40 years ago director John Carpenter crafted a film that is to this day regarded as one of the best horror films of all time. “Halloween” became an instant classic upon release and from it came an entire sub-genre of horror known as “slasher” films. Movies like “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” took many things from “Halloween” and attempted to add their own spin, but none quite hit the heights of the original. They couldn’t match the tension and intimidation that Michael Myers imposed on his audience.
The same can be said of the many sequels. From “Halloween 2” to “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” to the 2007 Rob Zombie reboot, “Halloween,” the sequels ranged from getting a lukewarm reception to being critical cannon fodder. It was apparent that the care, effort and talent that were instilled into the original were never quite present in the nine sequels. Until now.
David Gordon Green, best known for his work directing films “Pineapple Express” and “The Sitter,” may not be the first name that springs to mind when you’re picking a director for the only John-Carpenter-approved sequel to the original “Halloween,” but it was a solid choice. The plot of the new film revolves around Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, 40 years after the events of the first film. In this film’s continuity, all of the previous sequels have been ignored and Michael has only killed five people. He is in prison and Laurie is living a secluded, paranoid life in her compound, a cabin in the woods. Lo and behold: Michael manages to escape and embarks on a murder spree that makes the original film look like a fender-bender. Laurie, however, has been waiting for this night for 40 years and as Michael makes his way to her for their definitive battle, she makes the final preparations for their confrontation. While this is all going on, we also follow Laurie’s adult daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak.) The two try to deal with the traumatized Laurie and eventually Michael himself.
Unfortunately the latter plot, while Greer and Matichak give solid performances, drags the film down from its potential. The portions of the story that revolve around Karen’s tumultuous childhood and Allyson’s completely irrelevant high school adventures detract from the tension of the film and just feel boring and flat.
The film can easily be split into three sections: Michael’s escape, Michael’s killing spree and the final confrontation. The first two of these pieces are rather underwhelming. Other than a few fun callbacks to the original, like Will Patton reprising his role as Frank Hawkins, and some gruesome violence, there isn’t much interesting stuff going on. Following Michael from house to house as he stabs random people, while occasionally punctuated with a jump scare or some hit-or-miss comedic relief, has no tension whatsoever.
I scare very easily during horror movies and I can safely say there wasn’t a moment in this portion of the film that scared me. What I can say for this portion of the film is that it’s pretty beautifully shot. There are long single tracking shots as Michael navigates the neighborhood, weaving in and out of houses, disappearing and reappearing in windows as he takes out his victims. The original musical theme also holds up very well and adds a great nostalgic and authentic feel to the atmosphere of the film.
There are some weird plot twists and turns that unfold during this portion of the film that feel underdeveloped and underwhelming, which is a shame. However, the third part which is the confrontation between Laurie and Michael is fantastic. It did everything correctly in terms of tension, pacing, violence and scares.
I won’t dive too deeply into the details but having a worthy opponent to Michael, someone who could defend themselves and actually had a shot at beating him, made the film that much more exciting. Jamie Lee Curtis gives an amazing performance throughout the film and it comes to a head in this final set piece. Some moments frustrated me logistically, but you can’t overthink these things too much because at the end of a day this movie is meant to be fun and scare you; it’s not a logical proof. This portion was everything that I wanted the film to be and I was so thoroughly impressed that it almost entirely compensated for the lackluster offered by from the rest of the film. Almost.
It’s not a bad film, and I would go so far as to say it may become many fans’ second favorite, behind the original. It’s obvious that heart and care were put into this film — but maybe not at John Carpenter’s level. It’s definitely worth a watch if you can catch it with a fun audience in the theater during spooky season.