At this point, the Halloween franchise doesn’t just need any old sequel. The franchise has gone through several sequels all to varying quality. None of them come close to being able to be mentioned in the same sentence as the original film, even at their best. The Rob Zombie films have their moments, and I believe done with the best intentions, but those movies don’t measure up to the original either. The legend and the terrifying nature of Michael Myers, the Shape, has been lost over time.
Halloween is one of the most beloved stories (and properties) another film was bound to be made one way or another. In retrospect, David Gordan Green’s approach to Halloween seems like the only way to approach this sequel. Stripping away the convoluted mythology of Halloween sequels and reexamines what made Halloween scary in the first place. David Gordan Green’s Halloween is not only a return to form for the series, but it is a thoughtful examination of trauma and the nature of evil. This Halloween is a thrilling and at times scary feature film.
David Gordan Green and Danny McBride’s screenplay is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. This ignores all sequels, reboots, and remakes (including Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II) and even ignores the most well-known twist in the series, Laure and Michael, brother and sister. Michael is imprisoned at a mental institution. A group of investigative journalists go and try to speak for Michael. Laure has spent the last 40 years preparing and waiting for Michael to escape. She has built her house into a fortress but in the process is estranged from her daughter and granddaughter. Soon her worst fears come true, and Michael Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield on Halloween night.
Halloween (2018) strikes a balance between nostalgia and love for the franchise and modernizing the action. Halloween fans will recognize a lot of the nods to other sequels in the franchise (despite the retcon). It is almost as if David Gordan Green watched the entire series and picked out his favorite moments and said to himself, “I can do better.” So in that regard Halloween threads familiar ground. Some might be baffled because the impression going into this movie was this wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes of the sequels. Rest assured it doesn’t. Threading on familiar ground isn’t the same as repeating the same mistakes. Green proves that he can be an expert craftsman at designing horror sequences. Even when you might sit back and go, “I’ve seen this before,” you will also say, “I haven’t seen this done this well in a long time.”
There lies the genius of Danny McBride and David Gordan Green’s approach to the sequel this movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. I’ve said before there is some merit to Rob Zombie’s Halloween sequels, but some could make the argument that his sequel tried to reinvent the wheel too much. McBride and Green try to bring the series back to its roots while still keeping it modern. Halloween ’18 is the Creed of the Halloween franchise. It has that love of the franchise and isn’t afraid to homage the past but brings a modern filmmaking technique.
There are some incredible scare sequences in this movie. Green utilizes every trick he has to bring them to fruition. Tracking shots, well-timed jump scares, using light and shadow, methodical suspense and brutal kills are all utilized by Green to significant effect. Green constructs this movie like a moving freight train. It builds and builds speed until we finally reach the third act which is among the most satisfying third acts I have seen since Mission Impossible: Fallout.
The third act is, of course, the moment that Laurie and Michael come face to face with each other. The fight sequences are brutal and made my fill with butterflies. I was moving to the edge of my feet as these two titans of the horror genre came to brawl. The most interesting aspect of the movie is where Laurie is in her life. Laurie has carried the trauma of the past with her and never was able to move on from her encounter with Michael. Her trauma has led to the estrangement of her family. Her daughter (played by Judy Greer) is also trying to shake off the trauma that Laurie has projected onto her. It is interesting to see the Halloween franchise play around with the idea of what someone who carries around trauma for years does to both themselves and the people around them.
At the heart of this movie is the duel examination of both Laurie and Michael. From Laurie, it is the examination of trauma, and from Michael, it is the examination of evil. There are those that seek to understand Michael throughout the movie and but increasingly find they can’t. One of the things that the sequels to Halloween did was undercut “The Shape’s” evil menace. Watching the first movie on its own, you are left with the thought that Michael Myers is the boogeyman who will kill at random. With almost every sequel that mystery is stripped away by adding backstory and more mythology. Here Green takes an almost Wes Craven approach by directly commenting on the sequels by using both the podcasters and Michael’s new doctor as a way to critique that approach. You can’t understand the evil of Michael Myers, and that’s what makes him scary.
That was the biggest job of the newest Halloween movie was to make Michael Myers scary again. Myers has always been a great character of horror, but after Halloween Resurrection, it is hard to feel the real horror of the character still. Here Green makes Michael scary by turning him into the boogeyman again, the Shape. Myers stalks and brutally kills his opponents. Some of the kills are off-screen, but we are still treated to their brutal aftermath. Green saves the worst death mostly towards the end of the movie. While I don’t think this movie is as nasty as Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake this is none the less a brutal film.
Compounding the horror is John Carpenter returning to score the film (along with his son Cody and Daniel Davis). I said in my review for the original Halloween that the score was the lifeblood of that 1978 film. The same is true with Green’s Halloween. The music compounds the horror of what you are watching and single handly ratches up the tension. There are specific music cues that made my blood boil.
Is Halloween a perfect movie? No, it isn’t. Halloween ’18 does trend on familiar ground, but there are one too many cliches that Green repeats that could have been avoided. There is some good humor in the movie, but there is one scene where the humor undercuts the horror. The beginning of the film is also very exposition heavy, and some of it is handled in a very clunky manner (especially when Judy Greer recounts her past). However, that exposition does improve as the film continues.
Despite that, I could not be more happy with this movie. I came out of the theater with a massive smile on my face, and it is a horror movie that recounts the fun that a horror movie can bring. David Gordan Green’s Halloween is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in a theater all year. Halloween ’18 is thrilling, scary, and has some nail-biting and intense moments. The reexamination of evil and what makes Michael Myers scary works in liberating ways. Jamie Lee Curtis crushes it in a great performance, and John Carpenter’s score hasn’t sounded this good since the 1980s. A few minor exposition issues aside this is a strong return to form for the series that pays respect for what came before while also not being afraid to throw a small little twist here and there. This is the Halloween sequel the franchise deserves and the gamble of retconning all the original sequels pays off. In some respects, this feels like the perfect ending for the franchise, and if it is, I would be thrilled with it.