The Bock’s Office: ‘Halloween’ finally returns to form 40 years later
All it takes is a few piano notes and an awkward-looking jack-o’-lantern being reassembled to send a chill down your spine, and that’s only in the opening credits of “Halloween.”
For 40 years, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been coping with the trauma of being a survivor of what has since become known as the legendary Babysitter Murders of 1978 in Haddonfield, Illinois. Her reclusive lifestyle in the middle of the woods has made her the subject of mockery for locals, not to mention ruining two marriages and costing her a relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer).
Her mindset isn’t one of abject fear so much as a determination to prepare for what she believes to be an inevitable return by the man responsible for making her this way: Michael Myers.
Myers’ institutionalization has been of no comfort to her, knowing the killer has merely been biding his time.
And, sure enough, when Michael is transported to a prison facility, a bus accident sets up a repeat of past events as he escapes and immediately heads for Haddonfield for unfinished business and a Halloween night confrontation.
Playing the part of Laurie as a wide-eyed teenager is undoubtedly the reason Curtis was catapulted to stardom, even furthering her career after the scream queen roles stopped coming, but here we see exactly why she’s remained a star.
This is not the final girl role, where an innocent teen manages to thwart a homicidal maniac, sometimes through pure luck. Nor is this the Laurie Strode of previous sequels who’s done her best to lay low and put the past behind her.
Curtis commands both respect and fear as the hardened, middle-aged woman who’s responded to being preyed upon by taking on predator tendencies, forsaking all social niceties for the sake of putting evil to rest.
Nick Castle, the original man behind the mask, is one of two here — joined by James Jude Courtney — to portray the infamous psychopath also known merely as The Shape. We never see Michael’s face in full, as is the custom, but let’s be honest: it’s the blank, white, emotionless rubber that’s his true identity.
A pair of true crime podcasters (Jefferson Hall, Rhiann Rees) serve as good a plot device as any when they try to interview the strong, silent type but only manage to rile up the other mental patients as he stands statue-still in a courtyard.
To be fair, they think he’s only killed a half-dozen people, not nearly the body count he’s racked up over the years with retcons and reboots aplenty, thankfully doing away with some of the more ridiculous plot twists that have tried too hard to explain Michael’s madness.
The 11th movie in the franchise effectively erases all but the first in the series, including the “Halloween II” revelation that Laurie is Michael’s sister.
Even so, she’s certainly taken on many of his qualities on the other end of the spectrum, alienating her whole family as a paranoid survivalist who freely admits she wants the notorious killer to escape so she can be the one to snuff him out.
Michael Myers is hardly the first slasher and is arguably the least creative compared to contemporaries like the possessed doll, the child molester with knife hands, the mama’s boy in the hockey mask and other lovely souls, but he may be the most important to the horror subgenre as someone who’s no supernatural monster but an everyday killer made of pure hate.
John Carpenter’s initial vision before everything got more and more out of control across the decades is finally realized again thanks to dutiful direction by David Gordon Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride.
It’s not a shot-for-shot remake, but they’re certainly sticking as closely as possible to the same iconic scenes, agreeably so, capturing all the same scares without feeling like a retread.
The third movie within the same series to bear the simple name “Halloween” is going to mean all the more as a bookend for those who first got freaked out 40 years ago with a female lead who’s only gotten stronger and looking to close that chapter in her life.
And, if you think some heavy breathing can’t be utterly terrifying, just wait.
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