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The Boogeyman comes for the adults in new Halloween film
by Matt Simonette
2018-10-18

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Late in John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween, young Tommy Doyle—whose babysitter, Laurie Strode ( Jamie Lee Curtis ), has just fended off one of multiple attacks from Michael Myers, a.k.a. "The Shape"—hurriedly sums up that film's theme: "You can't kill the Boogeyman."

Indeed, for generations of kids and teenagers, Micheal Myers has epitomized the Boogeyman: unstoppable, remorseless and without reason. No explanation is given for Michael's rampage in the first film, other than he is, in the eyes of his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis ( Donald Pleasance ) at least, the embodiment of evil.

David Gordon Green's 2018 sequel, also titled Halloween, depicts someone never outgrowing their fear of the boogeyman. The 1978 original has been sequelized, rebooted and remade so often that the series has more "alternative-timelines" than Back to the Future and Star Trek combined. Green simply ignores every film from 1981's Halloween II on up, making his new film a direct sequel to Carpenter's.

Curtis returns as Laurie, who has spent the better part of 40 years preparing for Michael's eventual return by becoming a crustier version of Sarah Connor, embracing survivalism and converting her house into a maximum security compound. Laurie alienated her family, especially her daughter, Karen ( Judy Greer ), in the process, never having really addressed the real psychological toll that Halloween 1978 took on her.

A horror movie isn't a horror movie unless all that paranoia is justified, of course. Haddonfield's grief counselors are going to be busy on Nov. 1.

According to Green's film, Michael was recaptured and re-institutionalized after his 1978 massacre. When he's on his way to a new hospital the night before Halloween, he escapes, donning his famous mask once more and returning to his home town for yet another rampage. Horror movies, especially horror sequels, usually posit that a repeat of trauma provides closure for the lingering effects from that first trauma. Curtis' tremendous screen presence sells that tired idea here, and it's great to see such a nuanced performance by her as the character who has always been the archetypal slasher-movie "final girl."

Carpenter's film definitely earned its R rating back in 1978, but he showed very little graphic violence. Not so with Green's film, which is downright brutal—heads are smashed, bodies are impaled, windpipes are crushed. As the camera lingered on one of the corpses, the man sitting next to me exclaimed, "He turned him into a pancake."

Halloween sometimes falls into the trap of upping the crudeness and stupidity of minor characters, presumably so we don't feel too guilty cheering the rising body count. But a silly subplot involving Dr. Sartain ( Haluk Bilginer ), Michael's current psychiatrist—you'll understand why he made no progress in 40 years of therapy—seemed tacked on for filler. Also, one of the most fun characters, Julian ( Jibrail Nantambu ), the young charge of a doomed babysitter, simply vanishes from the film without explanation.

Still, the movie is always effective and fun, especially when Laurie and Michael, both having been locked in their own prisons for four decades, finally square off. The climax brilliantly rhymes many the final moments of other films in the series, as Laurie tries to both turn the tables on her stalker and protect daughter and granddaughter, Allyson ( Andi Matichak ) from harm. She betrays no fear in the showdown, and one particular shot that echoes the final moments of the 1978 original drew much applause.

The filmmakers hyped Carpenter's participation in the new film; he's listed as an executive producer and co-composed the score. It's in the music where Carpenter really makes his presence felt—his familiar theme from the original is here augmented by throbbing, synthesized bass that heightens the tension even before the opening credits end. Gordon was wise to bring both him and Curtis along for this intense, atmospheric and entertaining ride.


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