The wait is finally over. Nearly 40 years after John Carpenter’s original Halloween terrified audiences, Blumhouse Productions has released their long-awaited sequel. Based on a screenplay by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, and David Gordon Green, Halloween 2018 has posed itself as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s film. Every other sequel in the series is being ignored. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode. Even John Carpenter has given the sequel his full blessing, serving as Executive Producer and composing a brand new score.
To date, director David Gordon Green is mostly known for comedy having directed episodes of Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, as well as stoner comedy, Pineapple Express. Despite Green and McBride’s lack of genre credentials, the recent successes of Jordan Peele and John Krasinski in horror should inspire hope. Certainly, the promotional material has been promising. It also doesn’t hurts that reviews have been glowing.
Forty years have passed since Michael Myers terrorized Laurie Strode on Halloween night. After he was apprehended, Myers was returned to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, where he has remained under the care of Dr. Sartain. Since that night, Laurie has become a recluse, living in isolation and estranged from her daughter and granddaughter. When two investigative journalists attempt to interview Myers, they trigger something in him. During a late-night bus transfer, Myers escapes setting in motion an inevitable showdown with Laurie Strode.
Halloween 2018 Blends Genuine Scares with Shocking Violence
Halloween is a genuinely scary movie that feels like a continuation of the original rather than a rehash. Similar to John Carpenter’s classic, David Gordon Green keeps the first half of his sequel immersed in atmosphere. The cold open in Smith’s Grove is a creepy bit that sees its tension slowly dialed up before the title credits hit the screen. Though there are a few jump scares, Green allows them to naturally develop instead of forcing them with loud sounds or jarring editing. Most of the scares come from unbearably tense set-ups. Laurie hunting ‘The Shape’ in a dark room filled with mannequins is a definite white-knuckle scene. An earlier scene sees Green using motion-sensor lights to deliver one of the movie’s best jolts.
This isn’t the cartoonish violence that has characterized the Friday the 13th series. Halloween’s violence is raw and shocking…
Where Halloween diverges from the 1978 movie is its violence. This sequel has a much higher body count and more graphic violence than Carpenter’s movie. To some extent, Green seems to borrow a little from Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies. But this isn’t the cartoonish violence characteristic of the Friday the 13th series. Halloween’s violence is raw and shocking – it punctuates each moment in which it happens. Bodies are draped over wrought-iron fences, heads are smashed, and necks snapped. Where Green separates his violence from Zombie’s much nastier Halloween movies is that he never lingers on it. His violence is shocking, but never feels gratuitous.
The Shape is Back
Some of Halloween’s success is due in no small part to an understanding of what made Michael Myers scary in the first place. McBride, Fradley, and Green’s screenplay wisely cast Myers as ‘The Shape’, emphasizing the character as more ‘force of nature’. Following Myers’ escape, we’re treated to an early rampage that’s more killing spree than targeted stalking. Like a storm that tears down some houses while leaving others untouched, ‘The Shape’ randomly targets homes. It’s an unsettling aspect of the movie that makes Michael Myers downright scary again. And ‘The Shape’ is brutally merciless in this sequel. No characters are safe.
Though Green doesn’t waste time recycling how Carpenter used ‘The Shape’, we get some fun call-backs to the original along with a few clever inversions. This time it’s Michael who’s confused after knocking Laurie off of balcony only to find her body missing. Dr. Sartain, the ‘ new Loomis’ is more anti-Loomis. Even the opening credit sequence is a playful flip on the original. This sequel also benefits from the comedy credentials of its creators. A few laughs are dropped here and there, lightening some of the tension, if only briefly.
Forget ‘The Final Girl’, This Laurie Strode is a Survivor
Simply put, Jamie Lee Curtis gives a stunning performance in Halloween. She’s helped by a screenplay that affords Laurie Strode a deeper character arc than previous sequels. But Curtis infuses Laurie with a raw mix of anger, fear, paranoia, and sadness. As Laurie’s adult daughter, Karen, theunderrated Judy Greer turns in a subtle but no less affecting performance. She’s also been scarred by Laurie’s encounter with ‘The Shape’. Relative newcomer Andi Matichak shines with screen time as well.
Forget ‘The Final Girl’ of 1980’s horror.
In between the carnage and scares, Halloween is an examination of the multigenerational effects of trauma. It’s this aspect of the movie that allows it to stand out from the more generic slasher sequels. Forget ‘The Final Girl’ of 1980’s horror. There’s something very refreshing about watching three generations of Strode women team up against ‘The Shape’ in a climatic smackdown.
Not everything works in the sequel. Green struggles a little with more action-oriented moments. He shoots some of these scenes in a frenetically-edited manner, making it difficult sometimes to see what’s happening. Fortunately, these moments are few and far between. A subplot with the ‘new Loomis’, Dr. Sartain, never seems to belong in the movie. Instead it feels like a convoluted device to bring Laurie and Michael Myers together again. But these are just minor quibbles.
Halloween 2018 Is Head and Shoulders Above The Sequels
If Halloween falls short of John Carpenter’s masterpiece, it’s not for a lack of trying. Green and company have put together what is easily the best sequel in the series. The movie absolutely justifies the decision to ignore everything else that followed the 1978 Halloween. Most importantly, fans have a genuinely scary and shocking movie that stands firmly on its own two feet. This sequel balances bits of homage with its own direction and vision.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A+