Jamie Lee Curtis is back for her fifth outing as one-time babysitter Laurie Strode in Halloween, the third movie in this endless series to bear the title. This one is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original Halloween from 1978 and ignores Curtis’s three previous sequel appearances, in Halloween II (1981); Halloween H2O (1998), the 20th anniversary effort (quite good, actually); and H2O’s reputedly awful sequel Halloween: Resurrection, in which Laurie dies early on. It also ignores a fistful of other Curtis-free sequels and “reboots.”
In this new time line, Laurie has become a notorious hermit outside Haddonfield, the small town that is Halloween central, where her estranged only daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), lives with her own teenage daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). During the past 40 years, psycho killer Michael Myers has been incarcerated and Laurie has been arming herself and turning her isolated home into one big panic room.
Myers escapes, of course, and, after retrieving his original mask (which takes some serious credibility bending) ends up rampaging quietly through Haddonfield, targeting single women and babysitters and their boyfriends. The movie has a few moments of breath-sucking gore (and touches of wit), but it’s not quite a bloodbath, despite the R rating. Several of the murders are off-screen or only glancingly depicted, and the killings of people whose identities we never learn create neither suspense nor frights.
The hope here is for the long-delayed confrontation between a now weaponized Laurie and the still unkillable Michael in her tricked-up house. Laurie’s countless gadgets promise an extended Home Alone-style series of traps and escapes, leading to some kind of ultimate face-off. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, the film falls back into slasher movie cliche: a frightened woman wandering through dark rooms. (Laurie has flood lamps in her yard but doesn’t bother to switch on the ceiling lights when the killer gets inside.)
The movie has nothing new to add to the Myers legend, although it toys with some promising peripheral ideas. It riffs, for example, on crime podcasts, obsessive psychiatrists, wise-ass children and the ubiquity of mass killings in 2018 compared with 1978. And the central premise, that Laurie’s Michael fixation scarred her daughter and puts her family at risk, rather than protecting them, is more interesting than what drives most slasher flicks. But none of these notions comes to much, as director and co-writer David Gordon Green (Stronger) returns again and again to straightforward slashing and fails to film any of it in a particularly compelling or creepy fashion.
Curtis is intense and fun to watch, and the references to Carpenter’s Halloween are sweet: the return of Will Patton as Officer Hawkins, the souped-up soundtrack variations on Carpenter’s iconic theme, and some visual echoes that the opening night audience loved. But overall the new Halloween is less “meta” than “meh,” another night with Michael Myers and a lot of bloody knives and the promise of further sequels. Hope and fear spring eternally.
Grade: C. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Universal Pictures)