A brutal and topical Michael Myers 40 years after the fact
Michael Myers is back! After all; it‘s the 40th anniversary of the most influential slasher film and there hasn’t been a sequel since Rob Zombie‘s „Halloween II“ (2009) nine years ago. But the Michael Myers who‘s back may surprise those who have little to no knowledge of the franchise‘s complicated history of reboots, alternate universes and the like.
A couple of true-crime podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) visit Smith‘s Grove sanitarium and get to meet the legendary Michael Myers who has been incarcerated since his capture in 1978 after killing five people on Halloween night. They hope to illicit some sort of response by showing him the mask he wore on that night but no luck. Michael hasn’t spoken a word ever since he was a child.
The podcasters then head to the well guarded home of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who reluctantly agrees to grant an interview. Laurie survived Michael‘s attack but it forever scarred her. Laurie has a troubled relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and a rocky one with her granddaughter (Andi Matchiak) and lives a reclusive life in her home that somewhat resembles a fortress. Forever terrified that Michael would one day escape and come after her; it‘s clear that Laurie will never be whole unless she confronts her attacker.
Just in time for Halloween Michael is scheduled for a transfer to another facility and escapes. He heads back to Haddonfield and another massacre ensues.
Halloween franchise background:
So! The Michael who‘s back is the one that survived six shots from Dr. Loomis and apparently vanished into the night. Well, he didn’t vanish but was caught a bit later and has been in Smith‘s Grove ever since.
Gone is the universe where Michael and Laurie are siblings. In fact; the makers of this „Halloween“ claim it as the one true sequel and in a way they‘re right. Original director John Carpenter didn’t intend for Laurie and Michael being siblings but he conjured it up when writing „Halloween II“ (1981). He felt Michael needed a bona fide reason to stick with pursuing Laurie and so he went with that.
Subsequent sequels went with Michael pursuing Laurie‘s daughter Jamie (as Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t want near the franchise back then) but later sequels continued with the sister angle (when Jamie Lee wanted back in) but disregarded the „Michael/Laurie‘s daughter Jamie“ storyline as Laurie Strode had died in the universe. The sister angle was eventually resolved with Michael proving victorious and after that Rob Zombie took the franchise to the „re-imagining“ territory which was basically a remake and a direct sequel to that.
It‘s easy to see why a fresh take on „Halloween“ was needed to restart the franchise and what better way then bringing back Jamie Lee and going back to basics. It‘s even quite topical as a metaphor for the #metoo revolution of the victim‘s need to confront her attacker and the emotional scars they‘re saddled with for the rest of their lives.
That part of the film plays well and that‘s largely thanks to a fully committed performance from Curtis. Her need to prepare herself and her loved ones for the dangers of the world reaches manic heights and causes friction between them that‘s believable. This dramatic arc is handled well and lays the foundation for the final confrontation between the attacker and victim.
Another plus is a number of effective set pieces that showcase Myers out in the open. This is done with a fairly artistic flair with one sequence in particular that runs uncut for a while where he‘s on a busy street and on the warpath. A few of those scenes are littered with homages to the original film and it‘s numerous sequels and fans will appreciate those.
The biggest coup here though is the music score provided by John Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies which sets the mood wonderfully and ranks as the best of the franchise second only to the original.
I do have a few quibs with the film.
Not showing Michael‘s actual escape is perplexing (and perhaps a bit indicative of a low budget) and a very weird subplot concerning his doctor, Dr. Ranbir (Haluk Bilginer), is briefly displayed purely for shock value and quickly resolved/abandoned. Once Michael escapes, the film feels a little uninspired with kills that are more brutal than imaginative (more akin to the Rob Zombie versions) and the final showdown feels a little cramped and hastily resolved.
The introduction of Allyson, Laurie‘s granddaughter, and a few of her friends conjure up scenes that have been beat to death in just about every slasher but they do yield decent set pieces (and clever homages) and bring back the babysitter angle from the original. They also do headline where the series could venture if more is coming.
Speaking as a true fan of the franchise; this „Halloween“ is a welcome addition and even cleverly imbues it with modern trappings like the #metoo link and podcasts. It sits comfortably in the middle of the road way ahead of Rob Zombie‘s twosome, „Halloween: Resurrection“ (2002), and „Halloween 5“ (1989) but lags behind „Halloween II“ (1981), „Halloween 4“ (1988) and „Halloween: H20“ (1998). Now a new generation can enjoy the slashings of Michael Myers and while „Halloween“ (2018) may not add up to much and does little more than introduce a third timeline in the series (four if Zombie‘s versions are included) it clear that the Shape can still be relevant.