Taking the series back to its roots, 2018’s direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original Halloween provides the right kinds of thrills and nostalgia to satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers to the suddenly reinvigorated franchise.

Forty years after the horrific murders committed by Michael Myers (Nick Castle, among others) on Halloween night 1978, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has tried but failed to put the past behind her. Afflicted by severe post-traumatic stress disorder due to the events of that night, she’s estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) and maintains a discreet but loving relationship with her granddaughter (Andi Matichak). During a prisoner transfer, Michael manages to escape, and immediately makes his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to finish what he started. But this time, Laurie’s prepared to fight the pure evil that Michael Myers is. Only one of them can survive this confrontation.

David Gordon Green might seem an odd choice to bring Halloween back to the screen, but the director of Pineapple Express proves to be both a skilled and respectful director. Working from a script he co-wrote with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride), Green channels the precise sense of dread and suspense that permeated John Carpenter’s original. There are several callbacks to some of the more iconic stylistic choices from 1978’s Halloween, including several long takes and frequent use of the chilling Halloween theme music.

Perhaps the smartest choice made by the filmmakers was to ignore the myriad sequels and remakes that have spawned in the 40 years since Halloween first released. By positioning this film as a direct sequel, Halloween (2018) not only becomes an above-average slasher movie, it’s a movie with something to say about female empowerment and victims fighting back. The original Halloween boiled down to a central thesis that evil is an unstoppable force that can descend on even the most unsuspecting place without any notice. The 2018 movie understands this, keeping Michael very much as a “Shape” with no reason and no remorse for his actions.

Curtis is great here, giving one of her best performances as a Laurie Strode who has not only prepared for the return of Michael, but has secretly yearned for it. Unable to process her trauma without facing the monster himself, Laurie’s life has been difficult, and she’s ready to reclaim it for herself. Other actors don’t have enough screentime to really make much of an impression, but Andi Matichak deserves mention as Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter. The part is thankless, clearly included for commercial reasons more than creative ones, but Matichak makes the most of her screentime. Will Patton is fine as a local sheriff. Haluk Bilginer is grating as Michael’s doctor, basically the new version of Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance in the original).

If there are any complaints against 2018’s Halloween, it’s that the movie is too long, struggling to find the right pacing in the opening reels and arguably escalating too quickly towards the end. There’s also an inherent repetitiveness to the movie, which is an affliction suffered by the entire slasher genre (there’s only so many ways to stab people). Another horror/slasher movie cliche that Halloween (2018) fails to avoid is characters doing stupid things at the worst moments, but I suppose that’s part of the fun. Logic holes abound, particularly in the third act (Laurie’s fortress-like home couldn’t have been cheap). And ultimately, while fun in the moment, the movie doesn’t have the staying power of the first one.

For the record, I’m no Halloween expert. I’ve seen the original and while I enjoy and respect it, I don’t hold it in as high regard as many do. The only other Halloween movie I’ve seen is Rob Zombie’s perfunctory but mostly harmless 2007 remake. Green’s 2018 film eclipses the Zombie movie, and even if it doesn’t surpass the original, it’s certainly good enough to stand proudly beside it. I have a hard time imagining that die-hard Halloween fans will find much to complain about with this tense, violent, and reverent installment.

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