Reading through the ingredients of the latest entry in the Halloween series is cause enough to give you whiplash. The film marks an attempt to reinvigorate a 40 year-old franchise, but it ignores every subsequent film after the 1978 original. That sounds odd, but okay…Oh, Jamie Lee Curtis is back in the lead role? Great! And John Carpenter’s returning to do the music? Double great! Who’s directing though? *Checks the IMDb page* David Gordon Green? The director of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing biopic Stronger and stoner-comedy Pineapple Express? And he’s co-writing the script with Danny McBride? I honestly have no idea what I’m supposed to expect going into this…
Well worry not, readers, because this motley crew have crafted a worthy sequel to the slasher film that inspired a host of imitators, and one of the few sequels with the guts to shed the baggage of an increasingly ludicrous series. It’s one of a few inspired ideas at the heart of this love letter to the slasher genre.
Laurie Strode (Curtis) is now a grandmother, estranged from her family due to her obsessive belief that Michael Myers will one day return to finish what he set out to do on that fateful Halloween 40 years earlier. When Michael escapes and returns to Haddonfield to exact his deadly revenge, a vindicated Laurie must fight to save herself and her family from the ineluctable threat.
The first 15 minutes of the film are an effective recap of the original film for newbies, if a little expository for fans. It’s a little disheartening to find that the bright, strong Laurie of 40 years ago has all but ruined her life to prepare for Michael’s return. “It’s pretty much all she ever talks about. It defines her life,” one character ruefully puts it.
But once the admin is out of the way, the film kicks into gear and becomes a bloody good slasher flick – “bloody” being the operative word. Green masterfully directs some riotously tense set-pieces, including a fantastically-staged altercation involving Michael advancing on a victim under the glare of motion-activated security lights. And unlike many recent horror films, Halloween follows through on its threats of violence; suffice it to say that the sound designers have clearly had fun replicating the gush of arterial blood and the squish of a bashed-in head’s leaking brains.
The film also knows exactly what to borrow from its forbearer in order to sell you on its credentials as a Halloween film. Bringing Carpenter back to work on the iconic score is a loving nod towards what made the original film so special, while the cinematography mimics the look of the original in all the best ways – even to the point of borrowing clips at one point for a flashback.
Carpenter shot many sequences in the 1978 original in long takes which, despite the chair-scratching tension this style elicits, was actually a financially motivated decision, as it accelerated the filming process. Green pays homage to this in a one-take set-piece when Michael first prowls through the town that’ll definitely give you goosebumps in all the best ways.
As Laurie and Michael circle each other, the inversion of exactly who is hunting who, resulting in the best “gotcha” moment of the year, almost single-handedly saves the Home Alone-style ending.
Go with the Halloween-night crowd: this Halloween entry is much more treat than trick.