Slasher films never seemed particularly frightening, even in their heyday, circa 1975–85, which David Gordon Green’s Halloween tries to commemorate.
Like flaunting the silly Satanic emblems of heavy metal, seeing slasher films was a tribal custom—and the deeper you were in the country, the more their paraphernalia repelled bores and evangelicals. John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) featured a killer named Michael Myers, who became the standard of old “Knifey” McKniferson that all later sequels and ripoffs came to use. But the movie was better looking than it needed to be, it had an unsettling keyboard score, and it’s blasé star, Jamie Lee Curtis, possessed a haunting air of trauma, getting viewers into the proper frame of mind even before the bodies started falling.
Curtis’ Laurie Strode always knew Michael Myers would be back. She’s now a 60-ish hermit hiding in a rural fortress. Laurie shrugs off the guilt about how her own daughter, Karen, was taken by protective services when the girl was 12: “If she’s prepared for the horror of this world, I can live with that.” Being stalked by an unkillable maniac is maybe hard to imagine. It’s a little easier to understand the horror of being raised in a bunker by a prepper.
Now grown up, Karen (Judy Greer) is a woman trying to keep everything normal, and failing at the job. It’s clear the white-masked Myers’ last opponent will be Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (the promising Andi Matichak).
Green (Pineapple Express, Prince Avalanche) isn’t a brilliant pop-up engineer, but he provides a great deal of texture and a credible idea of how the cycle of violence turns. Myers, nicknamed “the Shape” to make an already abstract threat even more so, is full of the usual contradictions. He lumbers like Frankenstein’s monster and yet he’s faster than the eye can see.
Halloween isn’t scary, but, like the film that started it, it is moody. What survives is the malice endemic to the genre. The slasher series is the pessimistic side of an old cinematic pleasure, where, instead of seeing Buster Keaton or 007 bounce back from certain death, we are subjected to an iteration of morbid resurrections featuring the unkillable quality of motiveless, mute, faceless evil.
‘Halloween’ is playing in wide release in the North Bay.