Many a horror franchise that started with an undisputed classic of the genre has gone on to produce significantly diminished returns over the years. Halloween is no exception. After John Carpenter’s stripped back masterpiece essentially redefined the horror landscape, it would be fair to say that each successive instalment in the adventures of knife-wielding maniac Michael Myers (seven sequels and one reboot plus it’s sequel) have been a tad disappointing. Let’s be honest, most of them were shit.
So what is the best way to regenerate a franchise that has seen better days? Simple: we pretend all the rubbish sequels never happened and retcon them out of existence. So if you think Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are siblings, forget that, because that nonsense twist was in the sequels. But what about her being the head teacher of a fancy prep school? More sequel rubbish – although that was one of the better ones – but still it’s no longer relevant. All of this could be a bit confusing for the uninitiated.
The people responsible for this new and official direct sequel to the 1978 classic slasher are the somewhat unlikely duo of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. But don’t worry, they haven’t cast Seth Rogen as a stoned, chuckling Michael Myers, or recast Jamie Lee Curtis with James Franco. From the terrific opening scene onwards, it is clear that we’re in very safe hands. With plenty of lovely little (and some not so little) nods to the original, Halloween (2018) finds just the right notes of homage and nostalgia, whilst comfortably justifying its own existence after boldly eradicating the rest of the franchise.
We pick up 40-years on from the original film. 40-years since the Haddonfield Halloween massacre. Michael Myers is in a maximum-security psychiatric facility, and still hasn’t spoken a word since he was a child. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) however, is not the same person at all. A survivor of a horrendous childhood trauma, the 1978 murders have defined her life. Suffering from crippling PTSD, she has spent her life preparing to never be the “final girl” ever again. She lives in isolation in her secure fortress in the woods, armed to the teeth, and praying every night that Michael escapes so she can finish him once and for all.
Well guess what? Sometimes prayers do come true, and before you can count the teeth being ripped from some poor bastard’s head, Michael is back in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night. This is very bad news for a lot of people. Especially babysitters.
Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic as this new, wounded survivalist version of Laurie. She might now be a woman who can take of herself in any situation, but her lifestyle has robbed her of a family. Projecting her own trauma onto her daughter (Judy Greer), who was brought up learning to use guns and knives and how to defend herself from the boogeyman, the two are now estranged. Laurie barely sees her granddaughter (Andi Matichak), who is the only family member that still wants to have anything to do with her. Seeing how these three generations of women, all deeply affected by the events of 1978, face up to this unrelenting monster is the beating heart of Halloween.
Early on in the film a character recounts the events of 1978, commenting that by today’s standards it was pretty tame. This is clearly referencing how times change, specifically in respect to how audiences respond to horror. What was terrifying then, might not be so scary now. To compensate for that, director David Gordon Green has made this film seriously violent. There are a couple of supremely brutal and creatively gruesome moments.
Fundamentally however, it is not scary in the slightest. It’s a nasty, stylish, and well-conceived horror film – everything we’ve come to expect from a Blumhouse production. It has some very effective jump scares, but that sense of bone-chilling dread is gone. The creeping atmospherics of the Carpenter film are jettisoned in favour of sadistic violence.
That’s not to say this isn’t an entertaining experience, because it is an absolute blast. The discovery of the prison bus accident that results in Michael’s escape is superbly done. The brilliantly orchestrated and tense third-act sequence in Laurie’s home is a breathtaking finale to the film. When Laurie and Michael finally come face to mask, it is well worth the wait. And of course, there’s no end of enjoyment in seeing the unstoppable killing machine that is Michael Myers doing his thing.
One might hope that a (mostly) triumphant return such as this would finally allow Halloween to rest in peace and take a well-earned break. Perhaps even enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas for once. No such luck. Success at the domestic box office is a cruel mistress. Expect another resurrection come late October in a couple of year’s time.
The blu-ray release comes with a decent selection of special features. There’s over 12-minutes of deleted and extended scenes. Back in Haddonfield: Making Halloween is a short featurette taking us behind the scenes of the film, with interviews with all the main cast and crew including Jamie Lee Curtis, David Gordon Green, Jason Blum, and John Carpenter.
The Original Scream Queen is a short piece about the character of Laurie, and the amazing woman who brought her to life. The Sound of Fear begins with someone saying “the most important thing to set the mood in the horror movie is to use scary music.” That someone is John Carpenter, and he certainly knows a thing or two about scary music. This short doc features Carpenter, his son Cody, and Daniel Davies talking about how they created and updated the iconic score of the film.
Journey of the Mask is a fairly throwaway piece, and could easily have been included in the making-of featurette. It’s just a couple of minutes of people talking about the famous mask. There’s nothing new here, unless you are the one person in the world who doesn’t know it was originally a Captain Kirk mask. Finally on the disc is The Legacy of Halloween. This is a really enjoyable roundtable discussion between Jason Blum, David Gordon Green, Jamie Lee Curtis, and John Carpenter. Fans will love this, and wish it was longer.
Halloween is available now on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer Director: David Gordon Green Writer: Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley Released By: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Certificate: 18 Duration: 106 mins Release Date: 25th February 2019