After ditching the majority of the franchise’s 40-year canon to serve as a direct follow-up to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, is Halloween a worthy sequel? Well, yes and no. Thrill-seeking fans of Carpenter’s definitive slasher will have a good time with the nods, call-backs and mostly relentless pace. But anyone hoping to see some Blade Runner 2049-style heft added to the mythology is likely to walk away unsatisfied.
The film opens with Michael Myers (played by James Jude Courtney and, in a key cameo, a returning Nick Castle) having been incarcerated in a high-security facility for 40 years. Two irritating podcasters arrive to try and get the mute killer talking, using his mask to taunt him. The fact that the facility allows this is symptomatic of the film’s lack of logic – for better or worse, the emphasis falls on fun here.
The podcasters next visit the reclusive Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has trained herself in survival skills. The interview is bungled badly, but director David Gordon Green (Stronger, Pineapple Express) is more sensitive in his treatment of Strode. One of the biggest delights here is Curtis’ badass return to her career-launching role: the film lights up whenever she’s at the forefront.
In a hint that trauma may have created a monster in Strode, her daughter (Judy Greer) has little time for her after a childhood spent learning weapons skills. But any chance of the subplots being examined goes out of the window (and disappears from the front lawn) as the hack-and-slash begins. After a slightly slow start and an ill-advised facility transfer, the pace doesn’t let up once Myers starts murdering his way back to Haddonfield.
Between the gruesomely inventive kills and the visual stylings, Green operates with affection for Carpenter’s original. If that’s aided by Carpenter’s exec producer role, the reprise of his score (alongside new music from Carpenter, his son Cody, and Daniel A. Davies) also adds to the atmosphere. But where Halloween deviates wildly is in the humour. Danny McBride co-writes, and it shows: while some knowing gags suggest you should just enjoy the fun, the insistent one-liners detract from the tension.
The humour and allusions suggest a film that’s intended to be whooped along to at midnight screenings, and the cracking final sequence ensures audiences will leave on a high. But given all that has been sacrificed to give the franchise a shot at redemption, the end result feels flimsy and throwaway. There’s enough ambiguity in the ending to suggest further sequels could be on the way, but on this evidence, there’s not a lot left to be wrung from this well-worn franchise.
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- Release date: October 19, 2018
- Certificate: R (US)/18 (UK)
- Running time: 106 mins