It's been nearly a decade since we last saw Michael Myers grace the silver screen, and quite a bit longer since the Halloween franchise has felt relevant in the horror landscape. But Blumhouse has stepped up to try and breathe new life into the scary series for modern audiences. It turns out, that vacation did old Michael some good, as this is a crowd-pleasing and inventive entry in the series that deals in both the nostalgically familiar and inventively refreshing. Michael Myers is back and it seems right for the first time in a very long time.
Halloween 2018, which recently screened at Fantastic Fest, picks up forty years after the infamous events that took place in 1978 when Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) narrowly escaped with her life after her encounter with the deranged masked serial killer Michael Myers. A team of investigative journalists decide to dig deep into the case and venture to Haddonfield on the eve of the 40th anniversary of these tragics events. Meanwhile, Laurie has spent the last four decades preparing for Michael's inevitable escape, at great cost to her personal life. Her reclusive nature and lingering trauma have strained her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who is trying to keep her own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) away from her grandmother. Unfortunately, Laurie's worst fears are realized and Michael once again manages to get free and he's got four decades worth of bloodlust to get out of his system. The Strode family will have to come together in order to survive the night, leading to a long-awaited rematch between Laurie and Michael.
Director David Gordon Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, had a ridiculously unenviable task and it's hard to imagine anyone could have done much better. This is the first time since the original that another Michael Myers killing spree hasn't felt totally obligatory. While there are plenty of familiar elements in play, this movie makes bold choices. It takes interesting chances. It asks poignant questions. And damned if it isn't genuinely funny at times. This is anything but a by-the-numbers slasher sequel. Is it flawless? By no means. But it's no less effective.
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This movie throws out all of the sequels in favor of going the direct sequel route. That may seem like a cheat or a big F you in some ways on the surface, but on the contrary, it's a decision that was clearly made by people who have tremendous respect and love for the franchise. Green and his team wanted to tell the best story they could in this sandbox and, had they been hitched to the previously established continuity, it would have been incredibly limiting. Instead, they gave us something that feels like a worthy successor to John Carpenter's original, while managing to stand on its own two feet.
Though this movie has its own unique voice, that of David Gordon Green's, there's no doubt about that, it has John Carpenter's DNA and fingerprints all over it. His presence is felt deeply. It certainly doesn't hurt that Carpenter returned to compose the score, just as he did for the original, which is truly fantastic and helps make this entry feel like a true companion piece, even if it is separated by 40 years worth of time and a whole lot of iffy sequels.
Part of what makes this particular sequel work so well is that it actually dives deep into the character of Laurie Strode, played brilliantly by the returning Jamie Lee Curtis, in a way that feels honest and real. Of course someone who went through what she went through would have serious, lasting trauma. And seeing the effect that had on her entire life is deeply interesting. It's the kind of thing nobody even got close to accomplishing in any of the previous sequels. Plus, the addition of Judy Greer and Andi Matichak of Laurie's daughter and granddaughter respectively are both welcome. If there's a torch that must be passed down the road, it will be in good hands.
Michael Myers, as portrayed by James Jude Courtney (with the help of original actor Nick Castle) has almost never felt, nor has he looked, scarier. The man, if indeed he is a man, is an unreasonable, mysterious killing machine. Green does a great job of playing up the mystery element. But unlike in so many of the sequels, Myers isn't portrayed as some invincible supernatural being. That makes him all the more chilling. When a force this terrifying feels like it could exist in the real world, it's far more impactful.
The new Halloween is scary, entertaining, refreshing and comfortably familiar. Some horror fans are probably going to leave the theater doing cartwheels and shouting from rooftops. Others will simply be pleased on a more surface level. This much I am fairly certain; virtually every fan of this franchise should leave feeling satisfied. Blumhouse has successfully raised the dead with this one.