Just forget the sequels, reboots, and that business with the niece

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Opens Friday 19

2.5 out of 5

For all the reverence it’s treated with, John Carpenter’s Halloween is a simple movie: killer on the loose targets Haddonfield’s youth, meets his match, somehow survives. It was never about the plot, it was the atmosphere. This notion was lost in most of the sequels (Season Of The Witch remains a bright spot), and the idea of building a mythology around Michael Myers never paid off.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween wipes the slate clean (including Rob Zombie’s reboot and the sequels starring Jamie Lee Curtis herself), but the main problem persists: there isn’t that much to go on.

In this version, Michael Myers (Nick Castle, the original Shape) has been locked up for the last 40 years. The most famous survivor of the massacre, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has been in a prison of her own making, living in a pimped-up shelter, self-medicating with alcohol and waiting for Michael’s return. This causes tensions with her daughter (Judy Greer), who resents being raised like a doomsday prepper.

Thanks to an ill-advised facility transfer and a couple of clueless true-crime podcasters, Michael regains his freedom. Single-minded as always, the Shape slices and dices his way across Haddonfield, only this time he has a target in mind.

This new Halloween is well thought through and competently crafted (script by Green and Eastbound & Down’s Danny McBride), but as scares go, it feels been-there-done-that. The proceedings are coated with a #metoo patina that feels forced: Laurie Strode has been a feminist hero for decades, and her unassuming nature is part of her allure.

The film is at its best when it pokes fun at itself. It never veers into self-parody, and the callbacks stick the landing. But the only emotion the new Halloween triggers is nostalgia for the horror of yore, when a murderous simpleton hiding in a closet was enough to freak us out.