Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle
Running time: 106mins
What’s the story: 40 years after the events of Halloween, Laurie Strode (Curtis) must protect daughter Karen (Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Matichak) from unstoppable killer Michael Myers when he escapes from prison.
What’s the verdict: For a franchise with an unkillable boogeyman, a 40th anniversary movie was always likely. Less certain was if said movie would be any good.
Halloween’s 1998 20th anniversary instalment, H20, was a worthwhile reuniting of Jamie Lee Curtis and her most enduring co-star. But, as in the 1980s, after a good first outing the series again hit the skids.
2002’s Halloween: Resurrection was a laughable, fright-free stab that offed Curtis’ Laurie to make space for Tyra Banks. Rob Zombie’s 2007 nihilistic reboot and its equally squalid 2009 sequel are best left in the bin of misjudged remakes (along with that 2005 do-over of The Fog).
But, creative team David Gordon Green and Danny McBride know what makes John Carpenter’s most famous monster tic(k). Injecting fresh blood into the long in tooth and blade franchise, they go the H20 route and focus on Curtis’ Laurie Strode.
While also ditching that “Michael was my brother” nonsense by establishing this movie as a sequel to the original only.
Having spent a lifetime preparing for a showdown with Michael Myers, Laurie is now a reclusive survivalist, holed up in a cabin in the woods with firepower enough to arm a militia.
Estranged daughter Karen is resentful of the fear and paranoia Laurie instilled in her from an early age. Granddaughter Allyson is more sympathetic, particularly when grandma Laurie dispenses her punk wisdom.
Self-styled investigative journalists Dana (Rees) and Aaron (Hall) are attempting to interview both Laurie and Myers for a Making a Murderer-style podcast, before Myers is transferred to a tougher prison.
Filling in background details for the new characters (and audiences unfamiliar with the series) is Will Patton’s local sheriff and Dr. Sartain (Bilginer), a student of Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis from the original film… and four grandkids-inheritance-salary sequels.
Soon Michael escapes in trademark bloody fashion and heads back to his hometown Haddonfield…
Green’s Halloween may be set in 2018, but he and co-writers McBride and Jeff Fradley know this boogeyman works best in the past. Mod cons are neatly shifted aside. A crucial mobile phone is believably disposed of before the third act mayhem erupts. Laurie’s guns and booby traps are out of an 80s survival movie.
But, have Green and co. made Michael Myers scary again? Oh yes. The Shape, as he is billed (played by Courtney, with a brief cameo from original Shape Nick Castle), menaces once more. And is destructive, for those worrying this outing might skimp on the carnage.
Mixing popcorn flying jolts with a well-judged comedy relief valve means this Halloween matches the ghost train scares of John Carpenter’s 1978 game-changer.
Like Carpenter, Green uses widescreen to let audience’s minds run riot as to what might be lurking in the shadows.
In a nice throwback to the opening of the original, Michael Myers’ first nocturnal rampage is achieved in a single gliding take as he makes house calls in his old neighbourhood.
Green is also smart enough to make liberal use of Carpenter’s original Halloween score, equally responsible for the chilling atmosphere.
References to Carpenter’s film are peppered throughout, but Green takes care to welcome newcomers who think Michael Myers is that guy from Austin Powers.
In a vanity free performance Curtis is aged beyond her years as Laurie, and blends resilience and fragility to lend the jolts emotional depth. Green and Matichak are effective support, and, along with Curtis, stage a formidable three-pronged attack against Michael come the climax.
A climax that borrows heavily from The Silence of the Lambs and features one outstanding homage to the original Halloween (plus usual logic niggles).
Eschewing the standard slasher twist ending, this closes on a far better, ambiguous note. Meaning, ironically, we wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel.