This sequel to the original Halloween pretends its sequels never happened, and, upon jettisoning four decades of history, brings us the best reinvention of the story of Michael Myers ever. Finally, we have a worthy sequel to the film that helped define the slasher genre.
While this is almost a cliche, the best way to describe this film is “all killer, no filler.” Indeed, including flashbacks to the original film, you go nary 15 minutes in this film without someone getting brutally murdered by Michael Myers.
The film plays very close to the structure of the original: Michael Myers, in an asylum, nearing the anniversary of his murders, is visited by two real-crime podcasters (how very 2018!) who want to interview him ahead of his transfer to another facility.
His doctor introduces them, and they go about further investigating the murders that happened 40 years ago, including an interview with a fairly off-kilter and paranoid Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) the sole survivor of Myers’ previous spree. Just like the original, our monster breaks out during the transfer and returns to his hometown to go on a murder spree.
The only difference is, this time Laurie has been preparing for 40 years for this very moment. In some of the film’s best parts, and a supreme twist of fate, Myers becomes the hunted and she becomes the hunter. And this is where the film becomes wholly different and its own thing.
She is joined in this with both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who have varying degrees of tolerance for their mother/grandmother’s nuttery. To be fair, the elder Strode very much seems to have gone off the deep end, and hearing that Myers is back confirms all of her fears and preparation as realism, not paranoia.
The best surprise of the film is having this Trinity of three generations of strong women uniting to fight this unstoppable evil. It takes the first film’s rumination on purity and power and makes it a culturally relevant feminist coup de grace for today. The Strode women, divided by generations and outlooks on the world, when united are the only force that even comes close to counteracting Myers.
The other great surprise of the film is just how funny it is. Screenwriter Danny McBride and screenwriter/directorDavid Gordon Greenwho are normally more adept at stoner comedy (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, Eastbound and Down) put some really amazing touches on here to help break the tension. While the film is all killer, no filler, in between the kills we often get moments of levity that help set up the characters who are about to die gruesome deaths at the hands of Michael Myers and the stakes of the next phase of murder sprees.
Yes, it’s also extremely brutal. This film earns its R rating with some truly gross special effects that we haven’t seen outside of a Troma film in a long while. Also, apparently in this universe blood spurts very very very loudly! There are also a few moments involving impaling, or people’s heads being smashed in, that are on full display here. Horror and slasher fans will be delighted.
Again, it’s almost played for comical effect, and helps lighten the tone of what would otherwise be so dark and depressing. But the film never enters into camp, always staying on the right side of the slasher genre. While it knows that some of the campy elements are necessary, it keeps its funny parts funny and violent parts brutal.
The other great thing about this film is it does not present a great barrier to anyone who has never seen a Halloween film before. It sets up its universe extremely well and establishes its characters even without knowledge of the previous material. However, for die-hard true fans there are a lot of nods to the original that make you feel right at home. This also includes a return of the iconic John Carpenter score, which is as effective now as it was four decades ago.
Fans will eat this film up, and general audiences will likely have a good time as well, though maybe not as good of a time as the core audience. In this way it’s very much like the films in the Marvel franchise where there is a definite fanbase who will enjoy the film at a different level, but there is a strong mass appeal as well as a low bar for entry.
This is not only a great Halloween film, it is a great film for Halloween time. The slasher movie is a tried-and-true staple of the horror genre and especially popular this time of year. Audiences will find the tricks and treats that they so desire here and will be thoroughly satisfied.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars