Michael Myers is back! And this time he’s slashing his way through Haddonfield after 40 years of incarceration! That’s right, you can forget those NINE sequels and reboots, we’re back to doing a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978, hit ALSO titled Halloween.
Yeah, things are a bit messy here. But don’t take my dismissive tone as a comment on the film itself, because franchise foolery aside this film is a gruesomely delightful installment! This time around, Pineapple Express and Your Highness director David Gordon Green is at the reins (along with frequent collaborator Danny McBride helping out with the writing duties), and he’s successfully brought some fresh blood into this franchise.
To be honest, this review might go smoother if I just share a comparison I’ve been thinking about since I left the movie theatre: This film is The Force Awakens of the Halloween franchise. Granted I haven’t watched every blood-soaked adventure of this as thoroughly as I have the Jedi, but I would safely say J.J. Abrams reinvigorated Star Wars the same way David Gordon Green has done to Michael Myers here.
The story is very much grounded in nostalgia, revisiting original characters decades later as they face a near identical threat. Motifs and scenes are shared, both films have even brought back their original composers (in this case John Carpenter returning to his chilling theme song and synth-heavy tunes). Even still, that doesn’t mean this film is nothing but fan service. It starts things back up, introduces us to new characters, and proudly brings a classic story into the 21st century.
Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode, a surviving victim of Myers’ serial killer rampage in the original Halloween. And here she’s been living in near solitude (with an arsenal at her disposal) preparing for the day Myers will return so that she might finally end his terror once and for all. Along with Laurie on this journey is her estranged daughter and granddaughter, played by Judy Greer and Andi Matichak respectively, who have distanced themselves away from their matriarch after Laurie’s paranoia drove them from the cosy comforts and socialising of modern suburban living. All three of these women share a pivotal role in the film’s narrative and gracefully own these scream queen characters (although some of that character quality does falter on occasion). Now here I’d like to defer from a more traditional analysis of the characters in the film and instead look at this female-driven narrative’s part in today’s Horror genre.
Recently Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Pictures and producer of this very film, made some estranged comments during an interview with Polygon stating he’s never produced a theatrically released movie by a female director because: “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror”. Even without the specifics numbers, I think we all know this is a baffling quote.
Granted, female directors aren’t given the same opportunities or exposure as male directors in Hollywood, but they surely do exist and in great numbers. And yet, I don’t want to hassle the man (whom I consider the ‘Kevin Feige of Horror’) as he’s since apologised for this disillusionment. The reason I still bring it up however is this film oddly feels female empowered to some degree, and that’s largely due to the previously mentioned focus on its three primary female characters.
Without getting into spoilers, and even without Blum’s words as a prompt, if another sequel to this franchise is produced I think it would be a marvellous contribution to add some prominent female voices behind the camera. Now that the nostalgia driven soft-reboot is complete, it is time to move the franchise in a new direction (just like every big film series these days), and there’s so much potential to be had with this bold female perspective facing a covertly masculine terror that attacks us at our most vulnerable moments.
As a man, I can’t act like I know every distinctly different fear women may hold, but I certainly know there’s no harm adding those to this franchise. I’m not saying it would be distasteful or tricky to simply let the creative forces of this film continue by themselves, I’m just saying it might be treat to embrace the female humanity this particular film is rooted in. You never know, it might prevent the series of wonky sequels that lead to this soft-reboot in the first place.
Anyhow, back to the movie at hand: It’s not perfect, but there’s also no gaping flaws. The experience is thrilling and charming in a really unsettling sense. Most importantly, with all good horrors (or any flick placed into the objectives of its genre), Halloween scares you, so job done. And it’s not all jump scares. David Gordon Green proves he’s an efficient storyteller who can utilise our fears and tension in some creative ways.
The only major downfall being that this comes in waves rather than a snowballing effect, and therefore the impact will likely differ person-to-person, depending on your intuition for these sorts of things. This type of structure isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s not a bad thing to segment the horror to allow character building and times to breathe, it is just that this collection of characters can sometimes range in our investment and the times to breathe range just as much in how they challenge horror clichés. Still, it’s undeniable Gordon Green knows how to excel in some of these moments.
Overall, the new Halloween is an October delight and a great boost for the franchise. Only time will tell if it’ll be a new Halloween classic, it’s certainly more of a popcorn-movie slasher than it is an inventive arthouse horror, but as someone with casual feelings on the genre I would certainly place it in a top tier of modern horror films. If you seek a film that satisfies 2 hours of your time, and the spooky vibes of this month, then you should welcome Halloween with open arms.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is out in UK and US cinemas now, with further international dates scattered over this month.