The buzz around David Gordon Green’s Halloween has been insane. Fresh blood behind the lens, the blessings of franchise instigator/genre icon John Carpenter, and the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to a role that launched her career back in 1978. If you ignore Rob Zombie’s remake and it’s sequel, there hasn’t been a Halloween film since 2002’s clusterfuck Halloween Resurrection, a film which singlehandedly stumped the franchise. So we’re well overdue some kind of reboot and Green’s Halloween is exactly that in a load of ways.
Controversially the new Halloween (simply and perhaps confusingly sharing a title with its original) ignores everything after the 1978 original. Gone is the Laurie/Michael family bond, the Cult of Thorn from the Return and Curse of Michael Myers, any mention of Laurie’s daughter Jamie, it’s all been ejected. Instead Gordon Green and scriptwriter Danny McBride (yes Danny McBride from Pineapple Express) have stripped the franchise back to its bare-bones and zoned in on Laurie’s life-altering trauma as the crux of this new story. No longer is Michael Myers an indestructible double-digits serial killer; in Green’s world Myers killed three teenagers and was quickly apprehended. It’s a smart idea and in the age of MeToo, Laurie’s story becomes one of generational trauma as opposed to seasonal survival. The legend of Michael Myers isn’t as interesting as the isolated impact he had on his one surviving victim. The film doesn’t quite shame generations of slasher fans for getting their kicks with female trauma, that would be pointless and a little bit backwards, but it does contextualise Laurie’s trauma in a world of sustained oppression towards women.
The key to Halloween is Curtis, and her return isn’t the piss-take it was in Resurrection or the fun but slimline character study of H20. Folks who dug H20 will enjoy seeing how McBride and Green pick up the lingering trauma approach and actually delve into it whilst giving Laurie that bad-ass bite she so superbly flaunts in H20’s finale. Repurposing Laurie as a paranoid gun-toting grandma is actually much sadder and more haunting than it might seem from the trailer, and Jamie Lee carries it with such heart-wrenching dedication you could very well be in tears. Connections with the MeToo movement are hard not to note, especially with Curtis being such an outspoken voice, but the film doesn’t really have very much to say in that arena.
But what of the Shape? Possibly Carpenter’s finest villain, Michael Myers has suffered from continuity issues since his inception: mask changes, different actors, different approaches to filming, it’s left the franchise looking a bit patchwork. Green’s Halloween is thankfully the best version of Myers since Carpenter’s, bringing back the original mask design (like, literally modelled from the one he wore in ‘78) and injecting the character with some much needed brutality. Shooting Myers like Carpenter did, really helps ground the film as a sequel and does wonders for the tension.
In many ways the new Halloween is a sign of the times and a Petri dish from which we can extrapolate how the genre has changed: the kill count is in the teens, the deaths are viscerally real or gorgeously theatrical, and the story is a solid skeleton from which to hang a night of spooks and scares. Folks expecting some genre-busting reinvention need to calm down and go in for what Green and co engineered this to be: a solid slasher and a fan-pleasing sequel.
Dir. David Gordon Green
Stars. Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton