New film, same mask: David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween’ maximizes familiar faces, spaces, scares

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

In a franchise that spans over 40 years, it is easy to get lost in the numerous titles that make up the “Halloween” catalog. The franchise consists of 11 films, most of which are sequels to the original — 2018’s “Halloween” release included. Numerous directors, writers and actors make up the face of this franchise, and over the years, the myriad of sequels, increasing in ridiculousness, has taken a toll on the franchise’s integrity in the eyes of critics.

Tackling the vast landscape of “Halloween” is daunting, to say the least. But David Gordon Green’s 2018 film doesn’t crumble under that pressure but rather works as a standalone story. That said, the film is still riddled with nods to some of the most iconic moments of the original, keeping true to the franchise and its fans, but finds a way to employ these moments in a way that is fresh.

“Halloween” arrives in theaters with familiar scares dressed in modern-day conventions. Green’s addition to the franchise revitalizes the series while operating within the parameters of what made the franchise successful in the first place.

Green gifts fans of the franchise long starved for the original’s suspense and tension with a return to the blood-soaked town of Haddonfield that doesn’t trivialize the original’s reputation. The serial killer Michael Myers is a horror in plain sight, and his presence in the film is a terror evoking game of Where’s Waldo. Myers is still a force to be reckoned with, but this time around, so is Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

Curtis reprises her role as Laurie, a woman hardened by her trauma and forgotten by a world desensitized to the horror she experienced. For all of the scenes of her being a badass, she is still allowed to be vulnerable and to make mistakes. Green’s depiction of Laurie is one of a complex, resilient creature; a formidable opponent to both Myers and an environment that cannot see past the victimized narrative society has constructed for her.

“Halloween” gives Laurie the continuation of her story she has always deserved. The film does not underestimate her, and she isn’t just a stock character used to represent female empowerment. Both her daughter and granddaughter are given the freedom to grow within the confines of their own experiences, giving way to complete characters who are a product of the family matriarch’s resilience, not a copy-paste rendering of it. “Halloween” recognizes the power of female agency and, for once, successfully puts it into the hands of the people who need it most.

Continuing to bring nuance to the franchise, “Halloween” also acknowledges the analysis and psychobabble that came about after the original film’s success. In a day and age that has seen an increased fascination with the serial killer psyche — be it through podcasts or true crime specials — the U.S. has shown its sadistic underbelly time and time again. “Halloween” subtly exploits this by weaving this mentality into some of its core characters. Even the film’s opening in which two podcast producers visit Myers in prison to analyze the serial killer for their show is somehow very meta. The film finds success in its ability to intuit audience experience and reconcile that with expectation.

Green’s film never feels like it has to assert its right to claim the same name as John Carpenter’s original — it simply does. From the near supernatural associations with Myers strength and resilience to the frustration with its original characters, “Halloween” thrives on an expert balance of tension and gratification.

The film is predictable in a way that is expected, without being exhausting, using familiar horror conventions to thrill and satiate its audience. “Halloween” finds a place in a culture of horror that has seemingly left the slasher flick behind. Michael Myers is an old threat that never feels like old news.

Contact Areyon Jolivette at [email protected].