Halloween is the story of Michael Myers (Nick Castle/James Jude Courtney) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Forty years ago, on Halloween night, a serial killer who had been locked away for inexplicably murdering his sister when he was a boy, escaped into the sleepy town of Haddonfield. Myers terrorized and killed many that evening, but the one person who continually eluded him was a then-teenaged Strode. Inevitably, Myers was gunned down by his psychiatrist, and subsequently reincarcerated.
Today, Myers is an enigma of evil. He’s spent his jail time in complete silence as new doctors and journalists have grown to morbidly marvel at his resolve. Strode has ended up on the opposite end of the spectrum—her paranoia born out trauma only festered. She’s spent a lifetime warning others of Myers potential return, preparing both herself and her family through extreme measures which has put intense strain on her relationships. Now, however, Strode’s foreboding appears to have not been in vain as Myers breaks free and seeks once again to fulfill his bloodlust.
What works in Halloween is its incredible balance and restraint. This sequel, which serves as a direct continuation of the 1978 film and ignores all entries in between, has all of the spirit of the first movie simply modernized (especially regarding gender stereotypes). Halloween recognizes that there is no need to reinvent the slasher genre, and that a well-crafted thriller carefully combines smart characters with a villain where is less-is-more. The question of why Myers is The Shape lurks in the background, but director David Gordon Green uses his players to consistently point out—it doesn’t matter why he kills, it’s just important that he is stopped. Green foregoes unnecessary convoluted motivations and connections to focus on the tension, and it works brilliantly.
Green is also masterful in swirling together genres to make Halloween an entertaining ride end to end. Green favors suspense over gore; intelligence over convenience; homage over repetition, and levity as a remedy. While The Shape’s murders are indeed gruesome, Green understands the fun is in the chase, and far more interesting with protagonists that make logical choices. There are plenty of moments where audiences will be yelling “don’t go in there!” at the screen, but this is enthusiastic rooting for the heroes rather than doling out obvious advice. What’s also impressive is that Green has found a way to honor the original while also creating a new original tale that feels like a continuation rather than an updated retread. Fans of the series will find familiar nods to the entire series, but this 2018 version also feels like it comes from the same creative production and design team of its 1978 predecessor. And finally, Green (and perhaps also some credit here should be given to comedian Danny McBride who co-wrote this feature) sprinkles in an appropriate amount of humor to keep everything just a hair fun in the middle of the horror.
While Halloween signals a return to form, there are a few things to note that might be off-putting to some who are curious. First, while it is not a necessity to have recently seen the 1978 film to enjoy Halloween, basic cursory knowledge of its plot, characters, and outcome certain makes this true sequel more enjoyable. Second, those who already have a negative disposition to bloody slashers should not use Halloween as a gateway film into the genre. While the movie is certainly more subdued than others as of late, this is really just a rebalancing given how extreme the violence has gotten in many of its cinematic counterparts.
Halloween is a fantastic film for the holiday season that accomplishes a great feat—a horror sequel that stands on equal footing as its predecessor. And oh, Curtis? She’s fantastic, and that’s all that needs saying.
FINAL GRADE: A
Recommended if enjoyed: Halloween (1978), Scream, IT