By Nick Maylor
Since John Carpenter set the standard for the masked killer/slasher genre in 1978, the Halloween franchise has seen a slew of sequels and a reboot (which then had a sequel). In a wise attempt at cutting the fat and taking the franchise back to its roots, Halloween (2018) serves as a direct sequel to the 1978 film of the same name. It ignores everything that came in the interim space and picks up 40 years after Michael Myers went on his Halloween rampage, killing five people.
Michael has been locked up ever since…..
As far as anyone knows, he has never uttered a single word during his incarceration.
Conveniently, on the night approaching the film’s titular holiday, Michael Myers is to be transferred to a dismal penitentiary for society’s worst offenders; a far cry from the caring (if carefully secured) mental facility he has been living it. Not that the better treatment of the staff has done anything to change what he is: pure, unrestrained evil.
In the 1978 film’s script, Michael was referred to only as “The Shape”. The famous mask worn by the killer (a modified Captain Kirk mask ala William Shatner) has always been a blank slate for the audience to project their worst fears onto. Michael is only the shape. Seemingly impervious to outside stimuli, psychoanalysis and any attempt at compassion; Michael Myers is, in every sense, the Boogeyman of all children’s nightmares. He is just a figure; a figure of bottomless evil.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has not lived a charmed life since her encounter with the Shape. Seeping in paranoia and isolated from society, she has a troubled relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). Karen resents her mother for the harsh way she was raised; trained from infancy to fear the world and prepare for the worst. Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) longs for a meaningful relationship with both her mother and grandmother but the tension between Karen and Laurie is very much a pressing concern.
After the bus carrying Michael and the other inmates/patients crashes, police officer Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), Laurie and Michael’s physician Dr. Ranbir Sartain venture out into the night in search of Michael.
In what appears to be only a few minutes work, Michael has killed a gas station mechanic, stolen his clothes and encountered two British journalists who previously visited him in the hospital in a failed attempt to communicate. Even baiting Michael with his old mask and mentioning Laurie’s name was not enough to get Michael to speak at the hospital. It’s at this point in the movie where we get a big dose of fan service as Michael reclaims his mask and ventures out on Halloween night.
The film contains the right mix of new ideas and a nostalgic flair. It circumnavigates the pitfalls and baggage that the (now retconned) sequels had. Those films made Michael into Laurie’s brother and proceeded to give a wide array of bizarre and inconsistent motivations for his behaviour. Here, they aren’t family. Many pieces of dialogue reference things that were once cannot but now are not. However, this never crosses the line into “winking at the camera” territory. Laurie audibly refers to Michael as “The Shape” here and it never feels too on the nose.
The carnage is mired in suspense and tension the way the original film was. There is enough death, blood, stabbing and moments to make us jump without relying on gore or shock. The film utilizes the classic music and score that the original film made so famous and everything down to the opening credits sequence is unmistakably familiar. David Gordon Green’s Haddonfield homecoming delivers on every bloody promise. The Shape’s return is also a return to form for a long-tired genre.
It doesn’t break any marvelous new ground or redefine the genre. Rather, it exemplifies what made that genre appealing in the first place. The film does leave open the possibility for a sequel and with Halloween (2018) poised to make a killing (pun intended) at the box-office, we may be subject to more of the story. Perhaps cooler heads will prevail and leave the franchise to go out on an admirable and positive note. We can only hope that henceforth, those who hold the rights and destiny of Halloween in their hands, proceed carefully and respectfully.
Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as Laurie Strode (as she always has been). The supporting cast all deliver exactly what is required of them and the pace might be a tad slow getting started but once he puts that mask back on, strap in for the ride.
If you are a fan of John Carpenter’s 1978 film, I see little reason to think that this film should disappoint.
Unlike many of the previous installments; this movie isn’t trying to be like Halloween. This film’s title seems paradoxically appropriate for a sequel. It’s Halloween, plain and simple.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is the current Foote & Friends “expert” on all things geek/superhero/comic-book related. Nick is the host/producer of the official Foote & Friends On Film podcast. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor