Halloween 1978 and little-known director John Carpenter terrifies thousands of impressionable horror fans with the introduction of ‘The Shape’. Jamie Lee Curtis becomes the new ‘scream queen’ and all is well in the world of the slasher genre.
Fast-forward to 2009 and Rob Zombie directs the sequel to his reasonably successful remake of Halloween, but it was poorly received by critics and audiences alike. Why? Well Zombie’s grungy, rock-anthem vibe didn’t really sit too well with Michael Myers and the result was a distasteful and messy outing that set the franchise back nearly 10 years.
Of course, in between 1978 and 2009, the series was ripped apart, put back together again until it was a shadow of its former self. Anyone remember Busta Rhymes doing a vague impression of a karate master in Halloween: Resurrection? Best forget about that.
Nevertheless, director David Gordon Green, a lifetime fan of Carpenter’s iconic original is in the chair to helm a direct sequel to the 1978 classic. That’s right, it forgoes every single film apart from the first. But is it a worthy sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time?
It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when his bus transfer goes horribly wrong. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the masked madman returns to Haddonfield. But this time, she’s ready for him.
Having Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter back for this instalment is already a coup for Gordon Green. Clearly, they thought enough of the material that he and co-writer Danny McBride had produced to give one more shot at crafting a properly deserved sequel. And it works very well, so well in fact that we have, barring the original, the best Halloween movie to date.
Jamie Lee Curtis is absolutely fabulous as a world-weary Laurie Strode. Traumatised by the events of 40 years ago, she holds herself up in a cabin on the outskirts of Haddonfield, flanked by floodlights and CCTV cameras. The script does a very good job at showing how massive events can destroy an individual’s life and Curtis’ understated performance is a highlight here.
Judy Greer gets a nicely fleshed out role as Karen, Laurie’s daughter. She’s an incredibly talented actress and it’s a world away from the one-dimensional characters she’s been given to play in blockbusters like Jurassic World. The great thing about this film is that each of the main characters feels real. There’s no cheap sex scenes, the kills are well-placed and the dialogue is superbly written – you actually believe these are real people, rather than characters in a movie.
While the body count is high, Halloween doesn’t rely on the murders to progress the story forward. This is very much Laurie’s film as opposed to Michael’s and it works very well. There’s some nice juxtaposition as shots that would have involved Michael in the original, choose to put Laurie front and centre here. Halloween features some tasteful references to the original as well as its less-well received sequels. They’re not immediately obvious for those not too familiar with the series, but die-hards will enjoy seeing those homages pop up every now and then.
Halloween is a resounding success. It takes what audiences loved about the original and updates them in a sequel that, while not being wholly original, respects what came before it
The film starts relatively slowly with a not quite successful side-plot involving two investigative journalists, but once Michael Myers gets his mask back, the film rarely lets up until the end. Populated by enough kills and scares to keep the audience happy, this is a Halloween movie that doesn’t rely too much on jump scares. There’s a few, but they’re nicely filmed which helps lift them above the mundane.
To look at, this is a film that is head and shoulders above anything else in the genre. Gordon Green uses incredibly fluid camera techniques that almost mimic those of the original. In one extended sequence, Myers moves in and out of shot as the camera follows him from house to house, selecting his next victim. With no cuts in between, it’s a stunning scene to watch and very effective.
Thankfully, the writing duo has decided to pass on giving Michael anything resembling a back story. The embodiment of ‘pure evil’ as Samuel Loomis once put it, Myers needn’t have any motives – and that’s what makes him so terrifying. In fact, his first kill here reaffirms his evil characteristics and it’s clear that David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were aiming for this take on the character.
Then there’s the score. John Carpenter has returned to craft new music for this instalment and it is by far the best score in the series, possibly even better than the original. That haunting Halloween theme tune is back, but upgraded with guitar riffs and electronic percussion. It’s a fabulous update that works perfectly with the modern characters and an older Michael.
While it’s true that the film isn’t out-and-out scary, the finale is exquisite as Laurie and Michael come face-to-face once again. Only the abrupt ending and forgetting of some key characters lets it down. After all, what’s the point in caring about a character and never learning of their fate?
Overall, Halloween is a resounding success. It takes what audiences loved about the original and updates them in a sequel that, while not being wholly original, respects what came before it. While this is sure to make bucket loads at the box-office, it feels like it was crafted with care by a writing team and director that absolutely adores the series. It’s a must watch.