Slashing good time in Halloween

TRICK OR TRAP: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) battles Michael Myers (Nick Castle) in a scene from Halloween. Universal Pictures via AP

With hollow eyes and sagging cheeks, the flabby white mask of Michael Myers is horror’s great blank slate. Project your fears here, it says. Myers doesn’t speak. His movements never rise beyond a deliberate gait (well, aside from all the stabbing and strangling). Even his name is purposefully bland.

Decades after John Carpenter’s slasher landmark, David Gordon Green has resurrected the faceless Boogeyman of Halloween and set him loose on another Halloween night, 40 years later. Time has done little for Michael’s personality. He is still a poor conversationalist. (He hasn’t uttered a word in the intervening decades, says a doctor at the sanatorium that holds him.) He is still handy with a knife.

There are no roman numerals in the title of Green’s film, nor any of those dopey subtitles like 1998’s Halloween H20, which presumably delved into the very real fears of dehydration. As if to draw closer to the original (and to ignore the nine sequels and reboots in between), this Halloween has simply taken Carpenter’s 1978 title. And with gliding cameras, Carpenter’s score and original cast members Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (the man under the mask), it has tried very hard to take much more, too.

But while Green’s Halloween, which he penned with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, has faithfully adopted much of what so resonated in Carpenter’s genre-creating film — the stoic killer, the gruesome executions, the suburban nightmares — what makes his Halloween such a thrill is how it deviates from its long-ago predecessor.

Setting the template for countless slashers to follow, Carpenter’s film often reserved its most painful endings for more promiscuous girls or drug-using teens. As a grim reaper carrying out a metaphorical reckoning, Michael had questionable biases.

But what Carpenter did do was equate sex with violence, a connection that Green has elaborated on with a more feminist streak. Having survived the Babysitter Murders of 40 years ago, Laurie Strode (a fabulously fierce Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role that was her film debut) is now a self-described “twice-divorced basket case” living in a run-down house on the outskirts of the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois. She has turned her home into a training ground and domestic fortification (beneath the kitchen island is a well-armed shelter) for the second coming of Michael she’s always been sure will happen.

Her daughter (Judy Greer) and her son-in-law (Toby Huss) have grown tired of Strode’s fanatical survivalist paranoia. Certain that the world isn’t so bad a place as Strode insists, they plead for her to get over it. Their high-school daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) isn’t so sure, and she naturally gravitates to the grandmother she’s been shielded from.

The curiosity of Serial-like podcast journalists (Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees) introduces us to both the locked-up Myers and the withdrawn Strode. Before curtly dismissing them, Strode insists their investigation into Myers is pointless. “There’s nothing to learn,” says Strode, surely no fan of, say, neo-Nazi newspaper features. Hunt evil, she believes, don’t analyse it. It’s a message peppered throughout Halloween with clear reference to today.

When Michael is transferred to another facility, hell predictably breaks loose. Once Michael is again stalking the suburban streets of Haddonfield, custom kitchens start seeing their cutlery disappear, and the shadows and closets of seemingly safe neighbourhoods are again rife with danger. Evil — soulless and unkillable — lurks everywhere, even if it does wear a silly mask.

The scenes that fall between those foreboding, twinkling piano notes have far more warmth and spirit than you’d expect.

Halloween, a Universal Pictures release, is rated R by The Motion Picture Association of America for horror violence, bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity. Running time: 105 minutes. Three stars out of four. - AP

With hollow eyes and sagging cheeks, the flabby white mask of Michael Myers is horror’s great blank slate. Project your fears here, it says. Myers doesn’t speak. His movements never rise beyond a deliberate gait (well, aside from all the stabbing and strangling). Even his name is purposefully bland.

Decades after John Carpenter’s slasher landmark, David Gordon Green has resurrected the faceless Boogeyman of Halloween and set him loose on another Halloween night, 40 years later. Time has done little for Michael’s personality. He is still a poor conversationalist. (He hasn’t uttered a word in the intervening decades, says a doctor at the sanatorium that holds him.) He is still handy with a knife.

There are no roman numerals in the title of Green’s film, nor any of those dopey subtitles like 1998’s Halloween H20, which presumably delved into the very real fears of dehydration. As if to draw closer to the original (and to ignore the nine sequels and reboots in between), this Halloween has simply taken Carpenter’s 1978 title. And with gliding cameras, Carpenter’s score and original cast members Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (the man under the mask), it has tried very hard to take much more, too.

But while Green’s Halloween, which he penned with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, has faithfully adopted much of what so resonated in Carpenter’s genre-creating film — the stoic killer, the gruesome executions, the suburban nightmares — what makes his Halloween such a thrill is how it deviates from its long-ago predecessor.

Setting the template for countless slashers to follow, Carpenter’s film often reserved its most painful endings for more promiscuous girls or drug-using teens. As a grim reaper carrying out a metaphorical reckoning, Michael had questionable biases.

But what Carpenter did do was equate sex with violence, a connection that Green has elaborated on with a more feminist streak. Having survived the Babysitter Murders of 40 years ago, Laurie Strode (a fabulously fierce Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role that was her film debut) is now a self-described “twice-divorced basket case” living in a run-down house on the outskirts of the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois. She has turned her home into a training ground and domestic fortification (beneath the kitchen island is a well-armed shelter) for the second coming of Michael she’s always been sure will happen.

Her daughter (Judy Greer) and her son-in-law (Toby Huss) have grown tired of Strode’s fanatical survivalist paranoia. Certain that the world isn’t so bad a place as Strode insists, they plead for her to get over it. Their high-school daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) isn’t so sure, and she naturally gravitates to the grandmother she’s been shielded from.

The curiosity of Serial-like podcast journalists (Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees) introduces us to both the locked-up Myers and the withdrawn Strode. Before curtly dismissing them, Strode insists their investigation into Myers is pointless. “There’s nothing to learn,” says Strode, surely no fan of, say, neo-Nazi newspaper features. Hunt evil, she believes, don’t analyse it. It’s a message peppered throughout Halloween with clear reference to today.

When Michael is transferred to another facility, hell predictably breaks loose. Once Michael is again stalking the suburban streets of Haddonfield, custom kitchens start seeing their cutlery disappear, and the shadows and closets of seemingly safe neighbourhoods are again rife with danger. Evil — soulless and unkillable — lurks everywhere, even if it does wear a silly mask.

The scenes that fall between those foreboding, twinkling piano notes have far more warmth and spirit than you’d expect.

Halloween, a Universal Pictures release, is rated R by The Motion Picture Association of America for horror violence, bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity. Running time: 105 minutes. Three stars out of four. - AP

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