Horror is a genre that encourages you to kill your idols… as long as they pop up and jump back into the ring a few moments later, like The Undertaker. There’s no better example of this than Rob Zombie’s Halloween (and it’s balls to the wall sequel). Zombie tears down John Carpenter’s masterful slasher by injecting it with more violence and more sex, as well as an in-depth (and poorly done) psychological look at Carpenter’s famously quiet killer. Zombie’s Halloween will never make any top ten lists, but I’m glad it exists, if only because it solidifies horror as a genre that’s willing to try something new.
Joining Carpenter’s deceptively simple slasher, and Zombie’s dirt-caked remake, is David Gordon Green’s shiny reboot of the story. Taking place 40 years after the original, Green’s Halloween finds Michael incarcerated in the middle of nowhere. Chaperoned by a new Loomis (which is a line straight out of the movie), a prison is about to transfer Michael to a more secure facility. Hidden away in a over-the-top reinforced cabin in the middle of the woods, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is also prepping for Michael’s big move. She may have a successful daughter and granddaughter, but Laurie spends her days hidden from the world. Her motivation is singular: she’s going to end this series once and for all. That doesn’t happen. Instead, there’s a “mysterious accident,” Michael gets loose, and he manages to make his way back to the town where it all began. The town where Laurie’s daughter lives.
After that, Halloween quickly falls into its gore-filled rhythm. Michael gets to hackin’ and slashin’. Laurie screams and shoots her many guns. The police run around like idiots. Teenagers die by the handful. And it’s so much damn fun. Carpenter may be one of the slasher founding fathers, but Green perfectly modernizes the subgenre, jumping from comedy to horror with ease. He works that constant tonal whiplash with precision. In any other movie it would be exhausting, but in Halloween it feels like a triumph.
Green’s Halloween absolutely feels different from Carpenter’s and Zombie’s, but its strength lies in the fact that it’s more of a mixture of the two than meets the eye. Green knows what to keep and what to discard. He borrows liberally from the imagery Carpenter created, bt he also keeps the sheen of grime and gore that Zombie brought to the franchise. Just look at the gross and heavily creased Michael Myers mask or Laurie’s mannequin-filled cabin, both of which fit Zombie’s trashy aesthetic like a glove. But if Carpenter is the gin, Zombie is the Campari and Green is the vermouth of this spooky negroni, Wes Craven is that perfect sliver of orange peel balanced delicately on top. From the “new Loomis” jokes to the obvious jabs at Zombie’s version, Green’s Halloween is sprinkled with the meta humor that changed the genre when Craven directed Scream in the 90s. It’s what make the movie feel fresh. The 90s are back. Any Forever 21 cashier can tell you that.
Halloween isn’t the perfect slasher movie. Everything before Michael gets loose is marred by wooden acting and awkward dialogue, and even the ending feels a little abrupt. Watching three generations of women (who are covered in blood and armed to the teeth) fight the ultimate bad guy is stupidly fun, but you can see the sequel coming a million miles away. I can’t entirely blame Blumhouse, the film’s producer. Everyone wants a piece of Michael, and if the sequel is going to be this much fun, the franchise is in good hands. Good murder-y hands.