There are few films as pure in their genre as Halloween. Of course, John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 classic essentially birthed the slasher genre, but even so, few blood-soaked later efforts would reach the undistilled horror peaks of their progenitor. This is especially true for the myriad overwrought sequels and reboot attempts of Halloween itself that followed, which is why director/writer David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride have sagely chosen to completely ignore them. But Halloween (that’s the new 2018 movie), stands as a direct follow-up to Carpenter’s original not just in terms of its “40 years later” narrative check-in, but also in its (pun fully intended) bloody good execution.

Acting as both soft remake and sequel, Green and McBride’s effort is littered with homages (not to mention reusing that iconic original score) to the events of four decades ago when Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode ended up as the sole survivor of “pure evil” mass murderer Michael Myers’ Halloween night killing spree. With the exception of some newly added in humourous beats – which I felt completely appropriate given the horrifically absurd conditions these types of films always lean on – there’s no reinvention of the wheel here. There’s no post-modern winking, no meta-commentary and definitely no unnecessary escalation of scope just to be edgy.

This is simply pure retro slasher throwback goodness, but Gordon and McBride know how to play up that familiarity and then upend expectations. This is why when Michael escapes again from the sanitarium where he has been held since his murderous rampage while being transported once more by an obsessive psychiatrist, it’s a potent echo of his first breakout, right down to the murdered mechanic to get his boilersuit. But this time around, there’s no hapless teenage girl on the stabby receiving end of his psychotic obsessions (well, there is, but not the one you think). This older, grizzled Laurie Strode has instead spent the last 40 years preparing both mentally and physically for this exact event, waiting on Myers to get free so that she can finally end him herself once and for all.

Curtis’ Laurie is all frazzled hair and intense eyes as her preparations have taken their toll, leaving her life one of failed marriages, post-traumatic breakdowns, and social shunning to her fortress-like home. It’s also destroyed her relationship with her daughter Karen (the always reliable Judy Greer), who she had forcefully trained from a young age, leaving Karen’s teenage daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak in a plucky turn) as the only family still willing to give her a chance.

However, Laurie’s doomsday prep is proven correct as Michael soon starts cutting a very, very bloody swath through Haddonfield again on Halloween night, with Green’s camera never shying away from showing it all to us in grotesque fashion. These bursts of violence also give the filmmakers the opportunity for some further Carpenter reverence by drawing inspiration from some of the original’s most iconic kills. Like they do with the story though, there’s just enough of a twist on affairs to keep it fresh and the audience guessing, the frequent action playing out in some cool unexpected ways. This is a butcher knife’s edge balancing act though, and it’s a massive compliment to the duo’s consummate filmmaking skills that it’s all still so spine-chillingly effective despite the familiarity and not because of it.

A lot of that comes from the constant air of foreboding cultivated from Michael himself. Green and McBride recruited original actor Nick Castle to reprise the role again, and with James Jude Courtney standing in for the 71-year old veteran in the more physical scenes, their portrayal of “The Shape” has lost none of its intensity. The character of Michael Myers is a near-mythical force of destruction, creating white-knuckled terror with every seemingly unstoppable, ominous step, and this new Halloween knows exactly how to play that up to the most devastating effect, wisely ripping out some of the clumsy convoluted humanizing later sequels had attempted along the way.

Instead, it’s Curtis who is given all the character development here. The original Halloween, much like many slasher films, was criticized for how its female characters were mainly portrayed as either shrieking knife-fodder or frightened survivors who only outlasted their attackers through blind luck or male intervention. In this latest film though, it’s the ladies who are the take-charge heroes here, led by a complex and believable character like Curtis’ Laurie. Andi Matichak’s Allyson does get the trope-ish role of the pursued teenage girl making laughably poor survival choices, but even she manages to make the most of it.

Much like her character, there’s a lot that could have gone wrong with Halloween 2018. It’s Green and McBride’s bullish insistence of back-to-basics filmmaking though, recognizing that the very first real slasher film was already the perfect template to follow, that leaves this film the thrilling success it is. It has some issues, like the aforementioned forehead-slapping tropes (which is admittedly part of that template), but this is still by far the best sequel/remake in the entire Halloween franchise. Like its star murderer is so fond of doing, this franchise has shrugged off all the seemingly lethal damage done to it, and risen up once more.

Last Updated: October 19, 2018

Mixing a bloody faithful (pun fully intended) adherence to the still incredibly effective old-school slasher basics of John Carpenter's 1978 original with a streak of post-modern levity, director/writer David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride's delivers not just the best sequel in this sprawling franchise, wildly succeeding where decades worth of increasingly clumsy (and now defunct) sequels faltered, but also just a damn good time at the cinema.
67/ 100

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