40 years after Halloween (1978), David Gordon Green brings us a sequel, with original director John Carpenter composing the music, and original Michael Myers actor Nick Castle partially reprising his role with new actor James Jude Courtney. Best of all, Jamie Lee Curtis is back as our heroine Laurie Strode.
After being shot by his psychiatrist, Michael has been captured and has spent another 40 years in the sanatorium, until he escapes during a transfer the night before Halloween. Only this time Laurie Strode has prepared for this night.
Halloween (1978) set the slasher genre standards, which has since become full of clichés that have spawned several parodies (Scream, Cabin In The Woods). This film fully acknowledges that in clever ways, e.g. outright stating the low body count of the original.
What makes this film so effective is that Michael Myers has no specific target to kill; he selects his victims by those who just happen to be in his path. And he has no specific path; he’ll just shamelessly go into any house or location. So it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, young or old. You’re not safe.
What I love in this film is the way it shows how Michael has had an effect on several people throughout the years: Dr Sartain, Loomis’s former student wanting to understand how his mind works; the podcasters wanting to make money off the legend; the police officer who arrested Michael that night regretting not killing Michael; the teenagers of this generation who just see him as an urban legend.
Then you have Laurie, who’s lived with the trauma every day, stuck in a time warp, even down to her hairstyle, and has prepared for his eventual escape. She has also trained her daughter Karen to prepare, which has caused a strained relationship when she was removed from Laurie’s custody at age 12.
Karen’s teenage daughter Allyson is keen to have a relationship with her grandmother, while not comprehending why she can’t get over that night after so long. It’s a wonderful look at how trauma has a major affect on not your own life but the people you care about. Here it’s represented beautifully with three generations of the Strode women – mother, daughter and granddaughter.
Like Donald Pleasence in the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis gives the performance of her career as a tragic hero. Laurie has done a complete 180 from the first film; she’s a fighter, and when Michael escapes it’s Laurie who goes after him this time. A
Judy Greer is also wonderful as Karen as well as newcomer Andi Matichak as Allyson. James Jude Courtney is effectives as Michael, and under guidance of Nick Castle he’s able mimic his body language while still making the part his own. I love the mask, how decayed it has become, and it’s great that we have several moments without it on yet still not seeing his face fully. You can even make out his previous wounds.
The film has several references to the original that never felt forced or out of place. Several iconic moments are recreated, yet all with a spin, so expectations are completely subverted, emphasised with the opening credits, which is both a recreation of the original and a new take.
Look carefully at Laurie’s house, there are several details identical to locations she’s been in the original. There’s an extremely clever sequence when Michael goes back on his first killing spree back in Haddonfield, all done in one shot.
The deaths are pretty graphic time compared the original, yet some are actually off-camera and you don’t mind due to the cleverness behind them. There’s also plenty of humour that is genuinely funny and feels natural in particular Allyson’s friend Vicky and the little boy she babysits.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. The first half does drag a bit as there a lot of characters and exposition. Laurie vs. Michael, however, is well built up and is deeply satisfying to see play out, as it reverses the roles of the predator and the prey. The ending is a bit abrupt but I feel it fits well with the film.
It may not be as good as the original, but it’s still an effective sequel. It works well as a film in its own right. With a great message behind it and plenty of creativity in both writing and production, this could set a new standard for slasher films.
Happy Halloween, everybody!
Written by Jack Parish