Halloween: Clever Reboot Revives the Chills, Boosts the Thrills of Original Slasher Film

By Jim Slotek

Rating: B+

The closest thing to social comment in David Gordon Green’s winningly retro reboot of Halloween comes early, when an about-to-party teen in Haddonfield, Illinois pronounces on the lameness of the town’s legendary psycho-killing spree.

Definitely  not  Avon calling.

Definitely not Avon calling.

“So, a guy with a knife kills a few people. By today’s standards…”

And true enough, in the U.S. anyway, some guy in a mask killing five people wouldn’t even top the latest Trump news.

This may say something about the year 1978, when John Carpenter introduced us to Michael Myers, the template for every unstoppable, unkillable Jason and Freddy to follow. It was a time when the standards for a mass-killing were blessedly lower.

On the other hand, disparaging the pure evil of Michael Myers is something the sixty-something psycho killer will not tolerate. Time to bust out of the mental hospital and school some youngsters with extreme prejudice (and stabbings).

A movie often glibly aware of its provenance, Halloween exists in a world where no lousy sequels or other reboots ever happened. There’s only Michael, killer of his sister at age six, and locked away with other lunatics for 40 years since that singular Halloween night when he killed the loved ones of his apparent obsession Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

And, as his own obsessed personal psychiatrist (Haluk Bilginer) can attest, Michael has resisted all efforts to be diagnosed… or even to talk. Meaning he’s still just plain evil and ready to play catch-up when he’s due to be transferred to another facility on (conveniently) the 40th anniversary of his original Halloween massacre.

First kill-stop: a pair of British tabloid journalists, who’ve conveniently gotten hold of his original kill-mask.

(Michael’s escape during the transfer is so taken-for-granted, they don’t even bother to show it to us).

As for Laurie, she has lived her life like Sarah Connor, learning how to fight and shoot, loading up on guns, and preparing for the day SkyNet sends another Terminator. She’s dismissed as crazy by half the town and estranged from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).

Says Laurie (in one of many grimly comic lines of dialogue clearly written by scripter Danny McBride): “I’ve prayed every day for him to escape… so I can kill him.” To which Hawkins (Will Patton), an on-scene cop at the original massacre replies, “That’s a dumb thing to wish for.”

Clearly, the whole movie is a set-up for Michael to battle the new, improved Laurie T-1000. All else is prelude for the eclectic Green (from Pineapple Express to Stronger), who follows Carpenter’s original beats closely (including his camouflaged stalk through a costumed town on Halloween, like a shark through a school of fish) and adds a few clever updates, as when Michael uses an outdoor motion sensor light to amp the fear on an impending kill.

As with Carpenter, build-up is the thing (Michael is mostly talked-about for the first half-hour), and producers Blumhouse’s trademark jump-scares are a nice stylistic fit.

The original, unsettling theme music — written by Carpenter himself — is also upgraded, again by Carpenter, with help from his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies.

All of which serves to make the new Halloween as much an impressive homage as it is a reboot. Green didn’t mess with Michael Myers’ story but artfully services his transfer to the 21st Century.

Halloween. Directed by David Gordon Green. Co-written by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak. Opens wide October 19.