Halloween is a franchise that represents one of the pillars of the modern era of horror films. Introducing us to the William Shatner mask-wearing Michael Myers, it laid the groundwork that would later bring us the likes of Jason and Freddie. Like the other series, while the originals continue to be lauded as touchstone classics of their time and required viewing for all new fans of the horror genre. Unfortunately another thing that is often common across all of them – their sequels tend to range from alright to utter crap. The nine Halloween sequels which have since come along fall far further towards the latter end of that spectrum, until now.
Written and directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, picks up as a direct sequel to the original, ignoring all of the later installments entirely. Doing so lets them reset the various side storylines that had arisen over the intervening 40 years and now Michael has been in a mental institution ever since the original film and Laurie has spent her life in fear of again facing him. She’s been severely impacted by what happened and the story ends up as much about how the emotional damage suffered by a victim can have far ranging effects on the people around them.
To be sure, Halloween isn’t perfect, it’s opening 30 minutes is a bit ponderous as it deep dives into Laurie’s own personal demons and her relationships with her extended family. The opening scene where serial killer chasers Aaron Korey (played by Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (played by Rhian Rees) go to visit Michael to try to get him to talk about the murders (he hasn’t spoken a word in the four decades since his capture). When he pulls out the mask and tries to compel him to respond it’s a bit overplayed, but then it hard cuts to the opening title card and the iconic music starts and the sequence even ties back to the original jack-o-lantern.
It’s not until Michael and a dozen other high-risk patients are being transferred to another facility and the bus crashes that things kick into high gear and from that point to the end of the film, it’s about as good of a sequel to a classic slasher film as we’re likely to get. There’s some throwback scenes to the original, including a single long take sequence going through a house that is still as well choreographed today as it was in 1978.
Curtis is amazing as Laurie and she brings the strength of a woman not about to be victimized again and this time she’s ready – she’s been getting ready ever since, and so is the audience. There’s solid tension and suspense, though not much in the way of jump scares; we know this boogyman, we know when the monster is under the bed – but that doesn’t keep us from dreading it all the same.
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