Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the suburbs…
In 1978, the world was affected by a trauma so great that it still continues to resonate today. I’m talking, of course, about John Carpenter’s original Halloween – a sui generis slasher movie that has inspired eight sequels and a reboot (plus sequel), and now a reboot-sequel that ignores the sequels and the reboot (plus sequel).
Instead, it picks up forty years later in the present day. Rather than embarking on a half-dozen rampages since, Michael Myers has been imprisoned, patient in a mental institute, since the outcome of the original film. A grey-maned Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is still dealing with the trauma; holed up in a spot-litcabin in the woods with an arsenal of weaponry, awaiting Michael’s return. And return he must, inevitably.
This direct sequel, directed by David Gordon Green, co-written by he, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, has an understanding of the franchise; born presumably of long-time fandom. Michael Myers is an innately blue-collar boogeyman, stalking his way through the streets and homes of Haddonfield, Illinois, in a boiler suited and rubber mask, striding out in search of Strodes (or née Strodes).
Judy Greer, whose spent the last decade of her career playing mothers – most prominently in Ant-Man and Jurassic World – gets her best film role in a long while as Karen, Laurie’s daughter, stuck dealing with the legacy of her mother’s trauma. Her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), is looking forward to the high school dance – once that just so happens to coincide with the anniversary of the date her grandmother faced down a monster. If nothing else, monsters have an impeccable sense of timing.
Even given the “final girl” trope, Halloween (2018) find a way to strengthen the binary: Laurie isn’t just Michael’s victim, she’s his nemesis. Green has made a film that, for all the scares and the gore, the tension and the trauma, new and familiar, is fundamentally about generational trauma.
The film even does new things with the iconography of Halloween itself: heads crushed, goopy, seed-filled, like pumpkins; faces lit up from within like carved jack-o-lanterns. Michael is a decidedly blue-collar monster; white-masked and boiler-suited, set on a single goal. He, as Doctor Loomis put it (Donald Pleasence; played here by a sound-a-like actor), is pure, unrelenting evil. Friends and boyfriends, husbands, cops, cannot withstand him. Michael stalks from house to house, dispatching innocents with matter-of-fact brutality; Laurie moves through her own home, methodically clearing rooms, dropping barriers behind her.
There are a few resonances with earlier now non-canonical Halloween films – a touch of 4‘s ill-advised vigilantism; a pair of chatty, ill-fated cops a la Halloween 5 – but this is whole-cloth Halloween. One victim, his neck broken and misshapen, even brings to mind one of the creature’s transformations from The Thing. The film’s final sequence was so tense that it made my salivary glands ache.
With Alan Howarth’s beefed-up synth soundtrack and Peter Lyons Collier’s cinematography, both crisp and misty, Halloween (2018) is a horror film both for now and for the ages. It may not be an all-time classic – there’s a ceiling, I’d say, on how good any horror sequel can hope to be – but this’ll do until It Follows 2 gets here.