Over the course of my 11-year career, I’ve been lucky to cover some of my most highly anticipated films as a lifelong genre fan, but being able to write about Halloween (2018) easily ranks right up there as a top three moment for me as a horror journalist. While I may have grown up a Krueger Kid, my fascination with the Halloween series quickly grew to a fever pitch somewhere in my teens, and it’s easily the franchise I revisit most now as a “seasoned” genre geek (that’s my nice way of saying I’m old, basically). There have been a lot of brilliant horror films to come out this year, but David Gordon Green’s Halloween has quickly become my favorite movie-going event of 2018, especially after a second viewing, which really allowed me to get immersed in all the intricate homages and details peppered throughout this newest chapter in Michael Myer’s 40-year cinematic legacy.
When it was first announced that for their script, Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley were going to craft a story that would be directly connected only to John Carpenter’s original Halloween, and would omit any story details from Halloween II (1981) and beyond, I will admit I was skeptical, simply because we’ve not only rebooted Laurie Strode’s story before, but I can be something of a precious fan when it comes to the Halloween sequels (and I will full on admit how foolhardy that is, really, because those films will always exist, of course), and I just didn’t know how this decision was ultimately going to work. But as it turns out, these bold decisions for the direction of "H40" truly paid off, because not only is it the best sequel in the Halloween series, I would seriously put it right up there alongside Carpenter’s 1978 original as yet another masterpiece of genre storytelling.
In Halloween (2018), we pick up with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after the devastating events of that fateful night when Michael Myers (this time played by both a returning Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) murdered her friends and left her life in absolute ruins. She’s spent the last four decades unsuccessfully trying to move on with her life, ultimately becoming a recluse who lives in a fortified house in the middle of nowhere, anticipating that this “Bogeyman” will one day return to try and finish what he started on October 31st, 1978. Laurie’s struggled to maintain any kind of real home life as well, with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), being taken away at age 12, and she often finds herself now ostracized from any family events, much to the chagrin of her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). We see how the horrific events of one night can effectively change the lives of three generations of one family, especially once Michael gets loose and sets out to wreak havoc on the small town of Haddonfield yet again.
That’s an overly simplified version of the events in Halloween (2018), but admittedly I’m taking a slightly vague route here because of course I want to try and preserve the experience of watching the film for all the other Halloween fans out there. As we’ve see in the trailer, though, Michael is contacted by a team of podcast investigators (played by Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) while he’s still in captivity, which ends up being something of a catalyst for Myers, as the duo have the audacity to “poke the bear” (so to speak) by confronting the notorious killer with the very mask he wore back in 1978, and the entire sequence is downright chilling (the sound design in this scene in particular is utterly brilliant—so damn unnerving). This also introduces us to Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who took over after the death of Dr. Loomis and has spent years wondering just what real evil is capable of, and just what exactly it is that makes his patient tick. Once Michael gets his mask and his murderous groove back, Sartain sees exactly what kind of viciousness his longtime patient is capable of.
In terms of the slasher elements to Halloween (2018), the kills are incredible, with some playing off-screen and some of them just going right for the jugular (which is literal in some cases), and I love the fact that while Green wants to make something that will appeal to modern audiences, he often leans into the classicism of Carpenter’s approach to violence in Halloween (1978), thereby delivering a mix of brutality that honors its past while also making great strides in bringing familiar slasher tropes back to the big screen in new ways, akin to what Wes Craven was able to do with the Scream series. Also, on a technical level, this new Halloween is easily the most gorgeously crafted film we’ve seen since Carpenter’s original, with the cinematography by Michael Simmonds and the production design from Richard A. Wright being two of the technical highlights to "H40."
As far as the performances go, there’s no denying that Halloween (2018) is all about giving Jamie Lee Curtis and her iconic career-launching character the proper spotlight to shine in, one that other Halloween sequels may not have necessarily given her before (I’m looking squarely at you, the original Halloween II). And, of course, we see Laurie being very proactive in this story, as she’s spent her entire adult life preparing for the night that Michael would come back for her, but I love for as much as we see Laurie taking charge of her life, and willing to hunt down this man who left her traumatized, there’s also something very tragic and heartbreaking about this pain that she’s carried with her, too, and I love how both Curtis and the film’s writers explore that here (there’s more I want to say on this topic, but I’m saving it until after the release of the film in October) in some truly surprising and emotionally driven ways (there’s a scene that has now brought me to tears on two occasions).
But for as great as Curtis is, and holy hell she’s absolutely brilliant, the rest of the Halloween (2018) ensemble are perfectly cast as well, and I ended up becoming an even bigger fan of Judy Greer after this (I’ve always adored her work, but she does some really subtle stuff here with her role of Karen that’s pretty outstanding), and totally fell in love with Andi Matichak, who is the biggest surprise of "H40." There’s a naturalism to her performance that really resonated with me, and I think she’s got a huge career ahead of her. Also, Armageddon’s Will Patton as Officer Hawkins is a nice addition to this ensemble, and I also really enjoyed Virginia Gardner as Allyson’s pal Vicky, as well as Jibrail Nantambu as Julian, the kid Vicky’s babysitting on Halloween night, as the little dude nearly steals the entire film with several key moments that are a lot of fun.
If I’m being honest, I could probably write another 5,000 words on this new Halloween if I don’t stop myself now, but considering that we’re still about one month out from the film’s official release, I’ll hold off on going any deeper until then, as I feel like there’s a lot more to discuss. But suffice to say, as someone who is a total nerd for this series, Halloween (2018) somehow gave me everything I had been hoping for as a fan (who is probably just a little too invested in this series), and nothing I could have ever expected, either. It’s easily the most satisfying time I’ve had with a franchise film in some time, and I think David Gordon Green and everyone involved have created a modern masterpiece that’s just as great as Carpenter’s original. Without a doubt, 2018 is proving to be a great year to be a horror fan, especially for those of us who have been patiently waiting to see Michael Myers and Laurie Strode dance one more time on the big screen.
Movie Score: 5/5