by Stuart O’Connor
Imagine, if you will, that at the end of the original Halloween, Michael Myers was captured and incarcerated for the rest of his unnatural life. And imagine further that Laurie Strode never fully recovered from the psychological trauma that resulted from Myers’ attempt to kill her, and she spent the next 40 years of her life preparing for his eventual return to finish the job. And then, one night, return he does.
That is the premise of this spanking-new Halloween from Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind horror hits such as Get Out, Insidious, The Purge, Split, Upgrade, Sinister and The Gift. It’s directed by David Gordon Green and written by Green, Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride. And these guys sure do know their Halloween mythology – which is why they have pretty much discarded it all and gone back to square one by making this a direct sequel to the 1978 classic.
Halloween has often been imitated – mostly by its own increasingly dire sequels – but never bettered. However, now we have a film that comes pretty close to living up to the smarts and the terror of the original. In a nice modern touch, this new Halloween opens with a pair of true-crime podcasters visiting Michael at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium in the hope of getting an interview with the infamous serial killer. Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) – Dr Loomis has long been dead – tells them that Michael can speak, but he chooses not to. In an attempt to get him talking, they show Michael the mask he wore on that fateful night, and mention sole survivor Laurie. Bad move. The next day, as Michael is being transported from the sanitarium to a new maximum security prison, Michael escapes and heads back to Haddonfield, Illinois, to finish what he started 40 years earlier.
Plot-wise, Halloween is not terribly original – there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before – but thanks to a sharp script and a genuine love for the source material, the filmmakers manage to craft an atmospheric and genuinely scary horror movie. It helps that John Carpenter is on board as an executive producer, as well as crafting the film’s score (with the help of son Cody) and reprising that classic theme music. Also on the perfect-casting front is the return of Nick Castle to play Myers, aka The Shape. You may recall that Castle played the psycho killer in Carpenters original film, so it’s a lovely piece of continuity to have him reprise the character 40 years later.
But the most perfect piece of continuity is to have Curtis back as final girl Laurie Strode. And the fact that this is a direct sequel to the first film, ignoring everything that has come since (including those two awful Rob Zombie reboots) gives her the perfect clean slate to play with. And play with it she does. For a start, Laurie has an almost identical hairstyle to the one she wore in 1978 (although here it’s greyer). Curtis plays Laurie as a woman with post-traumatic stress, who has spent the past 40 years preparing for Michael’s return; in many ways, she is reminiscent of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. This obsession has caused her estrangement from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), but Laurie has managed to form a closer bond with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). And it’s no spoiler to say that it’s obvious from early on that these three woman will come together to take on Michael Myers in the climax.
It’s safe to say that this really is the Halloween we’ve been wanting for 40 years, and it’s been well worth the wait.
Halloween is out in cinemas now