Forget everything one might know about the lore of the Halloween franchise. Forget the events of Halloween II, wherein it is revealed that series icon Laurie Strode is series bad guy Michael Myer’s sister. Forget that Jamie Lloyd, the child protagonist of a number of the sequels, is Laurie Strode’s daughter. Forget that Jamie Lloyd was retconned and Laurie Strode had an entirely different family in Halloween H20. Forget that Laurie Strode was killed off in the next film. And for goodness sake, forget everything about the ‘man in black’ subplots. Then, forget the Rob Zombie remakes. Forget it all, because the people behind the Halloween franchise have thrown everything out but the first film. It’s a retcon on a grand scale, erasing 39 years of bad movies so the original Halloween, John Carpenter’s master slasher flick, could get a proper sequel.
It’s forty years to the day since the tragic events depicted in Halloween. The murders of so many of her friends, and her narrow escape from Michael Myers, has left Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) something of a shattered person. Her adult life has been dominated by a combination of PTSD, paranoia, and doomsday prepping. Somewhere in there she managed to have a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), who has a daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Karen and Allyson aren’t exactly estranged from Laurie, but there is a lot of tension.
Meanwhile, it being the fortieth anniversary since Michael (played by James Jude Courtney sans mask, and Nick Castle with) cut a swath through Haddonfield, Illinois, he has attracted the attention of the media, in the form of true crime podcasters Aaron and Dana (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees). They traveled all the way to Illinois from England to get a glimpse of Michael at an asylum for the criminally insane before he is moved to a different asylum, presumably to spend the remainder of his days in isolation. Michael, as it turns out, is just as much into anniversaries as the rest of us, and seizes an opportunity to escape and spread more mayhem and death.
Laurie learns of the escape and has a devil of a time convincing Karen there’s danger afoot. That is, until people begin to notice all the bodies piling up. This leads to a third act confrontation that is quite frightening at times, and very satisfying in its conclusion, closing the books on the Halloween franchise forever.
Just kidding. This movie had a box office of over $250 million, on a $10 million budget, so of course there are sequels, one of which is in theaters as of this writing.
A reboot or reimagining of the Halloween franchise had been bouncing around Hollywood for years, as happens in that business. After many fits and starts, Jason Blum got involved as a producer. Then came screenwriters Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green (who also directed). Yes, that’s right, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, who are frequent collaborators in comedy. But, they decided to set the jokey stuff aside and make a movie exploring the effects of deep trauma on the victim of a slasher. That doesn’t go against type as much as Mel Brooks producing The Elephant Man, but it is in the same ballpark.
These were filmmakers with a good idea, a property in desperate need of a break, and rights owners willing to take a chance. Sometimes creativity wins out in Hollywood. It’s rare, but it does happen.
The story the three came up with, and Green’s directing, are tight. There’s rarely a wasted moment. The first act sets up the story. The second act showcases Michael’s violence. The third act resolves all conflicts. We horror fans get the blood and gore we crave, on top of a story of surprising depth. That’s one thing the original Halloween didn’t have a lot of. Sure, Laurie and her friends had backstories, but only enough to make them human victims, and not just fodder. In this film, Michael Myers is a malevolent presence lurking below the surface throughout, rather than a threat that comes at the characters from out of nowhere. There’s a sense of dread in the Strode clan that is the opposite of the shattered tranquility viewers normally get in a slasher flick.
There are two sequences in the film that stand out as excellent bits of horror filmmaking. In the first, it is Halloween night, and Michael, back in mask and overalls, is walking through a picturesque neighborhood, unnoticed amongst all the merrymakers and trick or treaters. He walks in and out of homes with impunity, slaughtering as he goes. There’s a killer plying his trade, and everyone is oblivious.
In the second notable sequence, Laurie searches her house for Michael, room by room, and can’t find him. This scene was genuinely frightening, as viewers see even less than Laurie in the darkened rooms and hallways of her home.
Scenes like this, combined with the strong story and strong acting, make it quite easy to forget all those other movies mentioned above. There’s Halloween from 1978, and Halloween from 2018. One is an indelible part of horror and cinematic history, and the other is about as fine a follow-up as it was possible to make. All that’s between them is time.