It is not an envious position to try and revive a franchise like Halloween. Fans of the series are very passionate, and they haven’t exactly been treated with the proper respect over the years. Sequel after sequel came and went with Michael Myers history and lore becoming more and more convoluted and bastardized. After the second Rob Zombie film, most rightly assumed that was it. No more Michael on the big screen. Maybe that was ok, when a franchise kicks off with a masterpiece like John Carpenter‘s original, it cannot and will not be topped.
But then the rumors start. Oh, they are bringing Michael back in 3D! Halloween Returns is happening! Fans get excited, but the doubt creeps in. Remember how excited we all got by the Zombie announcement? While those films have their fans, the consensus is that they are bad. Then, the unthinkable happens: Carpenter himself announces that they are doing a new film, and he is involved. Then they hire inspired choices like David Gordon Green and Danny McBride to steer the ship. And Jamie Lee Curtis is back. Blumhouse is involved. The first trailer is great.
With all the momentum in the world, Halloween hits theaters this weekend. It has been 40 years since the events of the original. Michael has been locked up at Smith’s Grove since, and Laurie Strode has been preparing for his inevitable return. Just when her daughter and granddaughter (Judy Greer and Andi Matichak) finally swing her around to trying to let go of the past, her worst nightmare is realized as Michael escapes and returns to terrorize Haddonfield once more.
That’s the basic set-up, and thankfully there is not much more to it than that. Ignoring all of the other entries in the franchise was the best decision they could have ever made. While the films will always hold a special place in our hearts, the continuity and events were a mess. One of the things this film does right is take everything back to square one. Michael kills people, Laurie tries to stop him. There are layers to this of course, but that is all this film needed to be.
Michael is ruthless and terrifying. Sorry, but to quote Busta Rhymes in Resurrection, he is a shark. Thats a very good way of describing him here, moving from place to place and ripping it to pieces and moving on to the next. This is the most cunning and vicious version of Michael we have seen, and also I would argue the one we root against the hardest. By making him more terrifying, we are not inclined to root for him over faceless teenagers and underdeveloped characters.
Jamie Lee Curtis makes rooting against Michael easy. She has always been such a gifted actress, and here she does such a fantastic job portraying trauma in many different ways. Paranoia, depression, and even excitement and joy. Watching her go full Linda Hamilton is exhilarating. That experience has informed every moment of her life since it happened, and her daughter bore the brunt of it. The relationship between the three generations of Strode women is one of the major high points. It takes awhile to get there, but whenever they are onscreen together magic follows. A lot of that has to do with David Gordon Green and his deft directing hand. The script also allows for some humor, be on the look out for a little star in the making during the bedroom scene.
Even the faults get a pass. There is a twist involving a character that is telegraphed from their intro, but the moment it happens it is so jarring that it takes you out of the film. It is explained well in the next scene, but that moment ruins a little of the tension that they have been building up. Carpenter’s score is brilliant, but there are a couple spots where it does not feel right. The scene calls for less bombast, and that is certainly not what you get with scorching guitars and synths. As with any horror film, there are throw-away characters as well, but thats ok.
That we got the worthy successor to the original Halloween is all that matters. They can go many different directions here, and judging by the early response and box office predictions, we are going to get more. If we never see Michael or Laurie on screen again for whatever reason that would be ok. We have exorcised the demons of franchise past. This fun, scary, and smart film will only get better with age and repeat viewings. And that is all we fans have been asking for.
Halloween (2018) opens in theaters on October 19th.