Movie review: “Halloween” thrills, terrifies and returns to the roots of the iconic franchise

michael meyer illustrationSAM FORD/THE REVIEW
“Halloween” breathes fresh life into a series that has greatly varied in quality over the years.

Staff Reporter

We all know how slasher movies work: poor survival decisions, gratuitous violence, screaming babysitters, excuses for teenage promiscuity and cringeworthy humor overtop of a dread-inducing musical score. Despite the groans that these clichés have come to elicit over time, their history can be directly traced back to John Carpenter’s now-classic 1978 film, “Halloween.”

The original terrifying legacy of “Halloween” is undeniable and has spawned a franchise of six sequels, one spin-off and two remakes that have saturated theaters for four decades. When the eleventh film in the series was announced, many moviegoers wondered what else the remorseless, white-masked icon, Michael Myers, could stalk and kill that hadn’t been done before.

Initial skepticism turned to rabid excitement for fans when news that original actress Jamie Lee Curtis would reprise her role as Laurie Strode and original director and composer John Carpenter would serve as executive producer and be involved with the score. Furthermore, the film would break with the series’ previous continuity and serve as the direct sequel to the events of the first film.

As soon as the iconic piano melody begins in the new film, one can’t help but be swept up in familiar gleeful anxiety and be reminded of why this series has had such staying power. The opening credits reference the original flickering pumpkin image, but this time the pumpkin is smashed and comes back to life over time. This image is symbolic of the rest of the movie ̶ returning to form.

Without revealing too many plot details, a lot has happened in the forty years since the events of Halloween night 1978. Laurie Strode has become a seemingly paranoid recluse living alone in a heavily fortified house, obsessing over Michael Myers. Her excessive safety precautions and constant alertness estrange her from her family and have taken an obvious toll on her psyche.

“Halloween” explores a fascinating psychological angle of the aftermath of terror on a victim, an uncommon topic in horror films. The trauma Laurie experienced is at the forefront of her consciousness and defines the way she not only carries herself but interacts with her daughter and granddaughter in the movie.

As the plot progresses and Myers is on the loose once more, interesting comparisons are made between Laurie and him visually and thematically. The roles of “hunter” and “hunted” fluctuate between the two and their relentlessness and motivations create disturbing parallels.

Michael Myers is as horrifying as ever, and the depicted killings are rife with graphic, exhilarating brutality — squeamish viewers beware. The updated score, tracking shots and sharp editing perfectly encapsulate the faster pace and viciousness of Myers’ actions.

“Halloween” unfortunately falls into some pitfalls of the tropes it created. Strode’s granddaughter is involved in a cheesy relationship inevitably ending with a cheating boyfriend, cops only serve as bumbling comedic relief and 98 percent of the minor characters are underwritten idiots, offering little to the overall plot and disappearing at random points.

The film succeeds, however, in respecting the source material and playing heavily on nostalgia while progressing the story in an exciting direction. It is undeniably a “Halloween” film and countless “Easter eggs,” ranging from recycled shots to character masks, leave viewers highly satisfied.

“Halloween” is by no means a perfect movie as dialogue is at times clunky and certain plot points taper off without explanation, but it has an immense amount of entertainment value. For fans of the franchise or just casual viewers looking for a fun scare, grab some friends, get some popcorn and enjoy “the night he came home” again.

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