Directed by David Gordon Green.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, James Jude Courtney, and Nick Castle.
Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
The act of restraint comes to mind following the conclusion to this 40 years later direct sequel to John Carpenter’s landmark masterpiece, identically named Halloween. I don’t remember the exact time offhand, but in that original slasher, psychopathic and seemingly invincible serial killer Michael Myers doesn’t actually encounter Jamie Lee Curtis’ teenage babysitter Laurie Strode until the climax, and while I have avoided the marketing for this follow-up to the best of my abilities, it is still surprising that in this modern age of mainstream filmmaking where pacing has to employed at breakneck speed with one money shot moment hopefully topping the next one, director David Gordon Green (who also co-wrote the film with his stoner comedy buddy Danny McBride) has the restraint to make us wait around 80 minutes for the rematch to begin. For reference, that’s over three-quarters of the entire running time.
Reason being is that this is not a phoned-in cash grab, it’s not just for the dough (let’s be realistic, in the wake of Warner Bros. success with remaking Stephen King’s It, the owners of this property couldn’t resist trying to re-create that same nostalgic magic with the goal of yielding mountains of green), and Jamie Lee Curtis most definitely did not reprise this career-defining role once again for an easy payday. And while mileage may vary from person to person due to bluntness, filmmakers and all involved have something relevant to say about the #MeToo era. No way in hell am I going to spoil it, but the rousing finale is beyond brilliant both for its fully realized levels of excitement and loaded tension, and successfully making through on what the film wants to say thematically. Even as I write this, it does sound flat-out bizarre talking about a Hollywood slasher film containing substance and emotional resonance, but that’s what this team has accomplished.
It has been 40 years since Michael Myers (Nick Castle also returning to the role of The Shape for the first time since the original) tore through Haddonfield, Illinois taking five lives, who has now spent that significant chunk of his life locked away. He’s been evaluated psychologically throughout the decades, never once speaking a word. Meanwhile, Laurie is presented as a cross between action heroine and basketcase grandma, who likely never stopped going to school after that traumatizing night but clearly was never able to move on. By all accounts, she is a victim, and that pain has spread through two more generations of her bloodline, as from two divorces she has an estranged daughter played by Judy Greer and an academically decorated honor student grandchild in Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak receiving her first major role and performing quite well).
At times, it does feel that Jamie Curtis can be chewing the scenery a bit too hard, but I will gladly take some slight overacting over a lazy performance. A good portion of Halloween is dedicated to fleshing out the shell that is her former self; she looks unclean and ragged, totes around heavy firearms with the skill and marksmanship that would make Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day proud, and is a recluse hiding away in an isolated compound full of safety cautions and weaponry. Maybe that sounds awesome on paper, but whereas her physical strength is in top shape, she is emotionally broken and prepared for the day Michael returns. It’s all that matters to her, to the point where she has made some questionable decisions raising her child. She can’t even enjoy a celebratory dinner for her grandchild (who is also allowing her parents to meet her boyfriend for the first time) without going loco.
Like a true nutjob, Michael Myers doesn’t give a damn. Coming as a shock to no one, he escapes a bus transferring him to another penitentiary, of course, on the eve of Halloween. This is also where the filmmakers like to dive into some heavy nostalgia, taking Michael on a journey of gathering his trademark belongings ranging from the mask to the knife. Wisely, immediately as he returns to Haddonfield, the classic John Carpenter theme kicks in, set to an impressive tracking shot detailing some pretty gruesome murder. Aside from fundamentally working as a slasher film and a respectfully thought out expansion of the original film (smartly ignoring all of the other nonsense), Halloween is also a well-shot film with some great callbacks to the past that will make even cynical moviegoers smile.
The duo of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride also lean into their comedic sensibilities, often embracing tropes of the genre, whether it be through the banter between a babysitter and a hilarious child or a drunken teenager rambling to Michael, and it all works. We don’t care about most of these characters nor are we supposed to; only a select few matters and the script is aware of that, while also being self-aware of its genre roots. Adults and teenagers alike do some very stupid things here, allowing us to once again enjoy some of the killings from Michael.
As mentioned, the movie is not necessarily a masterpiece by any means. Parts of it moves a little too slow for the sake of doling out some references, and realistically, while the attempts are absolutely admirable, no one is going to walk out of Halloween with its examination of victimhood as a life-altering experience. However, there is also a new psychologist (jokingly referenced by Laurie as the new Loomis eliciting a good laugh considering there are noticeable similarities in appearance and voice) present, who is given a poorly written subplot that reeks of stupidity and adds nothing. The film wants to say something about whether or not psychopaths should be started psychologically, but it is embarrassingly fumbled.
Halloween does build off of momentum, though, and explodes with one barnburner of a finale. The last 10 minutes of this film speaks to the times we live in more than any slasher has before, effectively rendering it, in some ways, just as trailblazing as John Carpenter’s original achievement. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean that the next nine sequels will be utter garbage. Whether Jamie Lee Curtis returns or not, this is one cathartic and rewarding way to complete an iconic character arc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com