Thirty-seven years on and John Carpenter’s original still maintains its power to scare. Much of that is in its economy, from the austerity of the villain’s backstory (we don’t need to know Michael Myers is anything other than a unique brand of psychopath with preternatural abilities) to the brief running time (90 minutes is more than enough to do all it needs to do) to the distinct lack of gore (it’s not about gruesome set pieces; the horror – even visually – is mostly liminal). It’s in Carpenter’s holistic vision for the piece, with unusual shots and staging for the time, and that pioneering electronic soundtrack. And of course it’s also in Jamie Lee Curtis, she of quality Hollywood lineage, being a cut above the average scream queen, and with whose terror it’s all too easy to empathise. Quite simply one of the best ever.
Re-Animator via Flatliners, The Shining, even Marvel Comics in the style of House MD, with a smattering of found footage just to make sure all the bases are covered. Except for the gaping plot holes, that is, which make The Lazarus Effect one of the weaker efforts from the Blumhouse stable, in spite of a vaguely name cast (Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover), some decent ideas floating around its grab-bag of influences, and a skin-crawling tonal shift as the final act approaches.
It just goes to show that a half-decent cast and some nicely choreographed action can’t elevate a bad movie above piss-poor plotting and dialogue scenes. Draft a stronger director who can handle the talky bits as well as the shooty and fighty bits and this would-be franchise might be onto something. Even with all the clichés.
So yeah, Chris Miller and Phil Lord deserve all the kudos they’ve got for this one, taking that well-worn formula of irreverent nostalgia that’s missed far more than hit (Starsky & Hutch, anyone?) and pretty much ignoring the original. It’s knowing and self-referential, sure, but not in that ironic hipster ‘wasn’t this shit just awful?’ manner, rather turning the mirror on contemporary cultural stereotypes and social idioms. And just being really fucking funny.