When the original Halloween opened in 1978 it proved a smash hit, helping to write the rules that have dominated slasher films since. It turned its star and director into cinematic icons and spawned a horror franchise that has been reshaped and remade over eleven instalments. Now arrives a surprisingly effective sequel that rediscovers the series' brutal edge by jettisoning much of the baggage that has come before.
This new Halloween forgoes all that has come since, acting as a direct sequel to the original. The film picks up forty years after the last fateful autumnal holiday with Michael Myers still incarcerated and Laurie Strode haunted by her last encounter with 'The Shape'. Soon enough Myers has escaped and is on his way to a terrifying reunion.
Halloween proves a delicious surprise, a horror film that is remarkably sprightly for such an old and worn franchise. After an initial twenty minutes that at times clunks with a need to bring audiences up to speed the film sets itself on a path for its two returning characters to meet. There are genuinely chilling moments as we follow Myers through the suburban neighbourhood, seemingly killing at random. There has always been an effective voyeuristic element to the Halloween franchise, with the initial kills in the original being seen from Myers perspective and this new edition taps into this.
The strangest element to this new take is who's behind the camera. David Gordon Green has had a career that has gamely traversed high-calibre indie dramas (George Washington, Prince Avalanche, Stronger) and low-brow comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness). Maybe it is his presence, along with Danny McBride in the role of co-writer, that makes Halloween such a grounded and oddly humorous film. Myers' victims rarely feel like cheap slasher fodder here and their deaths can often feel sudden, as if the incursion of the masked killer is stopping their narrative mid-sentence. It gives the film a weight that a Halloween film has not had since the original, with proceedings being more affecting than expected. If there is to be the inevitable sequel, bringing this pair back may help it to remain a compelling endeavour.
This film's greatest asset is Jamie Lee Curtis, taking on the role of Laurie for the fifth time. Curtis is brilliant, both a formidable presence and the emotional core of the film. Her narrative is an exploration of trauma that is refreshing for a genre that so wallows in acts of violence. Trauma is built into the film's DNA, helping it tap into 2018 far more then it has any right to.
Halloween sets a fascinating new model for how to return to a tired franchise. By ditching the bad sequels and remakes and instead exploring what makes the original such a powerful horror film, this new take is a brutal, deeply engaging and powerfully emotive slasher movie. Perfect for the hellfire of 2018.