The new “Halloween” is everything you’ve been hoping for — smart and scary, it lovingly respects the original while creatively evolving the franchise.
As the genre continues to change and evolve, horror fans hunger for genre fare that pushes boundaries, makes us think, and challenges expectations. Critics and cinephiles throw around words like “smart” and “elevated” horror. And films like Hereditary, mother!, and Get Out spark endless debates about how we even attempt to define what horror really is.
I love a good arthouse horror flick as much as the next person. Probably more than the next person. But, like so many of you, I was raised on a heavy dose of old school horror — the slasher films of the 70s and 80s.
Devoid of social commentary, multi-layered storytelling, and complex characters, these films had one goal and one goal only: to scare the holy hell out of you. And we couldn’t get enough.
Films like John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher masterpiece gave birth to my passionate love of the genre. Having seen it more times than I can begin to count, I still get that giddy, childlike feeling of pure unbridled joy when I watch the original Halloween.
Attempting to rekindle that timeless magic 40 years later is no small undertaking.
Thus, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s effort to infuse new life into the beloved franchise has resulted in one of the most anticipated horror films in some time, yet one that is filling many horror fans with dread. It’s a film so fraught with potential for disaster in its efforts to appease a rabid and often unforgiving fan base.
Just ask Rob Zombie how rocky this terrain can be.
While I’m a fan of Zombie’s controversial reimagining of the franchise, many of you are not — and understandably so. In his attempt to bring something fresh and innovative to the table (which I respect), he alienated much of the core base who had no tolerance for anyone trying to mess with perfection. By giving Michael Myers a tragic backstory and attempting to humanize him, many felt Zombie destroyed the core of what made him so terrifying and iconic in the first place.
If Zombie attempted to kill the Boogeyman, Green and McBride resurrect him with reverence.
Rather than repeating the sins of the past, the filmmakers make no effort to reinvent the wheel with the franchise. Rather, they pay loving and respectful homage to it — delivering one of the best horror sequels in quite some time.
In an ingenious attempt to remain true to its origins while bringing something fresh to the franchise, the filmmakers add an intriguing layer to the horror by ignoring all other sequels and instead examining the direct aftermath of the tragic events that took place in Haddonfield on Halloween night, 1978. The film beautifully addresses Laurie’s broken mental state following that fateful night, weaving her post-traumatic stress into the fabric of the storyline and establishing a credible reason for the powerful connection between predator and prey outside of the familial link we’ve become accustomed to.
In a post-screening Q&A with the cast and crew at Fantastic Fest, Jamie Lee Curtis explains her willingness to return to the role that made her famous, tackling the evolution of Laurie Strode — the once youthfully optimistic and innocent heroine whose life was forever altered by a chance encounter with an unstoppable killer. She explains that she was drawn to the complexity of the character and the intelligent and sensitive way the script dealt with Laurie’s trauma.
Curtis has always been and continues to be the heart of the franchise, and she infuses the older, far more jaded and battle-worn Laurie with incredible grace, passion and power. She brilliantly conveys a woman who is both irreparably broken and a force of reckoning. She’s consumed by fear to the point that it has destroyed her entire life. Yet she remains remarkably brave and relentless in her desire to face her fears and stand up to the face of evil.
While it’s wonderful see Laurie’s character treated with such deference and dignity, she’s not the only inspiring and ass kicking female in the film. Both Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are given the chance to shine and powerfully portray the strength and resilience of women fighting both very real and metaphorical demons.
While there’s a surprising depth to this film you can’t help but appreciate, let’s not beat around the bush with what really matters most.
To answer the burning questions I know you must have…yes, it’s scary. Yes, Michael Myers (played by the original Shape, Nick Castle) makes a triumphant return to form — a chillingly cold, faceless and emotionless killing machine. Yes, the kills are as delightfully brutal and vicious as you want them to be. Yes, the score is brilliant and on par with the original. John Carpenter, with the help of his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, once again graces us with a chilling and effectively unnerving audio backdrop to the onscreen terror.
Yes, it’s full of Easter eggs to reward fans of the franchise and plenty of moments that will make audiences cheer. More than once, my audience at Fantastic Fest exploded into collective gasps and applause. Once was when Michael puts his mask on for the first time (yes, it’s as good as you’re hoping for) and another was a pretty genius callback to the original that I won’t dare spoil for you.
It’s also clear that this script was written by men with a penchant for comedy, as there is plenty of smart humor infused throughout. But don’t let that worry you. The humor almost always works and enhances rather than distracts from the story.
The filmmakers manage to walk that fine line and effortlessly maintain the right balance between humor, heart, and horror.
Finally, yes, the showdown between two horror heavyweights, Michael and Laurie, is as satisfying — and surprisingly emotionally charged —as you would hope. I left the theater on a genuine high, convinced it should more than satiate most horror fans. It gives die-hard Halloween fans (like me) the film we’ve been anticipating for decades — the film we want and deserve.
Treating the original with sincere affection, and honoring it for the lasting impact it had on so many lifelong horror fans, Halloween delivers the perfect continuation of where the 1978 classic left off, while also feeling modern enough to appeal to the new generation of horror fans.
Now to answer your last question. Yes, there is almost definitely a sequel in the works. And, yes, that’s very good news for horror fans. Welcome back, Michael. We’ve missed you.