‘The world is not a dark and evil place,” insists an exasperated woman played by Judy Greer in Halloween. “It’s full of love and understanding!”
I put the question to the class: Is she right?
In the new film (not a reboot but a sequel that occurs 40 years after the events in the 1978 original and ignores all intervening Halloween movies), the woman, a mom named Karen, is forever grumbling about her Parris Island–style upbringing. Her mother is Laurie Strode, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis. Laurie has excellent reason to suspect the presence of dark and evil in the world, and she taught her daughter from a young age about firearms, the fallen nature of man, the failures of the state, the blessings of rugged individualism, and the collected works of Russell Kirk. Okay, maybe not that last part, but still: Halloween is a gung-ho, gun-loving, liberal-trolling, capital-punishment-backing conservative manifesto in the format of a slasher flick. It’s the kind of movie where if someone says he’d rather have dance lessons than shooting practice, he’ll soon be corrected.
David Gordon Green, who has made everything from somber indie dramas to episodes of HBO’s Eastbound and Down, directed Halloween and also co-wrote it with Eastbound star Danny McBride (who does not appear in it) and Jeff Fradley. They hit the usual horror-movie chords — don’t go in that room looking for the boogeyman, Miss Babysitter! — and generate a bog-standard level of scares. Halloween is at its best, though, when the filmmakers unobtrusively turn mordant about their characters and about the clichés of the slasher genre. One callback in particular got one of the most enthusiastic laughs I’ve heard at the movies lately.
As we begin, mask-and-blade enthusiast Michael Myers (at whom we never get a clear look) is safely confined to a mental institution from which he cannot possibly escape. Green seizes the opportunity to delve into the twisted psychological makeup of some of society’s most insidious and relentless obsessives: true-crime podcasters. Two of these pod people (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) have come to the mental hospital to interview Michael for one of those investigate-a-conviction shows dedicated to uncovering the true motivations of a notorious criminal, putting his crimes in more social context, delving into the hidden motives of his accusers, and explaining why it’s really all of us who should be in prison while the misunderstood killers waltz free.
Laurie, interviewed by the podcasters, offers a shot of 200-proof truth: There is no more to the story. There is no lesson to be learned. There is no understanding Michael Myers. He’s just evil. It’s a bracingly no-nonsense — i.e., conservative — view of humanity. A voice from the departed Dr. Loomis reminds us that putting Myers in an institution was a mistake: He should have been executed. Evil should face condemnation, not sympathy. That the podcasters don’t understand the basics of human nature makes them ripe for gruesome comeuppance. I can only hope that Green et al. can somehow devise a sequel in which the hosts of Pod Save America decide that a serial killer like Michael is the victim of dastardly Republican criminal-justice policies and have him over for tea.
The entire time Michael has been in prison, Laurie has been waiting, indeed praying, for his release because only then can an individual correct the failures of the state. One representative thereof even solemnly intones, “He’s property of the state. He mustn’t be harmed.” It’s a brief but acidic reminder of how bureaucrats can get the arrow of protection turned the wrong way. Awaiting the inevitable escape of Michael, Laurie has become a full-on prepper, with a panic room and an arsenal so large it would make Charles C. W. Cooke whistle with admiration. (An unexpected side benefit of the film is that Jamie Lee Curtis, a supporter of additional gun regulation, felt the need to clarify her position last week. “I fully support the Second Amendment,” she declared, which makes her far-right by Hollywood standards.) Laurie’s daughter comes to rethink her previous contention that Mom is paranoid.
The climactic scenes, with many male corpses strewn about the scenery but three women standing tall, constitute a witty reframing of one of Hollywood’s most consuming notions these days: that to be female is to be under threat. If so, Green’s movie replies, women should fight back. With shotguns.