Ever since it was announced that Blumhouse was taking on the new Halloween, it has been met with a mix of excitement and skepticism. Any time a popular property looks to erase or rewrite canon, it’s usually met with backlash, but the Blumhouse team made pretty much all the right moves here, including bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis in a starring role, and involving John Carpenter, who serves as an executive producer and worked on the score with his son, Cody Carpenter, and Godson, Daniel Davies. I’m happy to say that the new Halloween was not only created with reverence for what John Carpenter created in 1978, but goes out of its way to be its own thing, giving us an outstanding and terrifying face-off between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.
Taking place 40 years after the events of John Carpenter’s Halloween, this movie erases the stories of all previous sequels, giving us an alternate timeline where Michael Myers has been locked away for 40 years after the killings that took place in 1978. Laurie Strode is a mother and grandmother who still hasn’t gotten over the events of that Halloween, and has been preparing for Michael’s return. When Michael Myers receives a visit by people looking to better understand the killings, it sets off a chain of events that unleashes The Shape back on the town of Haddonfield.
A gut reaction from many fans would be that the main ingredient of a successful Halloween movie is Michael Myers, but Laurie Strode and Doctor Loomis are just as important. Looking at their options, Blumhouse could have rebooted and/or recast, started fresh with new characters, or retconned with their new movie, but when you know that Jamie Lee Curtis is interested in returning as Laurie Strode, the answer for which direction to go is clear.
The movie could have easily taken the Jurassic World route, giving us a glorified reboot, but the new Halloween is able to effectively mix old and new here with impressive results. While there are definitely familiar story beats at times, director David Gordon Green also cleverly subverts expectations, knowing that the movie’s target audience has been watching the original Halloween (and other slashers) for decades. Similarly, kills are a mix of old and new, with some very effective off-screen kills mixed with brutal on-screen deaths that are up there with what we’ve seen in Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies.
This movie’s success or failure rested on Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and she delivers a powerhouse performance. This version of Laurie Strode has an overt strength, but the character and performance are perfectly layered with moments of strength and the vulnerability that’s needed to make her clash with Michael believable. Halloween is also strengthened by the fact that its supporting characters and their dialogue are not taken for granted. Some of my favorite character moments do not even have Laurie Strode in the room, and you can definitely see where Danny McBride was able to help punch up these character scenes when writing the script with David Gordon Green.
Obviously, you can’t talk about Halloween without discussing Michael Myers, and there’s a lot to like here. The mask design is one of the franchise’s best, but more importantly, James Jude Courtney plays the role with a nuanced physicality that gives Michael Myers a lot more life than we’ve seen in other sequels. Without being able to talk, it’s so important that the physical acting and choreography make Michael Myers seem real and terrifying, and Courtney and Nick Castle (who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween and cameos in the role here) accomplish both in this movie.
When we see studio horror films, most of them are designed for the masses first, especially those that are younger and haven’t built up their horror IQ. This often leaves longtime horror fans feeling like they’re seeing a muted version of the same old thing to appeal to everyone. This Halloween was designed inversely. If you’re a diehard fan of John Carpenter’s original, this movie was made for you and will play significantly better. That said, new horror fans will still find plenty to like here, and the new movie will turn a new audience on to the Halloween franchise, with longtime fans still smiling ear to ear with some of the movie’s references and Easter eggs.
Kudos to the entire creative team, especially director (and co-writer) David Gordon Green, for the care they put into making this film. Going this direction was certainly a gamble, and it would have been much easier to just reboot or start fresh with a new group of teens, but after seeing this movie, they 100% made the right decision to create this alternate timeline with Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m happy to say that the new Halloween is an excellent companion piece to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. I can’t wait for longtime fans of the franchise to check this one out, and I’m so happy that we get a new Halloween movie to terrify audiences just in time for Halloween 2018!
Movie Score: 4/5
In case you missed it, read Heather Wixson's review of Halloween (2018).