After 40 years of subpar sequels and subsequent homages to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror film Halloween, Michael Myers and Laurie Strode have returned to Haddonfield for one last dance.
This makes the 11th film in the franchise, but director David Gordon Green doesn’t care about the last 9. He treats this Halloween (I’ll refer to it as H40 from here on out for clarity) as a direct sequel to the first film, ignoring everything that came after and even poking jokes in the movie about it (“Wasn’t she his sister?” “No!”). It’s an approach that pays off substantially, as it doesn’t take a lot of prep to feel like you “get” the movie, which is a welcome relief in a world where cinematic universes and franchises require ongoing investments. I do recommend watching the original Halloween before you see this one, though, particularly if you’ve never seen it or if you haven’t seen it in a while. A lot of what H40 does so well is invert that original story in a way that is both inventive and satisfying.
H40 stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie, a woman who survived a serial killer massacre in her home town 40 years ago. In the intervening years we see that the trauma from that night has reverberated throughout Laurie’s life – her adult daughter Karen (Judy Greer) is barely on speaking terms with her mother after a childhood filled with fear, training, and eventually child services stepping in and removing her from the situation. Karen knows how to fire a gun and defend herself, but she largely views it all as the product of psychological damage she was forced to endure on her mother’s behalf. Karen’s moved on and has a daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak), who is trying to connect with her estranged grandmother. And then Halloween comes around, and wouldn’t you know it, Michael Myers (Nick Castle returns for much of Michael’s appearance here) is being moved from his prison cell to another facility. Suffice it to say that things don’t go well on that front, which eventually brings Laurie face to face with Michael once again.
I have to say that what surprised me most about H40 was how entertaining and funny it was, beyond the usual horror thrills and scares. The script was penned by Green and Danny McBride, and it shows – both in the overall themes and the way the movie plays with the ideas from the original film, and in the small banter that occurs in quieter moments. In a way the script reminded me of Terminator 2 to Terminator. Obviously Michael and Laurie don’t join forces here, but it plays with the same themes of the horror the protagonist lives in long after the events of the first film, how that horror hardens and shapes her, even down to the damage it does to her relationship with her child. Laurie has her own Sarah Connor moments in H40, and I think this film goes a long way to elevating her status in a long-term way in the all-too-short list of “badass women” who hold their own franchises.
Beyond the entertaining/funny side of H40, there are some genuinely artful moments. The opening scene depicts two journalists visiting Michael Myers for a Serial-esque podcast about his case, and shows Myers standing in a red-and-white checkered prison yard that looks almost like a human chessboard. There are plenty of shocking and gory murders, too, if that’s what you’re looking for here, and Myers stacks up a considerable body count.
If I had to nitpick, I’d argue that the movie doesn’t always use clever logic – if you’re the kind of person who will wonder why Laurie built a Michael-proof house that has easily-shattered glass windows, for example, you’ll find lots of little things like that to take issue with. And there are some characters who are more cartoony than others, such as the “new Dr. Loomis,” Michael’s psychiatrist. But these things are minor gripes in what was otherwise a wonderful time and a sequel better than I would have ever expected. Let’s just hope they end it there on a high note.