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CONFOUNDING TITLES ASIDE: Jamie Lee Curtis is as good in ‘Halloween’ as she was in ‘Halloween’

“Halloween” 2018 is a well-crafted scary movie that requires nothing of the audience.

Was it Chuck Palahniuk or Stephen Hawking who said “Nothing is static”? In theory, he is correct. Things change; the third law of thermodynamics demands it. However, I’m not sure it’s considered the entertainment industry equation. Then again, renowned 19th-century critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr countered the argument with, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

In a crowded theater I went to watch the new movie, “Halloween.” It’s not the original slasher John Carpenter directed, and by way practically perfected the genre. It’s also not the Rob Zombie remake (also titled “Halloween”) from a few years back that took the original and decided it needed a lot more graphic violence and brutality. I’m talking about the brand new one that’s supposed to be a sequel to the original. Because that’s how things in Hollywood work now.

The existence of the film confounded me. First, it does this thing where it willfully abandons the eight or nine “Halloween” sequels to create its own non-linear narrative.  Remember the whole bit when we find out Michael Myers is Laurie Strode’s brother?  And it basically fueled the plot points of the second “Halloween” and the excellent “Halloween: H20”? Well, just forget it—that’s yesterday, baby. Screw continuity and the concept of canon.

The new “Halloween” follows the disturbing trend of creators being handed a complicated franchise toy box and allowing them to throw out whatever they think didn’t work to create a sequel that lines up with what they think is cool. Creatively, it’s kind of interesting. On paper it seems like it’s creating a filmmaking world where rules don’t matter. Let’s call it cinematic anarchy.  Anything can happen! But that’s the same kind of logic that brought us crap like “Freddy vs. Jason.”

However, let me just say it again: The new “Halloween” is not crap. It’s an entertaining, crowd-pleasing nail-biter with some great work from Jamie Lee Curtis. Michael Myers is still a menacing boogeyman. “Halloween” is a well-crafted scary movie that requires nothing of the audience. Folks who haven’t seen the original will easily follow along with its paint-by-numbers narrative. It is the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” of horror movies. It takes something we’re already familiar with and gently guides it into another chapter that relies heavily on the original to take on a recognizable journey. The movie is for people less familiar (or completely unfamiliar) with the Michael Myers franchise.

Still, I found myself a little chuffed by the movie at a molecular level. It’s like watching the alternate ending to a movie on Blu-Ray but it’s 90 minutes long. The phrase “you’re not the intended audience” gets bandied about with marked regularity nowadays. It’s an idea certain movies weren’t meant for a broad, four-quadrant audience. The new “Halloween” movie is the first film that made me feel like the unintended audience. As a lifelong fan of horror, I’ve seen all the “Halloween” movies. They do exist, warts and all, in spite of director David Gordon Green’s insistence the past is a malleable mass that can be picked apart like a rotting deer corpse, surrounded by starving buzzards.

Poet John Lydgate famously said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” It properly sums up my personal feelings about this version of “Halloween.” Most people will absolutely love it, save for a few crotchety souls who balk at the idea of movies where titles are irrelevant and creators can pick over 30 years of plot-building, only to abandon whatever they perceive as poor choices. Everything can be anything. Sequels can use the exact same title without a number or a suffix and lead to confusing, Abbott and Costello-inspired conversations.

“Did you see ‘Halloween’?”

“I did. Did you like it?”

“Not as much as ‘Halloween.’”

Rated R
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak

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