Fantastic Fest Review: David Gordon Green’s New ‘Halloween’ Sequel
by Jeremy Kirk
September 21, 2018
Michael Myers is back, and, this time, he isn’t returning alone. 40 years after her original introductory role of Laurie Strode (and 16 years after the Strode character was “killed off”), Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role that made her the original final girl, this time to exact some much needed revenge. But Halloween, directed by indie legend David Gordon Green, and co-written by Green with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride), is keen on shaking things up in the horror series for the sake of the film’s deeper message. That’s something many of the throwaway sequels to the John Carpenter original were missing. While the 2018 Halloween sequel is a gloriously shot slasher flick with all that entails, it’s also a deep dive into trauma, victimhood, and survivors finally taking a stand against their attackers.
40 years after the events of Halloween night, 1978, Michael Myers, the emotionless killer who stalked and murdered teenaged babysitters in the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, is now locked away in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t emote. He has very much regressed to the Michael Myers locked away before, when he was institutionalized for murdering his teenaged sister when he was six years old. Michael waits — the time to strike comes, once again, on Halloween Eve as he is being transferred to a more heavily guarded facility. Naturally, these doctors and guards at Smith’s Grove never learn.
You know who does learn, though? Laurie Strode, that’s who. She has spent the last 40 years getting over the trauma of being attacked by this faceless, nameless, emotionless shape in a white mask on Halloween night. She has overcome her PTSD to prepare, knowing the day would finally arrive when Michael would come for her again. Laurie has prepared and gotten harder of soul over the years, something that has cost her a normal life with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Once the inevitable night comes that Michael Myers does return to Haddonfield, though, it’s still anyone’s guess if Laurie and her family are prepared enough.
The first and foremost aspect of this new Halloween that should be mentioned right away is the decision by the filmmakers to retcon the shit out of this series. The decision to make a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original deletes a number of aspects fans of this series have grown accustomed to. Chief among these is the fact that Michael and Laurie are not long-lost brother and sister, something introduced in the first sequel in 1981. Instead of that connection forced into the series, the new film goes back to the randomness of Michael’s attacks John Carpenter wrote into the original character. Michael (aka “The Shape”) is like a shark moving and hunting with little in the way of true or explained purpose.
This aspect to the film is easily sidestepped, and Green and company do a magnificent job rebuilding the mystery surrounding the killer. It’s also an important factor in the overarching narrative they choose to tell this time around, the idea that attackers do so at random, and their victims are left with the question of why. This is likely the reason Carpenter has finally returned to the series in an Executive Producer’s role. He also provides a new take on his classic theme and much of this film’s musical score. It rips, to say the very least.
Much of the new Halloween plays like a natural follow-up the original film. Michael escapes. He travels to Haddonfield picking up his classic outfit of mechanic’s overalls and the famed, white mask. He begins causing havoc on the streets and in the houses of the small town still very much trying to cope with the trauma of 40 years earlier. In that regard, Laurie is stronger and more prepared than the rest of the town.
Green depicts the violence in the town with an expert filmmaking hand, his camera movement gliding down the sidewalks and through the backyards with an almost casual manner. The violence is brutal to be sure, and the screenwriters do a superb job juxtaposing it all with some much-needed levity.
There are moments and lines of dialogue in Halloween that are downright funny, but the tonal shift never comes off as jarring or out of place. It’s another instance of the film depicting how much has changed in the past 40 years. Children are smarter and more aware now than they were in 1978, and teenagers (teenaged girls to be more specific) are less likely to accept the “weakness” typically labelled on them.
The character of Laurie Strode has evolved wonderfully with this new film, and Jamie Lee Curtis meets that evolution with an absolutely masterful turn. She’s seen some shit, and she isn’t putting up with anything or anyone standing in her way of putting an end to this 40-year long nightmare she’s had to endure. It’s really no surprise Curtis chose to return to the role given how much she has changed in the new film, more of a fierce survivalist who holes herself up in a heavily guarded compound lying in wait for an attack that is sure to come. The comparisons to Sarah Connor in the Terminator series are natural, but Laurie is even stronger than that, her new role of the hunter desiring more than to merely survive. She’s now on the attack, hoping for that day when she can confront her one-time attacker and finally take him out of the world for good.
Likewise, Greer and Matichak fill their respective mother-and-daughter roles with their suitable reactions. Neither character has directly had to endure such trauma, but their awareness of how dangerous the world can be is ever-present in their daily interactions. When the time comes for all three of the Strode women to unite against the common foe, the results are spectacular and applause-worthy. Their characters and the performances they each give seems to put a stamp on the final girl caricature to the point you’re not really sure how the trope can ever be topped.
With raw intensity and brutal, genre elements, Halloween sits comfortably as a spot-on retrofitting of these characters and events. It’s a film that should please fans of the genre and the series without the blatant fan service that typically comes with these. That’s in there, too, but Green allows it in the most casual and natural of ways to the point that many of Halloween’s Easter Eggs will likely go unnoticed upon first watch.
More so than that, though, this new Halloween is a powerful depiction of one woman’s strength and her ability to not only overcome the most traumatic event of her life, but to steer back into and face it head-on. The “listen to the victims” mentality is firmly on display in Halloween, and the case for it has never been stronger. In many ways, subtle and direct, Halloween is the horror film 2018 needs most of all.
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