Directed by David Gordon Green
MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 105 Minutes
By far, the smartest accomplishment and thing most deserving of isolated praise in David Gordon Green’s reboot of John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s storied Halloween franchise is the unceremonious sheering of continuity that it represents.
Being a 40-year-old franchise that kicked off the slasher craze and lasted long enough through it to subsequently represent that genre’s worst traits, Michael Myers went through some nonsensical digressions in the later decades (I am looking at you, Part 6, with your “Curse of Thorn” or whatever). Rather than over-complicating the latest entry by appealing to what Halloween unfortunately became, Green, along with co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, appeal to what Halloween was and take their film back to the roots of Carpenter and Hill’s low-budget masterpiece. As a direct sequel to the monumental 1978 film and unseating nine lesser following acts, Green’s entry is a well crafted and effective update that is bound to please crowds with its slick, dread-inducing filmmaking and its key sense of closure.
Halloween (2018) picks up four decades after Laurie Strode (a triumphantly returning Jamie Lee Curtis) survived the massacre perpetrated by the emotionless husk of evil that is Michael Myers in Haddonfield, Illinois. In her life since that traumatic day, Strode has lived the stagnant existence of a doomsday prepper, training, arming and securing herself and her daughter (Judy Greer) for the fateful night “he comes home” once again.
Though presumably unintentional, the character’s all-consuming obsession in conquering this bogeyman that plagued her teenage days makes Laurie Strode’s life acutely tragic in retrospect. Paranoid yet resolute, Curtis’ attentive performance helps to demonstrate a maturation of the character that is far removed from the teen scream queen of Carpenter’s version but still carries her signature helplessness, in some sense.
Following a failed prison transfer that happens, fittingly, the day before Halloween, Michael is loose once again, and the film quickly and efficiently places itself into the slasher genre mold. Unexpectedly, Green shows acuity working within the genres constraints, finding inventive ways to stage and compose his often bloody kills that recalls Carpenter’s own acumen for creating atmosphere.
As the body count grows, the sense that Myers is always looming beyond the peripheries of the screen intensifies, retaining his mystique and raw terror as the “embodiment of evil” he was written as. Many of the all important kills in fact are performed off-screen but, through staging and suggestion, come through effectively. This is that fun type of scary film that is hard to come by anymore, where every audience jump is followed by relieved laughs, and it isn’t uncommon to hear cheers accompany a head getting crushed.
Coupled with this mano-a-mano, cat-and-mouse game between Myers and Strode that the film taps into for its tension, Strode’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), and her exploits over the film’s two days serves as a framework for the original film and supplies a lot of matching visuals for the fans in the audience. This section of the plot is also where much of the film’s comedy gets relegated to, for better or for worse.
What I can only assume are McBride’s contributions to the script range from well timed moments of levity that break up the overpowering tension to scene-hijacking that overstays its welcome. Because not all of the jokes land, having them concentrated to this one portion of the narrative that runs parallel to the far-more-interesting and -encompassing dynamic of Strode and Myers harms the flow of the film.
Once over the initial hump of the setup and the finality of Laurie vs. Michael gets to be emphasized, the film hits a stride of pure horror entertainment, the likes of which none of the previous sequels could come close to emulating. The final confrontation – set at Laurie’s makeshift compound – in which the Strode women reconcile their estrangements with a vow to finish off the bogeyman who has been haunting them, comes across as a particularly satisfying slice of closure to Carpenter’s original thematic intent.
Though it rides that divider between being an homage and derivative too closely at times and with certain plot points feeling underdeveloped (e.g., the funny but misplaced true-crime podcaster characters and the Dr. Loomis surrogate, for example), Green’s Halloween is a return to form for the franchise that feels worthy to close the book on Haddenfield that Carpenter and Hill opened 40 years ago.