An artsy think piece as far as horror flicks go, the new "Halloween" film slashes through decades of misfires to cut to the core of what makes for a horrifying cinematic gauntlet.
Director David Gordon Green ("George Washington," "Pineapple Express"), who wrote the script with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, wisely eschew the myriad sequels and reboots to make a direct sequel to horror maestro John Carpenter's 1978 classic, which scared up countless imitators. The film borrows Carpenter's horror aesthetics, down to the font of the opening titles, but refreshes the concepts for a new era.
Green and crew prove to have as solid a grip on what makes Myers terrifying as Carpenter did. Never frantic or passionate, Myers is a calm, assured killer who revels in scaring his victims to their breaking points before he decisively dispatches them. His lone superpower is patience. He moves with methodical determination, never wasting a movement. He doesn't hide, but demands to be seen.
Much of the credit goes to Nick Castle, whose blood-curdlingly icy performance sells the personal of relentless, obsessive evil. This is the killer just about every other movie monster aspires to be.
Green takes the less-is-more approach in terms of gore. Myers executes some of the most brutal, sadistic kills in this film than ever before, but almost all the hardcore violence takes place just off-screen, with reaction shots and after effects leaving the most gruesome slayings largely to the imagination.
Not that Green holds back. At times, he hoists the gore front and center, and those scenes hammer home with all the more shuddering impact due to their rarity and severity.
In this alternate universe, Myers was locked away for 40 years after slaying his sister and four others, leaving another sister, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) an overprotective, jittery mess. Her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) dismiss Laurie's warnings, but she's soon enough proven prophetic rather than paranoid.
Longtime series fans will note that Laurie was not Myers' sister in the original film, but the continuity has been adjusted to make them related. In any case, Curtis thrives in her old role.
Once a cavalcade of mishaps sets Myers free into the wild, he and Laurie are set on a collision course -- the ultimate sibling rivalry locked in a chess match of wits and willpower.
"Halloween" pumps out chills throughout its nearly two-hour runtime, masterfully manipulating your expectations without relying on cheap tricks to make you jump. The sense of dread it manages to inflict is a spectacle to behold, making it well worth the price of admission for those who yearn to have their nerves frayed. Anyone who doesn't fall into that category will no doubt be miserable.
Most importantly, it's just about impossible to distance yourself from the film and mock it out of a self-defense mechanism. This is cutting, gripping drama that drops all the cheesiness that tends to lurk in modern horror cinema, boiling the nature of horror and dread to their raw essences.
This is a master class in horror filmmaking. It's not a movie you sti back and enjoy. It's one that makes you lean forward, grip the armrests and feel exhilarated to survive.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.