After decades of sequels and reboots of varying quality, the horror of Michael Meyers is finally back.
Halloween starts off on a chilling note. Two investigative journalists (Jefferson Hall & Rhian Rees) arrive at a mental health facility in an attempt to interview the infamous serial killer Michael Meyers before he gets transferred to a more secure location. As they implore him to speak, he just stands there- silent, motionless. The wails of the other mental patients built to a disturbing crescendo, exploding into the classic John Carpenter theme. Just like that, we’re back.
Director David Gordon Green ignores all of the mythology added since the 1978 original, giving this film a sense of being a true sequel. Everything we loved about the original is back: the mystery of Michael Meyers, the foreboding atmosphere of Haddonfield, Illinois, and, of course, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Green, however, is not doing a semi-remake of Carpenter’s film. Instead, he brings the story of Halloween into the modern era with gusto.
The most immediate update is the scares themselves. Although the kills in Meyers’s debuts are classic, it takes a lot more than stalking in the shadows with the occasional stab to terrify audiences nowadays. Green and cinematographer Michael Simmonds take this note to heart, updating their technique to get the most out of their central killer. Michael is portrayed as a force of nature, delivering absolutely brutal kills that keep getting more demented to no diminishing returns.
In a sequence following Michael’s initial return to Haddonfield, the camera tracks his rampage through a random suburban home. The audience is locked in with Michael, unable to do anything other than watch the carnage unfold. It makes one feel helpless, almost like the victims of the terror ourselves.
More subtle, though marginally more important, is the updated narrative. There’s a much bigger helping of humor this time around, with quite a few gags to remind us that this is, indeed, a movie and we’re allowed to have fun. It helps to have some levity, because screenwriters Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride do something few horror sequels have done: examining the trauma of the previous films’ survivors. Michael Meyers’s return is used as a lightning rod for an in-depth examination of three generations of Strode women: Allyson (Andi Matichak), her mother Karen (Judy Greer), and Laurie herself.
Jamie Lee Curtis pours her all into this role. In the 40 years following, Laurie is not the same character. She’s been preparing for Michael’s return, even going so far as to be forcibly separated from Karen by Child Protective Services for roping her into her paranoid lifestyle. She carries with her a fierce determination, as well as a deep pain, where Greer’s Karen throws back resentment. Allyson, meanwhile, just wants to have a good relationship with her mother and her grandmother.
The Strodes nearly carry this film, but there’s a lot added by Nick Castle & James Jude Courtney’s combined performance as Michael Meyers. These four (or five), particularly in a mesmerizing climax set in Laurie’s compound, are the heart of Halloween, give a raw, beating heart to what could’ve been a cold slasher film. This is no fish-in-a-barrel situation; this is the Bogeyman vs. three resilient, badass women who are set on making him pay. Seeing them battle Michael is emotional, cathartic even, and that’s a feeling you just don’t get in scary movies any more.
Halloween is a celebration of not only what made the original so great, it’s a celebration of everything that makes horror so great, boldly pushing the genre forward by daring to embrace new themes.