October 19, 2018


H2: Judgment Day

Grade: B
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Toby Huss, and Haluk Bilginer
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

During the new Halloween reimagining/sequel, a bratty teenager grouses over the amount of angst annually generated over the murder of a few people 40 years ago in the sleepy village of Haddonfield. He has a point, as the death of five folks four decades ago pales in comparison to many real-life mass murders. But art and literature has long inflated the lore of otherwise passing crimes, both real (Lizzie Borden; In Cold Blood) and fictional, such as the Haddonfield murders and their unthinking perpetrator, Michael Myers.

Forty years after both the fictional killings and filmmaker John Carpenter’s original masterpiece, Halloween is back, this time helmed by director David Gordon Green and long-time friend and collaborator Danny McBride, who co-wrote the script. Although officially the eleventh installment in the Halloween franchise, Green wisely scrubs any mention of the preceding sequels’ existence and instead resets the timeline as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original.

Once again, Michael Myers in locked away in a mental institution, being studied by a flummoxed psychiatrist (Haluk Bilginer) and occasional curiosity seekers, like a couple of British true-crime podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) who want to illuminate the dark recesses of Michael’s mind. Once again there’s a breakout, when a prison transport (scheduled the day before the 40th anniversary of Michael’s murders?!) overturns, again setting Michael lose upon Haddonfield, where he again roams its leaf-strewn streets amidst costume-wearing kiddies. Once again, babysitters and their hormonal boyfriends should beware.

This time, however, Laurie Strode is ready. The erstwhile bell-bottom-wearing babysitter, reprised by Jamie Lee Curtis, has evolved into Sarah Connor between The Terminator and Terminator 2. The former scream queen is now a backwoods survivalist, amassing an arsenal and building a safe room for the day Michael returns. Laurie’s manic obsession, often bordering on madness, has corroded her relationship with daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who is about the same age as Laurie during Michael’s first killing spree. While Laurie is given an intervening backstory, there’s little attempt to appreciably expand on Karen and Allyson lives beyond their agency to Laurie.

Green’s Halloween is more homage, from the orange Serif Gothic lettering over the opening credits to Carpenter’s iconic score, which Carpenter himself updates with some modern flourishes. Green attempts to emulate Carpenter’s minimalist camerawork, making full use of background/foreground and provocative tracking shots, including a couple of scenes in which Michael methodically goes about his gory compunction in the homes of a couple of unsuspecting housewives. Green and McBride thrust Michael’s misogyny to the forefront, morphing a clash between good and evil into a proxy for female oppression and victimization.

While Green hits all the right beats, his Halloween is also nothing overtly new from a filmmaking perspective. But that’s been tried about ten times over, including director Rob Zombie’s misbegotten attempt to flesh out Michael Myers’ psyche. What the Halloween franchise needed was a dose of nostalgia, a reminder of why we still tense up when we hear Carpenter’s classic 5/4 theme song and why the original Halloween is one of the scariest horror films ever: the palpable dread of believing the boogeyman is real. Of course, you could accomplish that by rewatching Carpenter’s original, and you should. But there’s nothing wrong with a new trip to Haddonfield.

No comments: