We're still over a month away from the scariest night of the year, but the reviews for this year's Halloween reboot should be more than enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck – in a good way.
That's because critics at this year's Toronto Film Festival are lauding it as the best movie in the series since John Carpenter's genre-defining original back in 1978. That movie unleashed masked serial killer Michael Myers on unsuspecting suburbia for the first time, giving rise to a whole host of inferior sequels.
The 2018 version, directed by Stronger and Pineapple Express filmmaker David Gordon Green, wipes the slate clean. Instead, it acts as a direct sequel to the original, picking up decades later with the haunted Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), now a gun-toting grandma with one thing on her mind: to eliminate Michael should he ever return to the town of Haddonfield, Illinois.
It's safe to say he does, and a whole new generation then find themselves under attack. Reviewers are, for the most part, highly complimentary of Gordon Green's blend of scares and nostalgia, beginning with this from Variety's Peter Debruge: "The fact it works... means that Green (who flirted with the idea of directing the Suspiria remake) has pulled off what he set out to do, tying up the mythology that Carpenter and company established, while delivering plenty of fresh suspense — and grisly-creative kills — for younger audiences who are buying into the Halloween brand without any real investment in Michael and Laurie’s unfinished business."
"The kind of gig hitherto reserved for J.J. Abrams and few others, it's one Green fairly leaps into," writes John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter, "delivering both fan service and honest-to-god moviemaking of the sort rarely seen in horror spinoffs. Carpenter should be pleased, and so should genre buffs — for once, this is a pic their less-geeky girl/boyfriends should enjoy."
Indiewire's Eric Kohn is among several critics lauding Curtis' steely presence – as one of the original horror movie 'final girls', she is said to lend this new Halloween movie a great deal of emotional gravitas: "The movie would be a harmless, discardable remix of standard horror notes if not for Curtis, who charges through the movie as if she never stopped running four decades back. Cinema’s inaugural Final Girl was actually saved by a man at the last second in the first Halloween, so her very existence in this movie represents a culmination of the feminist hero who never quite received her due. The final image is a powerful statement of her defiant spirit."
EW's Leah Greenblatt describes the movie as "a big, funny, scary, squishy, super-meta sequel" that "brings it all back to John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 original." Meanwhile, Slash Film's Chris Evangelista says the movie restores Myers' reputation as a figure of absolute terror: "Here is where Halloween is most successful: it makes Michael Myers scary again. The masked killer is utterly inhumane here – he doesn't just kill people, he destroys them. Heads are smashed against walls, knives are thrust through throats, skulls are stomped like rotten Jack-o'-lanterns. Halloween earns its R rating, and then some. Previous Halloween sequels were plenty violent, but none of that former violence was as brutal, and as primal, as it is here. It's unpleasant to watch, as it should be. These aren't the type of mindless slasher movie kills seeking to get a cheap thrill out of the audience. These are moments of terrifying savagery. It plays hell with your nerves."
There are, of course, some caveats – Total Film's Matt Maytum says the movie is fun but no classic: "There’s little dramatic meat in the Michael/Laurie relationship, and their duality/connection is frustratingly underdeveloped. The biggest disappointment in this belated sequel is how little new it does, feeling more like an homage than a narrative leap forward. There’s enough ambiguity in the ending to suggest further sequels could be on the way here, but on this evidence there’s not a lot left to be wrung from this well-worn franchise."
And Benjamin Lee, writing in The Guardian, says the movie doesn't do enough to reinvent the wheel: "Halloween struggles most with justifying its existence. Given that Rob Zombie’s take on the franchise (his moderately successful remake and its disastrous sequel) had dissolved back in 2009 and given that Strode had been killed off in the regrettable Halloween: Resurrection back in 2002, there was no great need to bring back Myers yet again. This lack of commercial pressure could have led to a more radical new route but despite the aforementioned sequel amnesia, Green and McBride haven’t brought enough to the table to explain why we’re here again."
That's a round-up of some of the critical responses, and you can have your say when Halloween stalks into Cineworld on 19th October.