by ANDREA SUBISSATI
At Halloween’s world premiere at TIFF’s Midnight Madness, co-writer Danny McBride stated that the only thing more terrifying than Michael Myers was the prospect of writing another Halloween movie. The actor/comedian isn’t kidding, for once; with Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake still fresh in the rear-view mirror, wiping the slate clean once more for a new take on Haddonfield’s boogeyman demands more than brass balls, a massive marketing campaign and the promise of returning talent. Backed by the almighty Blumhouse Productions and John Carpenter’s Midas touch (serving here as score composer, executive producer and creative consultant), the remake promises the near-impossible task of achieving the tenuous balance between something new and something beloved and familiar. So are Green and co up to the task?
In a bold (if precedented) move, Halloween 2018 dismisses the storylines presented in every sequel to the franchise to date, opting to pick up 40 years after the events of the original 1978 film. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the sole survivor of the “babysitter murders” now lives in heavily-guarded isolation, twice divorced and estranged from her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer). Her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) longs for a relationship with her eccentric matriarch, but Laurie’s past trauma has sent her life on a tangent, bent on fortifying her home with fences, traps and hideaways and training herself for lethal combat in perpetual preparation for the day Michael Myers (Nick Castle) returns for her. On Halloween night, Allyson returns from a costume party to find her grandmother’s fears have been realized – the Boogeyman has come home to Haddonfield and is picking up right where he left off.
The original Halloween is largely credited as the bedrock of the slasher subgenre – the film that set a formula in motion that would be imitated incessantly as four generations of filmmakers attempt to capture similar lightning in a bottle. I’ll cut to the chase, the way I wish the film did – the climactic showdown between Myers and Laurie’s brood is a nail-biting thrill ride of tension, suspense and mic-dropping one-liners. No longer limited to knitting needles, Laurie 2.0 is armed to the proverbial tits and downright dangerous, rendering their old cat-and-mouse game more akin to a mad jackal taking on a pissed-off mama lion and her cubs. Where Halloween 2018 falters, though, is in the journey to get there. The early subplot featuring a pair of podcasters seeking to “understand” the 1978 killings is an irritating device to get the audience caught up with the story, and Michael’s escape and retrieval of his mask is a rather plodding ordeal in spite of the intermittent bouts of brutal violence and an overabundance of McBride’s trademark mumblecore humour. Still, an uneven film can be a crowd-pleaser provided it ends on the right note, and Green’s Halloween nails this mark right between William Shatner’s empty eye sockets.
Fans wanted the Boogeyman back, and while this remake isn’t (and can’t be) the indie darling we grew up with, it delivers as well as we should expect from Hollywood’s hit machine.