It pays homage to the classic slasher film it’s based on and gives us the finale we crave from the opening credits.
But the ballyhooed David Gordon Green/Danny McBride reboot of “Halloween,” while it manages the odd laugh, suffers from the soulless/frightless sequels, remakes and variations on a theme that rained down on us after John Carpenter essentially launched a genre 40 years ago.
It’s not about the creative killings — although that’s what these films devolved into, and what McBride, Green and co-writer Jeff Fradley seem most engrossed by. The occasional avert-your-eyes-at-the-gore moment is no substitute for suspense. And if we root for one character or another it’s basically because we’re sentimental, historically attached to them, not because of anything this brain trust conjured up.
Jamie Lee Curtis plays a re-imagined Laurie Strode, her life bent and twisted by what she went through back when disco was a thing and her hometown of Haddenfield was a killing ground for Michael Myers.
The British podcast producers (Rian Rhees, Jefferson Hall) who track her down to the fortified compound she’s made her home say they “believe there’s a lot to learn from your experience.”
She’s not hearing it. “There’s nothing to be learned” from “pure evil,” “the boogeyman.”
The unkillable Myers has spent decades in a mental lock-up, not speaking, growing older and fascinating the doctor who took over from Dr. Loomis 40 years before.
“He can speak,” Dr. Sartain (Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer) marvels, “he just chooses not to.”
Halloween is coming, there’s a bus transfer of this most dangerous patient, you know the drill. So does Laurie. She’s been praying the lunatic gets loose so she can finish her business with him. She’s been preparing for this day like Sarah Conner in the “Terminator” movies.
One wry observation from the new generation of teen stabbing fodder is how the world has changed since 1978. “A couple of people murdered” by a nut with a knife “is not that big a deal” post-Columbine.
Laurie’s psychoanalyst daughter (Judy Greer) is estranged from her mother thanks to the paranoid upbringing she endured. Granddaughter Allyson(Andi Matichak) still sees Granny, but wonders why she can’t “get over it.”
The formula requires the hulking killer in overalls and a mask to randomly slaughter adults, teens and children on his way to his date with Laurie. Pitless impalings, skull-squishing, lower-jaws yanked out and simple stabbings are all the now-60something Myers knows.
A cop (Will Patton) who hunted Myers back in the day is on the case. The doctor insists that Michael is “property of the state. He mustn’t be harmed.”
There are visual references to the original film — closets with louvered doors, a dollhouse of the original house Laurie holed up in, shots replicated all set to that classic, insistent pulsing score that Carpenter composed for his original film.
I like the idea of an homage, love that Jamie Leigh is back, grizzled and ready for action.
But where are the frights, where’s the tension that builds as the killer closes in on his prey? With these filmmakers involved, where are the gags? A little kid cursing is about all this crew can come up with.
For all these cumulative credibility that the “Pineapple Express” team bring to “Halloween,” this is only marginally better than the many sequels or the 2007 Rob Zombie re-boot.
We expect a treat, and they pretty much trick us out of it.
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity
Credits:Directed by David Gordon Green, script by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, based on characters from the John Carpenter film. A Universal/Miramax release.
Running time: 1:46