John Carpenter’s Halloween is as near to perfect as any slasher film can be and the 1978 horror is a masterful exercise in suspense, augmented by come exceptional camera work (the opening is still stunning) and a wonderful score. A multitude of sequels and remakes followed (all of varying quality) but none matched the powerful simplicity of Carpenter’s original. Now, 40 years on, director David Gordon Green (and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride) have taken the franchise back to its roots, eliminating the convoluted continuity of the series to deliver a ‘true’ sequel to Carpenter’s classic.
To add authenticity to this new endeavour, Green and producer Jason Blum lured Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise. Both executive produce the new film, and Carpenter once again scores the action alongside current musical collaborators Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. This all makes this new incarnation of Halloween a must-see package and thankfully it manages to live-up to these lofty expectations. Okay, it doesn’t quite match the stripped-down simplicity of Carpenter’s film, but it’s an exceptionally well put together piece of commercial horror cinema.
Halloween 2018 begins with an institutionalised Michael Myers (Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney) pulling the strong and silent treatment on a pair of podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) who are delving deep into the events which occurred in Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978. However, an evil awakens in Myers and he escapes to seek out Laurie Strode (Curtis), the lone saviour of the his 40 year-old killing spree. Strode is still suffering from the trauma of that fateful night, but she’s been waiting and preparing for Myer’s return. Myers might be doing the stalking, but Strode is doing the hunting and her prey is The Shape behind Haddonfield’s infamous babysitter murders.
Ultimately, horror films live or die based on their characterisation. The exploitative nature of the genre means that filmmakers often disregard this in order to get to what people has paid their cash for – the killing. This means that as an audience you have zero investment in the characters getting offed onscreen. Green and company, sidestep this pitfall with style, building rich characters over the film’s fist act. Whether it’s the aforementioned podcasters or Strode’s daughter and granddaughter (Judy Greer and Andi Matichak) you feel for every character – and this means that every kill has an impact. The performances in this new version of Halloween are strong across the board (special mention for Will Patton) and Jamie Lee Curtis impresses in her signature role, with Laurie Strode now turned into a Sarah Connor-style ass-kicking, gun-wielding warrior.
Halloween’s stand-out sequence is Myer’s very bloody Halloween night killing spree and there’s some wonderful cinematography from Michael Simmonds (this is a very good looking film), which perfectly compliments Carpenter’s iconic score. Green’s film also includes a lot of humour, which helps cut the tension and add to the small character moments. If the film has a flaw, it’s a late in the game plot twist which doesn’t quite pay-off and while it’s not enough to derail the film, it is a stand-out blemish in this top-tier horror.
An impressive follow-up to John Carpenter’s masterful slasher, Halloween has managed to continue the narrative of the original and reboot a creatively dead franchise. A record-breaking debut at the box office means that we’ll see a sequel but all involved will have to work hard to make sure it matches the high standard set by this this film.