Updated: Feb 7, 2020
In 1978, John Carpenter made Halloween, a horror thriller about a masked slasher relentlessly stalking some babysitters on Halloween night. It was a huge success both commercially and artistically, igniting a subgenre and inspiring seven sequels and a remake with its own sequel. Now, forty years after the original terrified a legion of fans, there is Halloween, which is a direct sequel to the 1978 movie, taking place forty years later and completely ignoring every other franchise entry.
It is an interesting approach that almost, sort of, works. Director/cowriter David Gordon Green captures the atmosphere of dread and hopelessness Carpenter was able to maintain. The psychotic Michael Myers comes off less as a man and more as an entity of pure, ruthless evil. Yet somehow this version mostly lacks suspense. I knew I was watching a technically well-made movie, but it never got my heart racing like the best thrillers do.
The story this time sees Michael escape on Halloween while being transferred from one facility to another and leaving a trail of bodies as the survivor from his first murder spree, Laurie Strode, prepares for a confrontation with her demon. It is pretty much exactly what you would expect from this description, with very little in the way of unnecessary digressions. Green’s film, similar to its official predecessor, is nearly as single-minded as its killer. John Carpenter’s original is a classic of the genre. This one has its heart in the right place, but is missing tension and a sense of purpose.
What the new Halloween does have is real emotional stakes due to the performance of Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role as Laurie Strode. It gives weight to Michael’s mythology by showing the effects of his actions on a survivor. She has been living her whole life in the shadow of what happened to her. Curtis plays her not as an action heroine, but as someone who has suffered serious trauma that has defined her life. Her character has believable motivation. This makes the threat of Michael scarier because it shows the consequences of his very existence.
Even with that working in its favor, the new Halloween (101 minutes without the end credits) tends to drag a bit. While the first entry in this series gave the impression that Michael was on a quest, here it seems more like he is just wandering around until his inevitable battle with Laurie. A couple of his kills are cleverly filmed, but they feel perfunctory. Most of the middle section is kind of dull, as we wait for Michael to meet the only character we care about. The opening, reintroducing Michael (as well as John Carpenter’s brilliant score, which he updated for the new movie), and the final act, are quite effective. The rest feels like Green is killing time.
If nothing else, Halloween 2018 feels like a sequel to Halloween 1978. It has its tone down in addition to the way it treats Michael as an inexorably approaching monster. It also provides a reasonable and somewhat satisfying continuation of the story. It is both a loving celebration and a respectful follow-up that comes off as an honest effort at making a good movie instead of merely a cynical attempt to cash in on another remake/reboot/reimagining/whatever. I admired it and recommend it for fans of the series. That being said, I appreciate what Green was accomplishing much more than I actually enjoyed it. It succeeds as a tribute, but does not totally stand out on its own.
3 out of 5
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle as The Shape
Judy Greer as Karen
Andi Matichak as Allyson
Toby Huss as Ray
Will Patton as Officer Hawkins
Haluk Bilginer as Dr. Sartain
Directed by David Gordon Green
Screenplay by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley