Summary: Forty years after his one-night reign of terror, Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield to finish the job.
Review: The original Halloween remains one of my favorite horror movies of all time, so I found myself both nervous and thrilled at the prospect of the franchise’s first proper sequel in sixteen years. In what strikes me as an ultimately wise decision, the filmmakers have retconned the entire series’ continuity, excepting the first film, out of existence. In the new movie’s universe, only the events of the original Halloween are canon. This can’t help but feel a bit like overkill, since Halloween II’s events (and famous twist) could have been worked in painlessly enough. But a clean slate it is; Laurie Strode’s family ties to Michael are brushed off early in the new movie as an urban legend, and now his fixation on her is only due to her narrowly escaping him on that fateful night in 1978. Cut to present day, where Laurie has become a prepper for what she considers Michael’s inevitable return, fortifying her home and stockpiling weapons. Naturally, she’s right, and in one of those classic movie prison transfers gone awry Michael escapes the law’s clutches and returns to his old stomping grounds.
Halloween‘s best moments stem from the filmmakers’ clear love and respect for the original. This is never more apparent than during the movie’s numerous nods to its classic predecessor, which are far subtler than those of other newly resurrected franchises, though the sheer number of them does grow tiring by the movie’s end. On the other hand, this reverence for the source material also supplies the movie with its greatest asset: the sequences of Michael Myers doing what he does best. This is a movie that understands the empty void at the core of Michael’s character. He doesn’t kill for joy or revenge like his two most famous contemporaries. His motives are unknowable – if not nonexistent – because he isn’t human. He’s an unstoppable force, a machine set in motion, and Halloween conveys this almost as well as the original did. The murders (which are satisfyingly many) are not meant to be stylish or sexy; they are cold shows of inhuman brutality, brought to life by grisly visuals, bone-crunching sound design, and the hulking physical presence of James Jude Courtney.
Credit is also due, of course, to Jamie Lee Curtis, in fine form once again as horror’s most indelible heroine. Her Laurie is both incredibly vulnerable, having never fully recovered from her brush with The Shape, and certifiably badass, and it’s a testament to Curtis’s performance that neither side ever slips into caricature. The supporting players are likable enough, but they’re inevitably eclipsed by the titanic duo of Laurie and Michael, especially the requisite group of horny teenagers.
As much as I’d like Halloween to be the game-changer promised by its prerelease hype, there are a few glaring flaws that prevent it from doing so. The movie has a strong handle on tone whenever Michael is on screen, but the same can’t be said for the scenes without him. The script – co-penned by a trio of comedy veterans – is all too quick to crack jokes, which land more often than not but have the nasty habit of deflating the movie’s tension. There are some noticeable cracks in the story as well, which is appreciably uncomplicated for the most part but sometimes chooses the clunkiest possible developments to jerk things forward. Among these is the movie’s nadir: a jarring, undeniably terrible third-act twist whose only purpose is to get a certain character to a certain location.
Despite these weaknesses, Halloween still does its job well, and with the recent dearth of quality horror movies that’s something to be thankful for. It doesn’t recapture the undiluted terror of the original, but it could never hope to. Instead it offers us a respectable and respectful send-off* to one of the horror genre’s greatest monsters.
The Verdict: It’s not without its shortcomings, but Halloween is a worthy entry in the twisted saga of Michael Myers. I give it seven-and-a-half savage cyphers out of ten.
Well folks, that about does it for this latest round of the Fast and Fentress Fright Fest. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed it.