In hindsight, launching a definitive sequel to 1978’s classic John Carpenter horror film, ‘Halloween’, as it celebrates its 40th(?!) anniversary, is a no-brainer. What isn’t is uber-horror-producer Jason Blum’s ability to get notoriously cantankerous Carpenter’s blessing, match the IP with unlikely filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, disavow decades of sequels and re-imaginings, and most of all, get Jamie Lee Curtis back involved (and starring!) after famously separating herself from the franchise for good almost two decades ago. Even more surprising is that the end product, while making no apologies for being what it is, succeeds as a complete work, a sequel to not only the original film, but a referendum on slasher movies in general, and just like the bevy of Strode women at the movie’s core, claims the horror sub-genre back for audiences.
Long time fans may lament the jettison of Michael Meyer’s convoluted backstory, and there are supporters of Rob Zombie’s now defunct ‘re-imagining’ of the characters over a decade ago, but writer/director Green and his writing partners (including comedic actor Danny McBride of ‘Eastbound and Down’ fame), aren’t interested in any of it. They set this ‘Halloween’ forty years from the events of Carpenter and Debra Hill’s classic, pitting a freshly escaped Michael Meyers against a trauma-scarred yet vengeful Laurie Strode (Curtis doing some amazing work), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer instilling a reasonable frustration to a normally thankless role as the naysayer), and her granddaughter Allyson (a confident introduction by Andi Matichak). While the movie firmly re-establishes the relentless stalking nature of the original Shape, it doesn’t mine in reproducing the quiet menace and techniques that Carpenter employed in the original, except in intentional homages to past scenes (with a twist), making this sequel a somewhat different animal. Wide expansive tracking shots that signal menace are here replaced by excruciating quick cutting close-ups and lingering voyeurism on the damage left in Meyers’ wake, really highlighting the relentless brutality of the serial killer. In one bravura extended sequence that pays tribute to the original film’s iconic opening of a six-year-old Michael spying on and eventually murdering his sister, a sixty-plus year-old Meyers is tracked in one continuous shot moving in and out of homes on Halloween night, brutally dispatching all he comes into contact with.
2018’s ‘Halloween’ is ultimately a gender-flipped stalker tale, where empowered females take back the narrative as a theme throughout, not just in Final Girl mode at the end, as is so prevalent in most slasher pics. While past slasher sequels tend to identify more with the killer than his weak fodder, this movie gleefully exhorts cheers for every principal actress as well as a multi-faceted supporting cast of all ages (seriously, the kids and teens in this are great). Not only are the main characters fully fleshed out and engaging, almost every side character clearly setup as a victim winds up nuanced and sympathetic (well, except for the podcasters (great gag) that unleash the evil through provocation for their own ‘journalistic’ benefit), a true rarity in this horror sub-genre. Whether intentional or not, Green forces the audience to simultaneously revel and be sickened by the violence on screen. Gone is the immature burst of excitement when viewing the creative kills of past slasher exploitation, replaced by a wide-eyed, sweaty-palmed exploration of brutality all in service to an overarching narrative of upending female victimization . . .
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Written By: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, & Jeff Fradley
Running Time: 106 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of four stars) -OR- B+