It took forty years, countless sequels, a reboot, and a sequel to that reboot, but fans of John Carpenter’s seasonal horror classic, Halloween, finally have a sequel worthy of the 1978 original that launched the slasher sub-genre. With his dirty mechanic’s overalls, frozen William Shatner death mask, and a toupee to match, Michael Myers and his knife embodied the boogeyman for generations of horror fans, but each sequel – not counting the in-name-only-sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch –tarnished and diminished the legacy of Carpenter’s one-of-a-kind original. But where there’s Jason Blum and his horror factory, Blumhouse Productions, there’s a way and the way pointed to an unlikely collaboration between indie auteur David Gordon Green (Stronger, Our Brand is Crisis, Joe, Prince Avalanche, George Washington), writer-comedian Danny McBride (Vice Principals, Eastbound & Down), and onetime “scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. The result will go down as a horror classic or near classic in its own right, the perfect, 40-years-in-the-making bookend to Carpenter’s film.
Ditching four decades worth of sequels, not to mention the reboot, and all the mythology, lore, and continuity that implies was a potentially risky choice, but between Green, McBride, and co-writer Jeff Fradley, it was ultimately the best, maybe the only logical decision and still deliver a sequel worthy of its 1978 predecessor. They ditched “final girl” Laurie Strode’s (Curtis) familial connection to Myers. For Myers, she’s not a long-lost sister he wants to kill, but unfinished business, the lone survivor of the massacre he perpetrated forty years earlier. For Strode, her encounter with Myers left her with one of the worst cases of post-traumatic stress disorder ever put on film. She married and divorced twice, lost her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), to child services, and turned her home into a survivalist bunker, complete with an underground panic/safety room and racks of firearms, all of which she’s mastered through years of practice. In short, she’s prepped for Myers, her own personal Doomsday, for decades.
That’s left Laurie estranged from a daughter comfortably living in a suburban safety zone, but it’s also left Laurie’s teenage granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), both estranged and eager to restart a relationship with her grandmother. Karen naturally disapproves, but before long, Myers escapes from a prison bus, leaving a trail of broken bodies in his wake, eager to reconnect with Laurie and complete what he started years earlier. Like Laurie, Myers has aged, showing all the signs of his supposedly human nature (grey skin, white hair), but he’s always straddled the line between the human and the supernatural, repeatedly proving resistant to injury or dying outright. Myers at sixty or sixty plus can be injured, but he’s also just as prone as getting up, slightly hung over, after taking a police car to the mid-section. His slow-and-steady pace – a Carpenter innovation associated with the slasher sub-genre for as long as it lasts – makes Myers all the more terrifying. He’s not in a rush. He never runs when he can walk and he always catches up to his intended target.
While Myers might be the serial killer in the mask moviegoers want to see one, possibly final time, Halloween belongs to Curtis, one of most underused actresses. She delivers a perfectly calibrated performance as Laurie Strode, victim-turned-survivor-turned-survivalist, constantly on high alert, her emotions always at surface-level, with her obsession with Myers’ ultimate demise determining every single action, reaction, and interaction. Even better, Green, McBride, and Fradley wrote Halloween to center not on Myers doing his Myers thing (e.g., slashing, dicing, and slicing his victims in inventive, imaginative ways), but on three generations of Strode women, one fully awake to the threat Myers presents, the others gradually awakening to the horrible, terrifying truth. They each come to that truth separately, but more importantly, together, by choice or by chance, opponents or adversaries equal to the threat Myers presents. That alone is more than enough reason to sit up and applaud Halloween, but it’s just as effective as a straightforward horror film, mixing character work with a suspenseful, tension-filled story where Myers can strike at any time and often does (except when he catches the audience by surprise).
And even when Halloween inevitably slips into callbacks and fan service, it never devolves in homage-for-homage-sake or even worse, fan wankery. The callbacks and references are there for fans to discover and recognize, but they never get in the way of the surprisingly compelling story Green, McBride, and Fradley want to tell, a story involving a near unstoppable, indiscriminate killing machine, the embodiment of pure evil to some (or many), balanced against the women who set out to stop him, until, of course, the inevitable sequel, reboot, or both.