John Carpenter’s original 1978 “Halloween” is a classic, the original slasher movie with a great score, scary villain, deep message and genre-defining storyline. Its seven sequels and remake however… not so much. Except for some interesting ideas in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”, the “Halloween” franchise has consisted mostly of hack jobs meant as a quick means to turn a profit. None of them are in the spirit of the original.
So it’s a relief that the new “Halloween” (which is not given any new identifier) shows great reverence for its source. It’s a direct sequel to the original, dismissing 40 years of lethargic sequels and lazy remakes. And considering that it is by all accounts a good, not great but pretty good, movie, forgetting all those other films just became a whole lot easier.
“Halloween” takes place 40 years to the day Michael Myers went loose and butchered several people in Haddonfield, Illinois. The girl who escaped, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), still lives with the events of that night every day. Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), thinks her mom is an old kook, obsessed with safety against an old foe long gone. Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), tries to connect with her grandmother but is caught between her extremism and her own mom’s pragmatism. Michael, long in confinement, breaks out of prison the night he is being transferred and returns to the town, intent on killing. Laurie, long waiting for this night, is ready to finish him and end her years of torment.
The film is focused on the characters, specifically the three generational Strode women in Laurie, Karen and Allyson. This gives the story a strong foundation to build the relationship between them and how they confront the nightmare that is Myers. Laurie is a survivor who has been scarred by her experience, believing the world is out to get her. Karen believes the world is inherently good. Allyson is caught in the middle, young and still learning about life. It’s an interesting study about trauma and worldview that becomes somewhat muddled at the end, but nevertheless gives the film some gravitas.
Due diligence is also given to pretty much every random character, killed or not. Some moments feel rather forced in and don’t really go anywhere, but the characters are not stereotypical chum meant purely for slaughter. Much like the original film, we’re slightly sad when they get butchered. That means a lot.
Perhaps the thing that works best in “Halloween’s” favor is that it feels consequential. It feels like a sequel that maybe not necessarily needed to be told, but still feels important as a continuation of the original’s story. That’s due to the dedication of screenwriter Danny McBride and director/co-writer David Gordon Green, along with a returning John Carpenter to do the score. They respected the original, studied and tried their best to make something worthy of a follow-up. It’s not a classic like the source, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needed to feel consequential and it does.
It’s almost a shame that Michael Myers will return. Given the box office success of this film, it’s a given that there will be another movie. And perhaps another after that. And after that. Much like the success of the first “Halloween” spawned 40 years of lackluster cashgrabs, perhaps it’s the franchise’s destiny to be plagued by an incessant need to cash in whenever a substance of quality is made. This “Halloween” feels like a natural conclusion. But Michael will return.
That’s the scariest trick he ever pulled.