The original Halloween is barred none the best of the slasher genre. It is a simple story, a young boy kills his sister and is put in a mental institution, 16 years later he breaks out and goes on a rampage murdering people on Halloween. Michael Myers is terrifying in a way that Jason or Freddy isn’t. He feels more “realistic” in his behaviors in the first movie. Michael is just an unstoppable force of death who Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) runs in to. All of the sequels to Halloween try too hard to explain things or add significance. Sure, there are some fun entries that with the right amount of inebriation are quick fun. But ultimately they all abandon what was so great about the first, its simplicity. Halloween, 2018, erases all of the sequels in just 3-4 lines of dialogue and goes right back to the roots of what made the original such a groundbreaking horror film.
We pick up 40 years after the events of the first film. Laurie Strode’s granddaughter and mother still reside in Haddonfield, IL for some reason. Laurie herself lives just outside town in what can only be described as a doomsday prepper’s paradise for people scared of 6’4 murderous psychopaths. Meanwhile, two British podcasters who do a true crime podcast have been investigating the murders from 1978 as their new topic arrives at the mental facility holding Michael. They interview Michael’s new doctor who Laurie hilariously asks later in the film, “So you’re the new Loomis?” and learn Michael hasn’t uttered a word since 1978. They attempt to provoke him with the mask but he doesn’t budge. Now, these movies couldn’t occur without some silly stuff so of course, Michael is being transported on October 30th and obviously escapes.
From the escape on the movie flies in a really good way. Michael randomly murdering people in their homes is one of the best sequences in horror in recent memory and just highlights the wrong place/wrong time formula that makes Michael Myers the scariest. Laurie has been waiting and prepping for Michael to escape so that she can personally kill him and once she learns he is out she goes on the offensive. This was a fantastic flip of the narrative to me. While Michael hunts random people, Laurie hunts Michael. Laurie is someone who is truly damaged at this point and in a Q&A after the movie Jamie Lee Curtis mentioned that Laurie is a freak. “Remember this happened on Halloween and on November 1st she went back to school with a bandage on her arm and everyone looking at her and talking about her for years.” Jamie Lee Curtis went on to say what drew her to come back to the role was playing the character in a way that makes it obvious she never dealt with the trauma of the 1978 attacks. In today’s world, she would have grief counselors and therapists. Back then she was just sent back to school. Jamie Lee Curtis was really good in this role as the estranged mother/grandmother who wants to protect her family at all costs from a danger only she knows is real.
In most horror movies the setups are usually normal people making really stupid decisions. Of course, this movie has a few “Why would you do that?” moments but it was maybe 2 or 3 instead of most movies which have 9-10. I’d even argue one of the setup moments was by a guy who they established really early doesn’t believe about how dangerous any of this was so his investigation of something was actually in character. The violence is as brutal as you can imagine it could be. Not focusing on gore but the physicality and brutality of Michael’s attacks are pretty intense. The movie also doesn’t rely on jump scares as much as I feared. Many of the scenes were more laced with a complete sense of dread of what you knew would happen.
Halloween also has some truly funny moments for fans and some obvious homages to the first movie that I won’t spoil here but two moments drew applause from the fantastic fest audience. The movie was co-written by Danny McBride and his presence on the panel was felt as many of the questions were directed straight to him. I have no clue how much of the movie’s lighter moments can be attributed to him and David Gordon Green, who directed, but there were some things to break up the tension that didn’t feel out of place. In the Q&A someone asked Danny McBride how he decided in the writing process would be a good time for Michael Myers to get his mask back and McBride essentially deadpanned, “After he beats and murders the journalists and gets the mask from their trunk I thought that was a pretty good time for him to put it back on.”
Overall, this is possibly one of the first truly worthy sequels to a horror movie. It erases the garbage of all the sequels that came before it to return the franchise to its horrifying roots. Jamie Lee Curtis kicks ass all over the screen. Judy Greer has a fully realized arc that makes sense and gets a badass moment. Newcomer Andi Matichak who plays Laurie’s granddaughter turns in a good performance too and I’m interested to see what she does going forward. If you liked the first Halloween you’ll love this one. It is a great throwback to the style of that film with some modern sensibility to put it over the top.