Now this is the franchise sequel we’ve all been waiting for! Why it took 40 years and about a hundred other sequels is anyone’s guess.
A direct sequel to the John Carpenter 1978 original that jettisons any and all attempts to revitalize, remake or rehash the story of Michael Myers, Halloween picks up 40 years after Michael’s first rampage that left many dead and many more scarred for life. After a botched attempt at transferring Michael to a new maximum-security prison leaves The Shape free to murder and maim anyone in the way of his latest October 31stkilling spree, returning character Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) takes it upon herself to batten down the hatches and – after a 40 year prep period – take the fight to Michael. But Laurie hasn’t been the same since that fateful night, so when her PTSD and past family drama with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), threaten to derail her attempts at protecting them once evil finally comes home, Laurie is forced to do her best to push through her past experiences in order to get rid of Michael for good, and hopefully find some peace along the way.
I’m sure we all know how that one pans out.
Premiering so long after the original and nearly a decade after the “meh” second film of the Rob Zombie reboot, this film had everything to prove and pretty much everything to gain as well. Even though I personally didn’t hold my breath for anything remotely as good as the final cut turned out to be, there seemed to be enough going for it that I expected an average watch with a few standout elements to get me through, like a typical slasher film that doesn’t usually go above and beyond the call of murder and mayhem. But, man, did I underestimate how well this one was put together, not just from a sequel standpoint, but from nearly every aspect of what director David Gordon Green, (normally known for his comedic efforts) and co-writer Danny McBride (also known almost exclusively for being a funny man) were going for.
The attention to detail paid to the scripting of this film is what wowed me the most. Sure, the kills are efficient and brutal, the scares tense and clever, and the payoff – once Michael comes home – fantastic, but what really got me more than anything is that its clear that in nearly every frame the filmmakers cared about the legacy of this franchise, cared about the characters, the kills, the wink and nods to past film (including a great score with John Carpenter helping out), the slight humor – all of it – simply because of one reason: the story and the characters were put first and then, like anything else with a solid foundation to start with, everything else fell into place with barely a misstep in between.
Having the original Scream Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, returning as the sole survivor of that first Halloween night is not only a great marketing ploy to pack people into the theater, but an inspired choice in the way that they treat her character. Laurie is broken, traumatized and still on edge from that night, and Curtis, being the strong actress she always has been, is able to excel in her character arc by not only bringing her brutal Halloween experience to the forefront, but showing that she isn’t entirely allowing herself to be the victim this time around. Due to some great scripting for her character both emotionally and mentally, Curtis is able to tap into a part of her character that I never expected to see. All she wants is to be ready for the inevitable, to teach her daughter and granddaughter to be ready at all times, so when her worries and legitimate hang-ups with Michael being transferred out of his original prison come to pass, they’re not taken off guard by the homicidal maniac in the William Shatner mask. But of course, things never go as planned, and what follows is a great, consequence filled ride that ends full circle in regards to Laurie and her family. Really great stuff.
Now I’d be remiss to ignore some of the negative elements of this film, and while I can’t really say much, there are a few issues that pop up throughout that only slightly tarnishes what is already a stellar film. The pacing for one is a pretty big sore thumb from time to time, somewhat derailing the flow of the story and film as a whole, but never becoming super obvious until about the halfway mark where it’s pretty blatant in its stumblings. I don’t know if a handful of scenes were cut or if the filmmakers just needed to skip forward in the story as quickly as possible, but it’s definitely noticeable to a point that I couldn’t follow some of the story beats as clearly as I wanted to, nor allow myself to be fully present in the film when certain scenes just didn’t mesh well back to back. Couple that with a truly bizarre and unnecessary twist in regards to Michael’s psychiatrist. Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), and there’s just enough to complain about to keep this film from being near perfect all around.
A triumph not only for the Halloween franchise but for slasher films in general, Halloween is a great film in more ways than one. The homages paid are careful and respectful, the kills brutal and disturbing, the character work real and written with consequence and above all else, the tone and look of the film is top notch. The addition of a few choice comedic lines doesn’t hurt and when you think about the crappy sequels we’ve had in the past, it’s nearly impossible not to put this one at the top of the list, if not close to it. As usual the franchise has ever so slightly made room for even more sequels, but for now, I have no problem assuming that Michael Myers may not be back next Halloween.