Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton
Rated: R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
John Carpenter’s 1978 film “Halloween” is a horror classic. The sequels since then have a borderline-incoherent timeline, with multiple reboots and skips over inconvenient events of previous films. The new “Halloween” does this as well, explicitly denying material from “Halloween II” and cementing its lineage as a direct sequel to the original movie. It avoids the ridiculous twists of previous films and focuses instead on elements like the trauma survivors deal with for the rest of their lives.
It’s been 40 years since Michael (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) rampaged through his hometown killing babysitters on Halloween. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) narrowly escaped him then, and has been obsessed with preparing for Michael’s eventual escape ever since. This has resulted in the failure of two marriages and estrangement from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). Karen was raised with the her mother’s survivalist mentality but has since become a suburban mom and done her best to raise her daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) in a normal home. Then, of course, Michael escapes during a transfer between mental institutions, proving Laurie was right all along.
Curtis is rock solid, channelling a bit of Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” into her embodiment of how surviving a massacre affects a person. Laurie tries to be a good parent and grandmother, but she’s never “gotten over” what happened forty years ago. It has completely changed her life, and made it hard for her to function in normal society. Karen is almost aggressively normal in reaction to her upbringing and relationship with her mother — and she does her best to keep Allyson away from Laurie, hoping to prevent the kind of damage and disappointment she’s experienced.
Like a lot of horror movies, “Halloween” alludes to its cultural environment. Michael doesn’t just kill bystanders or babysitters, he also takes out sexist “Nice Guys” and untrustworthy authority figures. Laurie is seen by other characters as irrational and hysterical, then is proven to have been right about everything. Allyson’s boyfriend is a jerk to her and she immediately dumps him – and the film shows her as being right to do so. There’s a subplot about a pair of unscrupulous reporters making a podcast about Michael. Plus, watching three generations of women fight a primal threatening male without needing to be rescued is pretty great. Horror has a grand tradition of the “final girl,” the girl survives to the end of the film (and often takes out the monster), and it feels even more fitting in this time of women standing up for themselves politically and socially.
“Halloween” isn’t a torture movie, but definitely includes both on-screen violence and semi-off-screen killing. In one particularly memorable incident, Michael lifts and strangles a person as the camera lingers on their feet, which go from struggling to limp after he audibly crushes the victim’s windpipe. There isn’t a ton of arterial blood, but there’s plenty of blunt trauma (including a head stomped Game of Thrones style) and stabbing. This is a horror movie, and while it’s not as torture-filled as others there’s still plenty of violence.
If you like the franchise and/or horror movies in general, the new “Halloween” is well worth checking out.