Halloween (Rated R; in theaters everywhere October 19th)
I’ll just come right out and say it—the original Halloween movie wasn’t all that good.
I can hear the angry mob sharpening their pitchforks outside my window now, but that’s my opinion, and I stand by it. Sure, it was groundbreaking for its time, and it gave us an iconic character in Michael Myers that’s been scaring the bejesus out of us for 40 years now. But let’s be honest—it was a mediocre movie at best, with a slow-moving plot, no real character development, and a relatively low body count for the genre. Granted, slasher films aren’t really my thing, so maybe I’m not the most qualified to criticize them. But I just wasn’t impressed.
So I wasn’t sure what to expect from the latest installment of the Halloween franchise, which essentially ignores all of the sequels and assumes that Michael was picked up and sent back to the insane asylum immediately following the events of October 31st, 1978 (and after being shot six times–still no plausible explanation for that one). I tried to be as open-minded as possible, but since I’m not a fan of the original, there was a good chance this just wouldn’t be my thing, either.
Believe it or not, I LOVED this movie. It’s a fantastic film for all of the reasons that the original wasn’t—it’s fast-paced without feeling rushed. We get to spend enough time with the characters (at least the main ones) to get a sense of how they think and what motivates them (aside from trying to stay alive, of course), and the murders are both frequent and creative. Even if you don’t generally love horror films, this is a well-written, quality movie that I’d pay to see again.
It’s fascinating to see how the horrific events of the original Halloween night are affecting those involved 40 years later. Laurie Strode is still suffering the mental and emotional effects of Michael’s original attack, and it’s caused serious problems in her relationships as well. She’s so focused on protecting herself and her family from Michael that she’s walled herself off from those who care about her (both literally and figuratively). It’s tragic to watch someone who’s so obsessed with the past, and who’s so convinced that it will repeat itself in the future, that she misses out on any enjoyment that’s to be had in the present.
Then, of course, we see what the last 40 years have done to the other participant in the original Halloween killings. He’s obviously older (he’d be in his early 60s by now), and a little grayer, but he doesn’t seem to have lost a step. If anything, Michael Myers is more ruthless than ever as he stalks his prey and kills with a variety of weapons (although the butcher knife still appears to be his weapon of choice). I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Michael enjoys his work (especially since we rarely get a glimpse of his face), but it’s obvious that he takes it seriously and has worked hard to improve his technique. That’s an admirable quality—even for a serial killer.
For the nostalgic, there are several fun callbacks to the original film, with scenes being recreated from a different character’s point of view. And there’s enough comic relief to lighten the mood from time to time and give us a break from the suspense. In addition to solid performances from veteran comedic actors Judy Greer (whose character really isn’t that funny which is kind of a disappointment) and Toby Huss, young Jibrail Nantambu steals the show as the foul-mouthed, lovable kid whose parents run off and leave him with a sitter on Halloween night. This kid’s going places.
This is what horror movies are supposed to be. It’s intense, suspenseful, and gory, but it’s also thought-provoking, with complex, memorable characters we can relate to. Well worth the price of admission.