Running Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: 19th October 2018
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
``An above average horror movie and a very good sequel``
John Carpenter’s Halloween casts a very long shadow. It is certainly a masterpiece. A stone cold classic that – for good or bad – singlehandedly invented the slasher movie. But horror is a genre that has continuously adapted to reflect the fears and anxieties of our society. When Carpenter’s Halloween appeared in 1978, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and John Wayne Gacy were occupying headlines and terrifying the population. But cut to present day and we have infinitely scarier things to worry about than random serial killers. Faced with daily acts of terrorism, mass shootings and irreversible climate change, what’s so scary about an old dude breathing heavy in a Captain Kirk mask?
It’s a challenge that’s addressed early in this 11th (yes, really) entry to the long-running franchise when a minor character suggests, “a couple of people getting murdered with a knife is not that big of a deal”. Director and co-writer David Gordon Green has dumped 40 years’ worth of lumpen plot twists, turns and muddled continuity. This Halloween is pitched as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original Halloween. It’s a clever move that no doubt will become increasingly common. It does, however, make the title very confusing.
40 years have passed since the Haddonfield Holloween massacre. Traumatised by the events of that night, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has spent every day since wishing for the return of Michael Myers (Nick Castle), and the possibility of killing him. Laurie’s relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) has suffered as a result, but the bond she shares with her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) is strong. Michael meanwhile is incarcerated at Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Center, but is scheduled to be relocated to a high security asylum. A bus crash en route sees Michael escape. A quick detour to pick up his mask and fresh mechanic’s overalls and Michael is soon back in the old neighbourhood, springing about with the vigour of a serial killer half his age. Not bad for a pensioner that has spent every day chained to a block of concrete, Smith’s Grove must have had one hell of a Pilates programme.
Halloween was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first acting gig, and she has been inescapably linked to the role of Laurie Strode for four decades now. It has often seemed like an unhappy marriage, but the Laurie Strode of 2018 is a huge improvement on how the character has been previously treated. Lee Curtis is certainly aware of the shift, and she really brings it here.
In stark contrast to the original (5 horny teenagers and a dog) the body count here is insane. The gore factor has also been considerably ramped up. Some of it is very clever, and some of it is dumb as a bag of bricks. A late plot twist that is reliant on a bewildering character derailment is disgracefully daft, pointing to unforgivable incompetence on the part of the writers. Elsewhere though, the role reversal between Laurie and Michael – with the predator becoming the prey – is a refreshing take on a tired trope. It’s not overly reliant on jump scares, instead using good old-fashioned lighting, framing and shot compositions for maximum tension. I’m a sucker for the long take, and there’s a three minute-plus tracking shot here that’s a beauty. And then there’s that music. Damn.
Apart from a meaningless executive producer credit, Carpenter’s creative input is limited to a musical score (composed with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies). That majestic piano leitmotif is certainly overused, but if you’re going to overplay a theme, I can’t think of a better one.
The best thing about Halloween is that it hasn’t made matters any worse than they were before. Gordon Green hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. A lot of the beats feel very familiar although the pacing is certainly off in places. The final act, while not offering anything that we haven’t seen before, does at least manage to be memorable. Halloween is an above average horror movie and a very good sequel. If you haven’t bothered with any of the myriad sequels, reboots, retcons and all that gubbins (and why would you?), then this is a very good place to jump back in.