“Simple and classic” seems to be the rule when reviving beloved horror of late. While this could be interpreted as a lack of ideas, this isn’t the case with Halloween (2018). Director David Gordon Green, with co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, utilise the characteristics of Carpenter’s original and enrich the main character with incredible, fresh complexity. Halloween seizes the spirit of the 1978 film like none of the previous sequels have accomplished. Even with forty years of fresh retrospect on their side, none of this could have been achieved without the film-makers’ love for, and understanding of, the original Halloween, and franchise.
Two British “investigative journalists” Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Rhian Rees (Dana Haines) travel to the Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Facility to meet incarcerated psycho killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle), and conduct research for a planned podcast on the 1978 Haddonfield murders. The journalists then track down and interview key survivor Laurie Strode who, since the killings, has lived a sheltered, fearful existence in a fortress of her own making and prays for the day Michael escapes/is released, so she can kill him. Fortunately (for Laurie), when a vehicle transferring Myers to another facility crashes, the killer returns to Haddonfield on Halloween night to hunt Laurie down and hopefully, finally kill her.
It’s been nearly a decade since Michael Myers has stalked the silver screen (in Rob Zombie’s underrated Halloween 2). Instead of opting to re-subvert the slasher subgenre (Scream style), Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride disregard earlier sequels and keep theirs simple (and classic), adhering to a similar plot structure to Carpenter’s original. Their creative ingenuity and key to their film’s success, lies in the reconstruction of Laurie Strode, who was previously murdered in the opening of Halloween: Resurrection, but has been reassembled as a traumatised assassin/ nan. Strode is brilliantly brought back to life by Jamie Lee Curtis in her most fascinating incarnation and, along with John Carpenter’s new/revamped score, provides the beating heart behind Halloween (2018).
While spending the past forty years training to be a perfect killer, Laurie has inadvertently hindered her ability to connect with daughter Karen (Judy Greer), despite bonding well with understanding granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). On the surface, “there’s nothing new to learn. No new incites or discussions”, but Laurie’s collapse at a family gathering reveals a deep, engrained fear/hatred making it impossible for her to find peace. Meanwhile, Myers is his usual quietly unhinged, unresponsive self: Laurie’s polar opposite. While Laurie battles to processes old trauma, Michael feels nothing other than “pure evil”. It is rare for such brilliantly performed, diverse characters to front a horror franchise. They are perfect opponents in different, private hells, but there is also fun to be had surrounding the existential unscrambling/massacre.
Given their comedy backgrounds, writers McBride and Gordon Green brighten up the darkness with incredible humour, providing welcome light relief in the midst of murderous mayhem. The plot, direction and production design are the stuff of a franchise fan’s dream and derive from a seeming need to satisfy lovers of Carpenter’s original instead of finding new audiences. John Carpenter, Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter’s score strengthens the thumps and cadence of the original, producing a perfect pulse for the plot pace/ suspense. They don’t just throw down a time-suited backbeat then do one with the pay cheque, but shape a pulsating soundscape, using sound effects/notes and motifs from the original as tools to take us back there.
Halloween is thrilling, suspenseful fun thanks to a nifty script with cracking twists, weaving superb humour to counteract the killings/ psychosis, and incredible performances. It’s an honourable sequel that miraculously captures the magic of Carpenter’s classic, while the horror master’s revamped score provides the pulse-bounding heartbeat. The story might not be novel and the frights not quite as sharp (although the sight of a knife grasping Myers walking slowly towards a crying baby in its cot is powerful), but Green’s film is hugely enjoyable. Jamie Lee Curtis does something no other performer has; double backing then reassembling a character from the past into a whole new creation, who is also one of the greatest, timeless slasher protagonists, and the key to Halloween’s triumph.