Imagine if all the assorted film sequels that followed John Carpenter’s genre-defining Halloween (1978) never existed. Yeah, I know, that’s like saying there were no Star Wars prequels, but in a galaxy not so far away we could perhaps delete those Halloween sequels and time jump to 2018 and pretend that they never happened. Well, that’s what director and screenplay writer David Gordon Green (with co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) does, and it is a dynamic, bloody, and sometimes funny sequel that we have waited for these last 40 years.
The premise is that Halloween (2018) begins right after where we left off in the first film – Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shoots Michael, he falls off a balcony, and then his body disappears – Michael runs away but gets caught by Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton). In this version of the story Michael gets put away under Dr. Loomis’s care, and his suffering and bloodied sister Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) was supposed to go back to her life and be a normal teenager.
Well, 40 years later we learn that didn’t work out so well. The mature Laurie is twice divorced, alienated from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and barely sees her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). This version of Laurie is bitter, hardened, and brutally honest. Curtis inhabits Laurie – the role that made her famous – with such ferocity and intensity that we believe every bit of her story.
Michael – once again played by Nick Castle – has been locked away all these years and has never spoken a word. After Loomis passes away, he comes under the care of Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) whose interest in Michael seems to border on obsession. Of course, as luck would have it, Sartain has been ordered to transfer Michael to another facility on October 30, 2018, the day before the 40th anniversary of the events that occurred in the first film.
I probably don’t even have to tell you that Michael ends up escaping from the transfer bus – allowing dozens of other psychiatric patients to escape as well and wander the night away along a dark highway, and for a moment the eerie scene is reminiscent of something we’d encounter in a zombie film.
The next day back in Haddonfield we see October 31st pretty much unfold as itdid 40 years before. Allyson and her friends are walking to high school passing Halloween decorations on houses just as her grandmother Laurie did so many years before, and it is subtle reminder that many things remain the same in this small town even after all this time. There are teenage rites of passage to be had on this Halloween night, and the characters are, of course, setting themselves up to be right where Michael wants them to be.
We get a look at the dour but determined present day Laurie taking target practice using a crew of ghoulish looking dummies, and we also learn that she has set up her house like a fortress with bright floodlighting and a closet full of weapons. Laurie is ready – has always been ready all these years – for the inevitable day that her brother comes home and tries to finish the job.
Somehow before you can say “Trick or treat” Michael has found another mechanic’s uniform, a huge knife, and the old Shatner mask that turns him into The Shape. Now he is hiding behind tombstones and watching from behind bushes just as he did in the past. Green’s nods to the first film are sometimes subtle and other times hit us over the head – there is even a nice twist to looking over the balcony to discover a missing body – but we can do nothing but enjoy every minute of it.
Michael begins going on a rampage of killing – and you can tell who will be thevictims but that’s part of the fun – and the understanding is that the mask empowers him, enhances the evil in his core, and that there can be no reasoning with something that is pure evil because there is nothing else it can be.
The rest of the way is spoiler territory, but Green does give us some badly needed comic relief. Two deputies talking about the snacks they packed for a stakeout is hilarious, as is Allyson and her boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold) arriving at the high school scare-fest with him dressed as Bonnie and she as Clyde. The funniest moments though are when little Julian (a scene-stealing Jibrail Nantambu) interacts with his babysitter Vicky (Virginia Gardner).
Nevertheless, this story is really all about Laurie and Michael, and any would-be rescuers are going to be taken out in the process. The killer also seeks to kill Karen and Allyson to make it a bloody family trifecta. Laurie’s maternal instincts fuel her desire to confront and finally kill the brother whose memory has tortured her for four decades. Laurie doesn’t just want to defend her family – she needs to destroy that evil once and for all.
Carpenter’s haunting theme music is back and most welcomed, and cinematographer Michael Simmonds gets the mood and tone right in a film that is dark and shadowed in all the right places. The casting is spot-on with even minor characters brilliantly realized, and Andi Matichak stands out as Laurie’s granddaughter.
Halloween (2018) is highly recommended and worth seeing especially at this time of year. Green pays homage to Carpenter’s masterpiece and, while the original is still better, Green’s film comes as close as it can to being Godfather Part One to Carpenter’s Godfather Part Two.