By JD Phillips
The latest movie is selling itself as the ultimate horror movie rematch with the number one killer in the slasher genre in one corner and the greatest final girl of all time in the other. Does it deliver or is it another disappointing sequel? Thankfully, this sequel is the first one that delivers on the promise of John Carpenter’s original, "Halloween". In fact, it completely erases all of the muddled continuity the other sequels set up.
In this version, Michael Myers has been hospitalized since the events of the first one. This is where two British investigative journalists decide to hold an interview with the famous serial killer and show him his old mask (Because apparently, they’ve never seen a horror movie before).
The pair also visits the secluded home of the incredibly agoraphobic Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role for the first time since 1998’s “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” and its sequel “Halloween: Resurrection”. Thankfully she’s given much better material this time around. Instead of Laurie having moved on with her life like she had in the H20 continuity, in this version the character has been permanently traumatized by the experience.
While the trailers show frequent shots of the character acting badass, the actual draw of this version of the character is her vulnerability. Like “Unforgiven” or “Logan”, the brilliance of this Laurie Strode comes from an unglamorized look at the effects of extreme trauma on a person’s life. Strode is extraordinarily agoraphobic, paranoid, alcoholic, and depressed. She frequently breaks down as she tries and fails to reconnect with her family who has grown tired of her constant issues.
This gives the inevitable showdown a lot more weight than any of their other rematches. Laurie doesn’t stalk Michael as if she’s some steel-hearted badass, but rather as someone who is living her own personal post-traumatic nightmare. She walks through the house hyperventilating as if she could pass out from a panic attack at any moment. This weakness actually makes her character look much tougher.
We know how damaged she is and how much this experience is retraumatizing her so when she keeps pursuing Michael anyway, it shows just how strong she really is.
The other two Strode women are strong in their own ways as well. Judy Greer’s Karen Strode may not have lived through the events her mother had to, but her life has been just as affected by them. Her entire childhood was spent in training for Michael’s possible return. It apparently got so bad that she was taken away from her mother’s custody.
Unlike her mother’s paranoid response to the event, Karen has gone to the other extreme. She’s married an incredibly silly Dad who speaks almost exclusively in inappropriate Dad humor. She’s also devoted her life to giving her daughter the safe suburban life of love and safety that she never had. While this sets her up to be another victim, her childhood training eventually kicks in, proving that her mother’s sacrifices weren’t entirely in vain.
Allyson Strode doesn’t reinvent any tropes but that doesn’t mean she isn’t an interesting character in her own right. An overachieving teenager with an asshole boyfriend isn’t anything new but her character has more intelligence and ferocity than many of her final girl counterparts. She tries to manipulate and fight her way to safety instead of just running for her life. The end of the movie also points to the possibility of her having a lot more in common with her attacker in the future.
The film goes to great lengths to talk about the potential effects of trauma on people’s lives, so it would be interesting to see where they take Allyson. While Laurie was trapped in the trauma and Karen tried to pretend it never happened, it would be a great contrast to see Allyson embrace the darkness.
The rest of the cast is also pretty entertaining as well. The movie drives into the humor that makes the slasher genre fun. It doesn’t just borrow from its mother franchise but also seems to emulate films like “Scream” and “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”. There are plenty of silly teen tropes and meta-humor (Not to mention a great performance by child actor Jibrail Nantambu) that gives the grizzly kills that darkly humorous twist that the best films of the genre are known for.
Speaking of the kills, this may be one of Michael’s most brutal showings. The kills were extra strength brutal. He strangled, maimed, stomped, and of course, stabbed his way through suburbia with glee. While the first film relied on slowly building the tension for the kills, this film drinks in the casual brutality of Michael’s actions. He isn’t methodical in this film. He’s making up for lost time. After several decades inside, he kills as quickly and as efficiently as he can.
The film also features a lot of fun twists. Between surprise killers, trope reversals, and a surprise trap, the movie seems determined to be just as much a step forward for the franchise as it is a love letter to its early days.
“Halloween” (2018) is a fantastic sequel that breathes new life into one of the greatest horror franchises of all time. Twenty bucks says the slasher genre is about to get a massive resurgence.