This Halloween posits that we stop questioning so goddamn much, accept the wolves at the door, and fortify our homes with the means to destroy the evil we know wants to end us.
In the 40 years since John Carpenter’s Halloween, there have been nine other films that attempted to continue, restart or re-imagine the success of the original. Those attempts run the gamut from good to bad to baffling, but the latest from filmmaker David Gordon Green and left-field co-writer Danny McBride comes closest to feeling like more than a waste of time.
Their approach is very simple. This new Halloween is a direct sequel to the original film that alters that classic’s conclusion and a core element of the franchise’s mythology to tell the story anew, with new faces and old. It’s basically The Force Awakens but for the Halloween franchise. In this new vision, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has wrestled with surviving Michael Myers’ killings for as many years as audiences have. He’s been locked up since that night and he’s not Laurie’s older brother. He’s just The Shape, a pure evil Boogeyman who lives to kill. Laurie suffers from severe PTSD and has devoted her lie to preparing for his eventual escape, a singular obsession that cost her a normal connection to her daughter Karen (Judy Greer).
But she is surprisingly close with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), the film’s new high school age protagonist. Though much as this film has its own plot exploring a new interpretation of Laurie, it’s essentially one big rhyming piece, echoing and recreating imagery, moments and tones from the original the way TFA did with A New Hope. The result is a movie that pays homage to Halloween without needlessly remaking it. It’s a film that asks audiences to accept a world where the sequels never happened, but doesn’t pretend viewers have never seen those sequels.
As such, this new Halloween justifies its existence not by one-upping Carpenter, but by honoring him and making a functional thriller that feels worthwhile, despite being completely extraneous. The truth is that we don’t need more Halloween movies, for any reason, but if people are going to keep trying anyway, this feels like one of the best case scenarios out there (short of letting a woman make one, which Jason Blumhouse certainly doesn’t seem capable of doing.)
There’s more than a few moments devoted to prematurely answering nagging audience questions and they play like insecure tells that the guys knew they shouldn’t make this movie, like when a character points out that a guy killing five people in a night seems pedestrian to how bad the world we know today is. It feels like the filmmakers just want any potential naysayers to shut up and let it all play out. The film is a little bit long in the tooth, spending too much time humanizing and fleshing out random supporting characters it also wants us to be excited about seeing die, and it’s maybe a hair too funny at times for a film so otherwise concerned with dread.
But the way The Shape is realized, through a collaboration between OG Michael Myers Nick Castle and newcomer James Jude Courtney, is rather affecting. He’s not necessarily scary the way modern audiences might be used to slashers being as much as he’s disorienting, discomforting. His presence is genuinely unsettling at times.
Green and McBride’s approach, it seems, is to side with the long-deceased Dr. Loomis in his opinion of Michael Myers. So many characters in the film, like the insufferable English true crime podcasters who set the plot in motion, are so obsessed with what makes the killer tick, but the brutal, simplistic way he moves and acts supports the idea that he’s not some complex person with motivations that need to be examined. He’s the darkness of this world personified. There’s one sequence in particular, following Myers from house to house casually killing, where he truly feels more like some otherworldly force of nature.
But Laurie is every ounce his equal. It’s a revelation getting to watch Jamie Lee Curtis get what amounts to a do-over of her work in Halloween: H20, given the intense similarities between the two films. But where that Laurie was a stressed out mom wanting to protect her son, this Laurie is more like Sarah Connor, a spartan soldier who has had to make peace with the fact that she cannot be prepared for war and loved by those she protects at the same time. Curtis is at times unspeakably badass and others absolutely heartbreaking. The film purposely transposes her into many moments and images The Shape once stood in the original, telegraphing that in seeking to hunt this monster, some part of her has become one as well.
When Karen rages against her mother’s obsession with Myers, she tells her that there is good in the world and that it’s not a dark place, but Myers exists as the manifestation of proof to the contrary. We see evil every day in the news and try to rationalize or explore it as though wrestling with the “why” will offer us some magical “how” to make it all go away. This Halloween posits that we stop questioning so goddamn much, accept the wolves at the door, and fortify our homes with the means to destroy the evil we know wants to end us. It’s a depressing commentary on reality that this is such a satisfying viewpoint for a slasher film in 2018 to possess.