WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for the new Halloween film.
The Halloween franchise is one that’s been marred with disappointment after disappointment. Brother/sister angles, telepathic connections to family members, ties to a Celtic cult discovered by Paul Rudd; there was even that time when Busta Rhymes posed a formidable threat to the personification of evil using some cartoonish kung fu move (“Trick or treat, motherf***er!”).
But through all of it, we keep coming back and we keep getting let down. One could argue that Rob Zombie’s attempt to tackle the mythos of The Shape was the closest thing to capturing the fear we all felt in our first encounter with him in Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978, but even Zombie couldn’t avoid the same trap every filmmaker who has stepped up to the challenge has fallen for: explaining Michael Myers.
Now, with David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s stripped-back, bare-bones approach to the iconic horror franchise, and an absolutely haunting new score from John Carpenter himself, Halloween finally gets the sequel treatment it truly deserves; one that captures the horrifying uncertainty of what drives Michael to kill, all while giving its iconic Final Girl a satisfying conclusion to her tragic story.
Back to the Basics
At this point it should go without saying that in order to understand where we pick up, all one has to do is ignore everything that happened after the 1978 film. This is a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original, and in this universe, Michael and Laurie Strode’s connection goes no further than the simple ideal that Michael just really wants to kill her.
Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as the legendary Strode, and although she escaped being Michael’s victim on that night, she was left with a devastating psychological trauma that’s broken not only her, but her relationships with those closest to her. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) was taken by the state when she was just a child due to Laurie’s increasing paranoia and insistence on turning her home into a kind of militarized compound; training Karen to shoot guns, fight, and prepare herself for the grim world Laurie sees. On top of this, Karen’s estranged relationship with her mother has forced little to no relationship between Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who, more than anything, just wants her grandmother to find peace and move on from the events of that night.
Do You Believe in the Bogeyman?
Meanwhile, Michael is being prepared to be transferred from Smith’s Grove to a maximum security prison, where he will live out the remainder of his life. Two investigative journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) are developing a podcast on the night of Halloween 1978 and want to interview Michael. Michael’s new doctor, a student of Dr. Samuel Loomis, Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who has obsessed over Michael’s case, desperately wants Michael to speak of that night. Hoping that showing him the mask will evoke some kind of response, Aaron Korey (Hall) receives nothing and leaves without a word from Michael.
In their persistence, they track down Laurie hoping they can convince her to speak with Michael, thinking perhaps seeing her will elicit as much as a reaction. In an effort to rationalize and humanize Michael, Aaron asks her about referring to Michael as ‘the Bogeyman’, to which Laurie responds, “You don’t believe in the Bogeyman?” “I believe in Michael Myers, a deranged serial killer, but the Bogeyman? No,” Aaron says. “Well, you should,” Laurie asserts.
What these opportunistic journalists don’t quite understand — though they will — is that any attempt to explain away or create a narrative to understand Michael will prove to be futile, and it would be in their best interest to understand and believe in the only thing that does remain apparent: Michael Myers is the Bogeyman come to life.
The Shape Returns
In each past iteration of Halloween, Michael’s motive to kill became more convoluted. So much time was spent trying to delve into his psyche, and there were even efforts to try and humanize him. Not this time. The Shape we’re given here retains the essence of the one we first met in 1978, and he is merely out for blood. There’s even a grisly sequence where Green creates his own tracking shot as an homage to the original film’s opening sequence, and we see Michael go from house to house on his first killing spree back in Haddonfield.
Michael has even returned to his macabre sense of humor — if one can call it that — with the disturbing games he plays as he claims his victims: dropping teeth onto the floor, dressing them up as ghosts. He is keenly aware of the fear he instills, and he always silently admires his “work.”
But Laurie is ready this time. Having spent the last 40 years in survival mode, she’s ready to fight back. Not only will she not be caught off guard, she initiates the pursuit. Strode becomes the hunter. She spends her night tracking Michael down through Haddonfield, and when she finally finds him, we even get another nod to the original, as Michael sees her through the mirror and gives that iconic head tilt (Nick Castle reprises his role as The Shape for this one moment).
One Good Scare, One Good Laugh
If Halloween is the night where “everyone’s entitled to one good scare,” David Gordon Green reminds us it’s okay to laugh, too. There’s a much-needed level of humor to balance out the fact that an actual sociopath with a knife is back to terrorize the town. A true highlight of this is the show-stealing Julian (Jibrail Nantambu), whose genuinely funny and heartfelt delivery is an excellent set-up to the rampage that imminently ensues.
Happy Halloween, Michael
In its final act, we finally get the showdown that’s been 40 years in the making. As Laurie lures Michael into her home in the woods, we are given a suspenseful battle sequence that serves as a satisfying payoff for Laurie’s story throughout the film. After a back-and-forth brawl that includes moments where you feel like this may just not be Laurie’s battle to win, three generations of Strode women come together to take down The Shape. In a true “hell yeah” moment, Karen baits Michael into the basement under the pretense that she doesn’t have what it takes to pull the trigger and shoot, but let’s be real, she didn’t spend her entire childhood shooting guns just to break here. She sees him appear at the top of the stairs, let’s out a “Gotcha,” and shoots.
From here, the Strodes finally even the score, with Allyson getting the final blow, stabbing Michael’s hand as he goes for Karen. It’s here that Karen reveals the truth about Laurie’s hideout: “It’s not a cage, baby… it’s a trap.” Laurie sets off gas nozzles spread out around the house and sets the house ablaze with Michael locked in the basement. The Strode women flee the house and Laurie finally says goodbye to Michael… maybe.
This is a HALLOWEEN movie after all, and although Michael was very obviously trapped in the basement, the final shot of the burning room appears to show the room with Michael nowhere to be found, and with its already record-breaking box office performance, we may have yet to see the last of The Shape, but that’s for another article.
Last Word on The Latest Halloween Installment
Where each subsequent sequel and reboot attempting to further the story of Michael Myers consistently missed the mark, misunderstanding why Michael scares us in the first place, David Gordon Green’s interpretation of Halloween brings back the mystique of Michael Myers; all while telling a story about the effects of generational trauma. Laurie spent each day of her life unable to find resolve, with voices around her telling her to get over it; the podcast team from the beginning of the movie even goes so far as to try to guilt Laurie into humanizing Michael; to think about what he has had to go through. But in the end, Laurie, with the help of her daughter and granddaughter, faces her monster and seemingly lays him to rest.
It is by no means a perfect film, and there are story choices that are sure to have fans heated, but for the last 40 years, every attempt to reignite the story of Michael Myers has left fans feeling let down and sometimes even ashamed to have continued following the franchise for so long. Finally, a team that was able to convince even John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis to come along for the ride bring us an adaptation that takes us back to that original fear, and creates the most worthy companion to the slasher classic that started it all.