Like most long-running horror franchises, the Halloween series has seen its share of ups and downs over the decades.
But those skeptical of the newest incarnation, directed by David Gordon Green, can put their fears to rest. This one’s good. Really good.
Faced with the challenge of sorting out the messy mythology of the sequels, Green (along with his co-writers, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) doesn’t even try. Although there are references to the others, only the original Halloween is completely canon here, and all of its relevant plot points are recapped in the new Halloween.
That said, it’s still a good idea to (re)watch the 1978 film before going into the 2018 one, because it’ll make the latter all the more satisfying. Green has fun recreating or subverting specific images and sequences from the first film – maybe too much fun, if you were hoping for something more surprising.
The premise is this: 40 years have passed since the first Halloween, and Michael Myers has spent all that time in prison. But he manages to escape just in time for his favorite holiday, and naturally he goes after Laurie Strode, the girl who survived his last killing spree. She, in turn, has spent the past 40 years waiting and preparing for just this occasion.
In that time, Michael’s notoriety has only grown. People are fascinated by this silent enigma, for all sorts of foolish reasons. Is he capable of rehabilitation, or is he an incorrigible force of pure evil? What might he say if he ever spoke? What’s going on in his head? What’s it like to be in his head?
Far less curiosity is reserved for the psychology of his sole survivor, Laurie, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s never forgotten the trauma she suffered that night – to the frustration of everyone around her, including her own daughter (Judy Greer, finally getting put to good use on the big screen). “Get over it,” more than one character tells her over the course of the movie.
That Michael and Laurie will reunite for a rematch is a given. But Halloween has plenty of fun on the way there, too. There are kills aplenty, and Green has a good sense for how much is too much. He knows exactly what to show to creep you the fuck out, without crossing the line into full-on torture porn territory. The spine-tingling new score by John Carpenter helps a lot, too.
When it’s not being scary, Halloween is quite funny. Some of its jokes are of the wink, nudge, self-referential Scream variety, but the most delightful beats come from ordinary exchanges between ordinary Haddonfield citizens. (Or, in at least one case, between an ordinary Haddonfield citizen and someone else they think is an ordinary Haddonfield citizen.) A babysitter and her favorite charge rib each other about each other’s awfulness; two cops bicker about banh mi sandwiches.
Green’s Haddonfield is populated with characters who actually have personalities and lives… which makes it all the more horrifying when they’re killed off in brutal fashion. It’s not a town anyone should want to live in. But Halloween makes an excellent case for Haddonfield as a town worth revisiting.