The new film “Halloween” is coming to theaters almost exactly 40 years after the 1978 original. But is it a trick or a treat?
The new “Halloween” is not your ordinary sequel. You see, aside from the 1978 original story, it’s asking you to imagine a universe where all the other sequels—never happened.
That’s right. No “Halloween II” where Michael Myers went all Friday the 13th on the hospital night shift. The three sequels with Donald Pleasance didn’t occur (which were filmed in the Salt Lake suburbs, by the way). And we didn’t have Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode returning two decades later for a quote “final battle”—and four years later in another story where Michael killed her in the first ten minutes of the movie.
Nope. This story supposes that, shortly after Laurie’s narrow escape from the boogyman back in 1978, Michael was somehow captured and thrown back in a mental institution.
The traumatized Lauri has grown up as an angry, paranoid survivalist, resulting in a couple of failed marriages, and a rocky relationship with her now-grown daughter (played by Judy Greer.)
But after a sanitarium shuttle turns out to be accident-prone (aren’t they always) Michael is on the loose again. And Laurie is not only willing, but eager to confront him.
Of course, the major asset in the new film is Jamie Lee Curtis. Always an under-rated actress, she takes on the role with a kind of fatalistic embrace. Curtis seems to be channeling the grim weary recognition that maybe she feels in real life—that Laurie will always be with her.
There’s some appeal in the idea that now three generations of Strode women—including Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (played by Andi Matichak) are being threatened and in turn, fighting back. And it’s kind of fun to find out that Laurie’s house in the woods is actually a well-designed fortress of traps and hideaways.
But most of the film looks just like all those hack sequels we were supposed to forget. It relies on the Roger Ebert rule of the Idiot Plot—where the story only happens because most of the characters are dolts.
If you think the male authority figures in the movie are going to be any help, consider that one of the guys has troubles even putting out a mouse trap.
And when the familiar gang of happy-go-lucky, horny teenagers show up, you can imagine them being fitted for their team jackets that say Dead Meat.
The director and co-write David Gordon Green, came to attention at Sundance with films like “All the Real Girls”. The other two writers are actors Danny McBride, a master at creating unsavory comic characters and Ed Frandly, who worked before with both Green and McBride.
It’s hard to see what attracted them to the movies—even if they’re sincere about the premise that is—honest, really for real—the last film in the franchise.
In my universe, the original Halloween still sets a high bar. The new version rates two pumpkins out of five.
The Friday Film Review is sponsored by the Park City Film Series.