Halloween reviews: Gory, imperfect fan service inflicts 'nostalgia goosebumps'

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Sep 10, 2018, 12:03 PM EDT

After the first blush of David Gordon Green’s Halloween reboot (it takes place 40 years after the 1978 original) has faded, more level-headed opinions have surfaced about the much-hyped horror film that had everyone shouting like a scream queen on social media after its premiere. Now, with the full reviews hitting the web, slasher fans can find out exactly where the modern Michael Myers film fits into the canon.

Homage is certainly everywhere, but the film needs to move forward to mark its place in the genre. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is back, ready to protect her family, in a story both old and new: but is it enough to warrant going back to basics after four decades? We’re going to go back to Haddonfield, IL no matter what, but it’s often nice to know what you’re getting into — especially when you’re working with quality as volatile as comes in horror sequels.

But let’s let the critics do the talking:

According to the AV Club, the new film “is just another pale imitation, another bad Halloween sequel watering down the fear factor of the original.” Critic A.A. Dowd wasn’t won over by much in the film except OG director/composer and horror legend John Carpenter’s new score. Though if you wanted to rewrite everything you know about the Halloween movies, this would be the one to put your horror geekdom to the test. Apparently the film spends time “retconning the plots of all but the first movie,” though in the end it feels like a “greatest-hits package” despite its endeavors to break new ground amidst homage.

The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore was more forgiving of the remake’s juggling act, saying that Green spends the film “delivering both fan service and honest-to-god moviemaking of the sort rarely seen in horror spinoffs.” Horror nuts should be pleased with the “inside jokes and boundary-pushing kills” though even his glowing review cautions against getting too excited for some of the film’s lackluster setpieces that “leave something to be desired.”

Variety’s Peter Debruge explains this divide succinctly, calling the film an “act of fan service disguised as a horror movie.” For some, that may be enough. Praising Curtis’ take on the film’s more PTSD-afflicted final girl, Debruge says the psychology in Halloween’s script is one of the main things that helps resuscitate the dying franchise. Even if the film isn’t perfect, it should deliver “nostalgia goosebumps.”

Screencrush’s E. Oliver Whitney writes that these goosebumps come from “a pure act of fan service — though one that’s full of clever callbacks to and remixes of the classic slasher movie.” With its echoing plot and familiar characters, there’s less new to encounter here than appreciate with a different coat of paint and sometimes, that’s ok. Whitney praises the “snarky humor” that co-writer Danny McBride injected into the film, but mostly commented on the film’s role as a remix of everything the fans loved about the original.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt’s take on the “big, funny, scary, squishy, super-meta sequel” was equally positive — as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. Highlighting all the beloved horror tropes sneaking into the film, Greenblatt admits that “Green might even be too faithful” to the original flavor of the first, but those after a retro horror won’t be let down.

Halloween opens in theaters everywhere Oct. 19.