Entertainment

The New 'Halloween' Channels the Original and It's Actually a Bloody Good Time

halloween
Universal Pictures

"Happy Halloween, motherfuckers." That's how Jamie Lee Curtis greeted a Toronto International Film Festival crowd late Saturday after the midnight world premiere of the new Halloween, a direct sequel to John Carpenter's influential 1978 slasher film of the same name.

The room was absolutely buzzing from the moment attendees were let into the Winter Garden Theatre. I was standing in line behind two dudes dressed as psychopath Michael Myers, who were blasting the chilling score as they entered. The festival added to the mood before the movie by creating a fright of its own: a figure looming in front of the screen in the dark and menacing the audience.

The movie, directed by David Gordon Green and written by Green, Jeff Fradley, and Eastbound and Down actor Danny McBride, ends on such a triumphant note that Curtis's greeting captured the vibe exactly.

The new Halloween, set to hit theaters on October 19, is a crowdpleaser that makes Curtis' Laurie Strode a worthy adversary for Michael, who terrorized her and her friends on that fateful Halloween night 40 years ago. It ignores the many sequels and Rob Zombie reboots that came after the original. In fact, one teen asks Allyson (Andi Matichak) if her grandmother Laurie was Michael's biological sister -- a detail revealed in 1981's Halloween II. Allyson brushes that aside: No, it's just a rumor.

What this update tells us is that, while Laurie survived that night 40 years ago, she was forever changed. Much like Sarah Connor between the first and second Terminator movies, she spent the interim years training to become a Michael Myers killing machine. Twice-divorced, Laurie has a now-grown daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), who she instilled with a fear of the boogeyman. While Karen was ultimately taken away from her, they remain in contact but have long had a rocky relationship. Karen's daughter, Allyson, is on hand to try and bring them closer together. "It's a movie about trauma," Curtis told the audience, "and ultimately, if you've ever lived through any trauma or have a family member who has, it isn't just you and the family member. It is generational. It is something we're seeing with wars, and I just thought it was an amazing way to tell the story of Laurie and tell it through the eyes of her daughter and her granddaughter."

michael myers halloween
Universal Pictures

The events of the film kick off as Michael is being transported from a facility where he's being studied to a more intensely restricted place. The meddling of some British podcasters doesn't bode well, and, unsurprisingly, he escapes his captors and returns to wreak havoc on Haddonfield, Illinois.

Green has stuffed this movie with homages to the original, from the simple opening credits sequence featuring a pumpkin to the recreation of certain iconic images. It's not a direct emulation of Carpenter's style, however. This is gorier, for one thing. Maybe Michael's emboldened -- or maybe we've just been desensitized after all these years of slasher-movie mayhem. Green's direction is a bit looser, and the script calls for some nervous giggles in places. Still, one plot point that arises just before the thrilling conclusion is so incredibly silly that I almost thought the movie had gone off the rails. Thankfully, Green and McBride leave the action fully in the hands of the Strode women. At one point, the crowd was cheering so loudly for Greer that it was impossible to hear Curtis deliver one of her mic-drop lines.

During the post-screening Q&A, someone in the audience asked whether Michael Myers was really dead at the end of this movie. "Eh," McBride said, extending the vowel. So maybe the shape has disappeared. Or, then again, maybe not.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.