It’s safe to say that there are probably enough movies in the Halloween franchise. Giving fans seven sequels, one remake, and a sequel to that remake is plenty.
Yet, here we are with a 40-year-late sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter classic that pretends none of the previous continuity exists. They didn’t even bother adding anything to the title to avoid confusion. But they did get Jamie Lee Curtis back for the first time in 20 years. Plus, John Carpenter is technically back, just as a producer and composer, ensuring that he wasn’t responsible for figuring out how to kick the dead horse one last time while still getting to leave his fingerprints all over the synthesizers on the soundtrack.
And who was hired to provide an ending to the Michael Myers saga? Why the co-director and star (but only as a writer) of Eastbound & Down, of course! Sounds like a very bizarre take on a dead franchise, huh? Would it surprise you to learn that Halloween 2018 is the best film in the series since the original? Well, it sure surprised the hell out of me. No hyperbole. This flick is fan-friggin-tabulous.
Apparently, when David Gordon Green asked John Carpenter for advice on how to proceed with his film de Michael Myers, the master replied, “make it simple and make it relentless.” Sound advice and thank god Green followed it. He’d never made a horror film before (although he was signed on to remake Suspiria for a hot minute), nor had his co-writer, Danny McBride. But you’d never know it while caught up in the throes of this updated slasher schlock. The plot is indeed simple.
Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laura Strode, clearly still suffering from the trauma of that fateful Halloween night many moons ago. It caused her to become estranged from her family and move out into hermit country, Illinois. However, she did eventually find a focus in life: good old-fashioned revenge. She’s trained herself to be a gun-toting badass, just hoping that Mikey Myers might return just so she can be the one to blast his stupid face off. Well, it happens. On Halloween, no less. There are also a variety of other characters introduced. Guess what happens to them?
So yeah, we’re firmly in slasher movie land here, just fused to a female empowerment revenge movie. And hey, since the empowered woman getting revenge is the original final girl from the original slasher movie, that means there’s oodles of fuel for material to fill gender studies horror pieces for years to come, and it’s pretty gosh darn obvious that’s all very much intended. Yet thankfully, Green and McBride didn’t let themselves get lost in the tasty subtext. It’s all there, but the filmmakers know that anyone showing up for a Halloween movie just wants to be entertained and, thankfully, there’s plenty of that to go around.
First up, the movie is consistently hilarious. Every character gets at least one big laugh, especially one particularly sassy kid. That almost goes without saying from the Eastbound & Down guys. They also make it clear that they are fans and from the gorgeous twist on the old jack-o-lantern opening credits sequence, they litter this thing with in-jokes, references, and fan service.
Not in a wink-wink “aren’t we clever” way either. More subtle nods that won’t get in the way of viewers who don’t care, but will add extra bursts of geeky glee for those who do. And while the narrative ignores continuity from all the previous Halloween follow-ups, the references take time to even acknowledge the Myers-less Halloween III: Season Of The Witch and the remake.
Of course, none of that really matters unless this slasher movie delivers the spooky and gory goods, right? Well, good news, there’s plenty of splatter throughout the slaughter. David Gordon Green’s roving widescreen cameras somehow manage to recapture the elegant suspense mastery of John Carpenter. Early on, Myers’ shenanigans are subtle and suspense-driven, intricately crafted gasps and creeps sure to please the purists. But the gang also realize that horror has moved on since 1978 and fans demand generous dollops of the red stuff to keep them happy.
“Halloween: Here We Go Again really is the best case scenario.”
So, things do indeed get nasty, as much as any entry in this franchise that came before. At one point or another in the running time, Green tries his hand at orchestrating all of his favourite types of cinematic scares (including one surreal run through the woods involving a bunch of rotted out mannequins that offers a taste of what his Suspiria might have been) and nails almost all of them.
If David Gordon Green never makes another horror movie, at least he got to dabble in it all. But hopefully he will. This guy can dish out the goods. Of course it helps to have a delightfully creepy John Carpenter score (his first in far too long!) running underneath. Obviously.
And it sure helped that Green got Jamie Lee Curtis back as well. She’s spectacular as the new, improved, and badass Laurie. It’s not an exaggeration to call it one of her best performances and everyone around her lives up to the standard she sets. It’s amazing just how well this flick turned out. It could have been a disaster. It should have been a disaster. Yet somehow, it works. So gosh darn entertaining and creepy and funny and smart and reverential and seductive and bloody that there’s something to please every horror fan who buys a ticket for a cheap thrill.
Halloween: Here We Go Again really is the best case scenario. It’s a perfect way to end the series, right down to the last shot. Sadly, it’s also the first Halloween movie produced by Universal Studios since 1982. They’ve got a theme park and merchandising department to maintain. If this flick is a hit, there will be more. So enjoy this slice of fan-baiting franchise perfection while you can. It won’t last. Real evil never dies, after all. Especially when there are t-shirts to be sold.