Star Rating:

Halloween (2018)

Director: David Gordon Green

Actors: Andi Matichak, Jamie Lee Curtis

Release Date: Friday 19th October 2018

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 109 minutes

One of the best horror sequels in years

Four decades after she barely escaped with her life, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) lives alone in a fortress, estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak), and waits for Michael Myers (Nick Castle) to escape. However, when Myers is moved to a new mental institution and escapes, Strode is now waiting for him.

Hard resets on franchises are nothing new, but there's been few that have done it so frequently as 'Halloween' has. There was the twenty-year sequel with Josh Hartnett and Adam Arkin, there was Rob Zombie's ill-fated attempt and now, finally, you have the reset that seems to make sense of it all - by simply dismissing the convoluted canon that had been built up over the years in a single scene. 'Halloween' opens with a pair of true crime podcasters - an interesting commentary on people's fascination with trauma and reliving it - attempting to interview both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode about the infamous night in 1978. Both say nothing of note to their interviewers, but it's clear that the four decades hasn't dulled either of them.

Whilst Michael Myers is still mute and has a wisp of white hair in a scene or two, Jamie Lee Curtis' portrayal of Laurie Strode has shifted entirely from squealing teenage babysitter into a hard-edged, wild-eyed avenger who's lying in wait for the chance to kill the one who wronged her. It's not a particularly new idea - 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' did the same thing with flipping the 'final girl' trope into a revenge sequel, but considering that 'Halloween' kick-started the slasher genre, it's an intriguing idea to see it applied here.

Jamie Lee Curtis' performance is involved, assured, and layered with years of torment and anguish. There's a scene where she turns up at a family dinner and can barely keep it together, swigging on a glass of wine to control herself, and it gives her a vulnerability and a context for the rage she clearly feels. That night in 1978 robbed her of any chance of a normal life, and while her daughter - played by the criminally underrated Judy Greer - is trying to make the best of it, she herself has her own problems with her mother that have been passed on.

The script by Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and Jeff Fradley smartly grasps the nature of trauma and violence as a force for change, that Jamie Lee Curtis' character is no longer a victim but a survivor, and one who's ready for round two to even the odds. As well as this, it also addresses the fact that it's something people on the outside of it just don't understand. Her daughter complains that she probably needs CBT to get over it, whilst her granddaughter's friends chuckle that, compared to things nowadays, it's all pretty tame. Of course, when Myers escapes, those discussions go out the window.

David Gordon Green captures the essence of John Carpenter's stripped-back, almost simplistic sense of framing and colour. The lighting looks natural and real, the framing of the shots are direct and the violence itself is impactful and shocking in its execution. As you'd expect from the director of 'Superbad' and the writer of 'Eastbound And Down', there's a throughline of comedy to it that acknowledges the tropes of horror and the very nature of reboots themselves. Jamie Lee Curtis' character does it point-blank in one scene, calling Haluk Bilginer "the new Loomis," in reference to Donald Pleasance's character from the original.

More than the comedy, what 'Halloween' has in spades is an atmosphere of dread and tension. It just seeps out of every scene and John Carpenter's distinctive synth soundtrack  adds to it all. It doesn't rely on air-horn horror / jump-scares to make its point, and it understands the nature of what makes Michael Myers so scary - that he's basically a shark in human form, silent, merciless and relentless. 'Halloween' doesn't bother with pointless motivation or exposition, he's just pure evil and he doesn't stop - and he won't stop until someone stops him.

While it retreads familiar ground and uses existing beats and notes, 'Halloween' is one of the best horror sequels in years.