'Halloween' Review

40 years later, The Shape returns

October 19, 2018

The Shape flits about the edge of my vision, darting hither and yon. The music swells and a silhouette streaks by. The movements are surprisingly quick and agile, the shadows on the floor seemingly independent from the lights on the screen projecting David Gordon Green's sequel/soft-reboot of Halloween. The Shape remains obscured—we've yet to get a good look at him, at his face. And then, a flash of light! The Shape is illuminated. It stares right at me, piercing my soul with his eyes, black as night.

It's a mouse.

A mouse—at least one, possibly several—has taken up residence in the AMC Shirlington 7 and it is living its best life, scurrying between the seats and picking up stray popcorn and adding an extra dimension to the horror of Halloween. You have to give the theater chains credit for improving the theatrical experience: not only have they replaced their chairs with pleasing recliners; not only have they upgraded their food options; not only have they installed taps and bars in order to give adults something to sip on while their movie plays. They've also added rodents to the screening rooms, rodents who seem to be trained to make runs at your feet while the music swells.

Don't think of it as an infestation; think of it as an in-person jump scare.

Not that Halloween really needed to ramp up the terror. Green's Halloween hits on the implacability of Michael Myers, John Carpenter's silent, murderous monster. Green's camera tracks The Shape (the real one) as he stalks through the Illinois suburbs, following him as he enters homes at will and commences killing. He is the manifestation of Laurie Strode's (Jamie Lee Curtis) belief that the world is an inherently dangerous place, one filled with terrors that cannot be bargained or reasoned with, merely stopped, and probably only momentarily.

Green, along with cowriters Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, have done something interesting and smart with this film: they've jettisoned everything from the series save the original movie. Halloween (2018) is set forty years after Halloween (1978); since the events documented in that film, Laurie has been training for the rematch. Think of Laurie as Sarah Connor and Michael Myers as her Judgment Day: she has more or less removed herself from society, building an arsenal and training her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), to fend off the horror of Haddonfield.

Karen has a daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak), and Halloween concerns itself with the ways in which these three generations of women—the Boomer, who has seen the worst; the Xer, who believes people are basically good and that evil does not exist; and the Millennial, blissfully unaware of it all—come together to fend off Myers. There's also something to be said for the generational differences in the two Halloweens. It's amusing that the only nudity in this year's edition of the film is a flashback to the opening murder of the original. The millennials in this movie muck about with notions of sexual fluidity—a gender-swapped Bonnie and Clyde costume is met with plaudits at the school dance; the effeminate nice guy turns out to be straight after all—but it's all very chaste, all very clean. The clothes stay on, and the hands stay over them.

The sex may be PG-13 but the violence is hard-R. Myers, never one for subtlety, makes good use of knives, boots, and hands, leaving bodies wherever he walks. Green and company's film feels almost like a repudiation of Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of Halloween, which posited Myers as a victim of abuse whose innate darkness was at least partly the responsibility of his childhood tormenters. Green's film rejects this notion wholeheartedly. A running subplot involves those in Myers' orbit trying to get him to speak, to explain why he is the monster he is. Surely there's a word he will utter that will unlock the key to his evil, a Rosebud for the original slasher villain.

But Laurie knows the truth. In this world there is evil, evil that cannot be explained or reasoned with. It can only be met with ammunition, with the cleansing power of fire. Refusing to acknowledge this truth and refusing to prepare for its arrival is a dereliction of duty.

Published under: Movie Reviews