Four decades of being locked up in a mental institute would leave any psychopathic killer thirsty for blood. Michael Myers is no exception. After escaping, he’s back in Haddonfield and ready to get stuck into some good old-fashioned slashin’. It might be just about time for the Halloween franchise to hang up its coat, but a clever reboot of the 1978 horror classic by writer and director David Gordon Green (Goat; Stronger) shows us that it’s still got some fight left in it.
In 1978, John Carpenter delivered a horror film that has influenced countless other films over the years. However, none have come even close to the genius of the 40-year-old masterpiece. A nifty, suspenseful horror-thriller in which randy, drunk teens are pursued and slashed by an interminable nutter, it was a true tour de force with a delightfully priggish narrative twist.
Halloween (1978) was the beginning of something that many a genre fan holds dear to their heart, and while several films under the franchise weren’t too shoddy themselves, the original will always be definitive. The indomitable, unrelenting Myers completely defies belief, but that doesn’t stop us (sort of) rooting for our favourite masked, knife-wielding killer.
Here we are in 2018, as Green gives Michael (Nick Castle) a new lease of life. He and his co-writers Jeff Fradley (Vice principals) and Danny McBride (Your Highness) strive to lay the franchise to rest in peace, all the while conveniently disregarding everything that went down in any of the aforementioned sequels. Of course, just like all those sequels, Halloween is no measure for the original, but that was to be expected. In a departure from the stylish simplicity that Carpenter brought to the table, we see a slightly different approach here, with enough in the way of gimmicks to entertain fans without compromising on the terror.
Green et al. have worked really hard to chuck aside all the usual tropes that we’ve come to associate with the franchise, instead handing us a far more chilling version of a seemingly unstoppable, truly evil bastardisation of humanity. This Michael Myers has zero limits. Nothing – not a single thing – will obstruct his murderous binge. This is totally hold-no-prisoners stuff, and even the most unshakable of us will find themselves quaking in their booties.
Something else is different this time, too. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – the only survivor from Carpenter’s original – refuses to take Michael’s crap, and she’s ready to give all she’s got. Once weak and naïve, Laurie is all grown up, capable of defending herself, and prepared for what’s been coming for a long time: a hell-bent psycho on a mission to finish what he started. Her home rigged out with traps like the Home Alone house on steroids, Michael is in for a real trick – but plainly no treat. Curtis steals the show here as the tough but troubled mother and grandmother Clearly, this role fits like a worn-in sneaker.
With her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) wanting little to do with her, Laurie’s life is in tatters. She’s pretty much got nothing else to think about other than a new deadly dance with Myers. And they sure trip the light fantastic in the most terrifyingly beautiful way in this film. Sadly, other than the fresh take on Michael and his cat-and-mouse gambol with Laurie, there’s not much else about Halloween to go absolutely nuts about. The plotline following Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) stands out in this respect – it seems more like an afterthought than a valuable addition.
Luckily, the hunter-becomes-the-hunted ending that Halloween hurtles towards is hugely fulfilling, both visually and emotionally. The writers know how to use red herrings well, and things don’t go down as you might think they would. As the film takes the franchise on its last sunset ride, we’re taken poetically and intelligently back round to the original, serving to add another level of satisfaction to the conclusion.
What we have here is certainly no match for Carpenter’s legendary triumph, but it’s got a sharp enough bite to be noticed. This is a brand-new take on the ageing Halloween franchise, and good on Green and his team for taking it to a new place. Michael Myers is back on our screens, and I suspect that you’re going to enjoy it.
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