional “Final Girls” to step out as interesting characters in their own right.
Ultimately, Halloween takes a little bit to find its footing. The script is a little unsure where to go as things start out, introducing various characters and a number of different narrative threads before finally finding its focus into the second act.
It’s a slasher film, so it is not spoiling anything to say the body count is high. In fact, the first act’s focus struggles seem as a result of the violence… in a movie like this, characters need to die and it’s likely some of these people were created with the express intent of killing them. However, this technique is ultimately a success in that it keeps you on your toes with who dies. Characters you expect to potentially make it to the end don’t, and ones who you do get… Myers’d. Do with that information what you will…
Potential trigger warning in that the violence in Halloween is upped passed the point of traditional slasher levels. There are two deaths in particular which border on troubling for not only who the victims are, but also the amount of time they stay on the murders, making these two sequences harder to watch.
Halloween brings (likely thanks to McBride) a refreshing sense of humor, which makes this an absolute delight to watch with an audience. Young actor Jibrail Nantambu in particular shines for the voice he injects to an often thankless part. In his all to brief scene, he actually serves as a stand-in for the audience, saying what everyone is thinking in the face of outlandish content.
Finally, Halloween integrates fun references from the previous installments making for an entertaining viewing for franchise fans. The film is a love-letter to the early Halloween movies and it’s best that way.
Ultimately, Halloween is a slasher film, no more, no less. You aren’t getting a groundbreaking work of cinema here. However, this is a fun viewing (particularly with the right audience). Interesting character development, well-crafted scares and a sense of humor combine to make a perfectly serviceable feature and a welcomed addition to this lengthy franchise. Looking for something scary to check out this Halloween? Look no further than this movie.
Halloween opens in theaters around the country today.
A film historian for as long as I can remember, I juggle my passion for classic Hollywood with a hobby of reviewing contemporary movies. 1/4 of Citizen Dame (on your favourite podcasting site). When I’m straying out of the classic realm, I’m a sucker for geek/nerd culture. My tastes are wide ranging from Firefly to Doctor Who and even Marvel.