The ‘Halloween’ Not-Reboot is an Oldie but (Mostly) Goodie

Halloween_(2018)_posterWell “Roseanne” and “Will & Grace” kicked off the TV revival trend, so only made sense that the likes of “Halloween” and “Mary Poppins” would follow suit…

“Halloween” is a sequel/soft reboot to the original 1978 film, ignoring all subsequent plotlines that followed in the nine sequels since. Set 40 years after the original killing spree, Michael Myers breaks out of his prison transport and sets out to kill Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) once and for all, although she too has been preparing for him.  Nick Castle reprises his role as the masked killer from the first film, with stuntman James Jude Courtney also portraying Myers; Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and Virginia Gardner also star. David Gordon Green directs and co-wrote the script with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride.

David Gordon Green has such an interesting career path. He started off with some indie dramas like “All the Real Girls” before helming stoner comedies “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness,” and has also executively produced and directed several Danny McBride projects, including “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principles.” So it took everyone a bit by surprise when he and McBride, known best in the mainstream for pot jokes and raunchy humor, would get the reigns to a classic horror franchise, assumed to be KIA by Rob Zombie. The final results are mixed, at times this feels like it was made by two different filmmakers, but if it really is the final time we see Michael Myers face off with Jamie Lee Curtis it is a pretty fitting end.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a national treasure, we have all seen “Freaky Friday,” but this is her first true dramatic job in over a decade. Her returning to the role that put her on the map and placed her in the Scream Queen hall of fame isn’t exactly iconic (she’s made the reprisal a half-dozen times) but this time she plays Laurie as a survivor of the bloody massacre with PTSD, trying to cope with the mental affect that would take on a person. She has spent 40 years training and preparing to protect her and her estranged daughter for the day Michael Myers comes, and it cost her every relationship she ever had.

Curtis’ normal wit and warmth is gone, replaced with a cold yet still (although buried) concerned demeanor. She is a woman on a mission, and Green gives her more than one scene to show the stress it has caused her.

The rest of the cast is mostly just serviceable, with many needing to play the “we are in a horror movie so we have to be dumb” card. The one true standout is a young man named Jibrail Nantambu, who has the best lines in the film. He has great comedic delivery and honestly is the only part of the film where the comedy actually works; otherwise, a lot of it feels out of place.

And that is what I got at earlier, that part of this film, when it comes at things from an almost indie-approach and focuses on the psychological battle between Laurie and Michael, the film works. The climax is by far the best and most intense part of the film, as it essentially is playing up what 40 years of both real time and the world of the film have been building to. Some of the kills are creative, others brutal and uncomfortable to watch, and there is more than one moment that will get an audience reaction, for better or worse.

However there is an entire subplot with Laurie’s granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and the problems she has to deal with and they never really feel as weighty or interesting as Laurie’s, and the “jokes” that are given to supporting characters more often than not are either not funny or just horribly out of place.

The film takes some time to pick up (the first 45 minutes drag) but once Michael gets his mask back on things pick up. As with most horror films there are many plot conveniences and inexplicable choices made by characters, but they don’t really stand out enough to pull you out of the film, and there is a great twist about halfway though.

The score by original “Halloween” director John Carpenter, along with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, puts a nice spin on the classic theme, and I really think the ending of the film, while maybe not so much as a standalone film, works as a poignant conclusion to this 40 year old journey that both we and the characters have been on (even if the producers have all but said we can expect more films).

“Halloween” isn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be nor will it be stapled into culture like its predecessor or, say, the likes of “Scream,” but it is certainly a film made for fans of the franchise and almost acts as repayment for 30 years of bad sequels (and whatever the hell the two Rob Zombie films are). It captures the spirit of Halloween night, a holiday I hold close to my heart, and I think that while this doesn’t reinvent the horror/slasher flick wheel there is still enough going bump in the night to eventually check this out.

Critic’s Grade: C+

Universal Pictures

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