I was terrified at the concept of this 11th (!) film in the Halloween franchise, not so much by its content as by the prodigious potential for writers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride to screw it up catastrophically. John Carpenter’s 1978 original is such an unassailable classic, and Green and McBride seemed so distinctly ill-suited to pick up the mantle. Disaster appeared to be all but inevitable. However, my fears were soon abated and, as someone with a deep admiration for the source material, I can say with considerable confidence that Green and McBride’s take is the best Halloween film since the ’78 film precisely because they share a similar reverence for the original.
And yet their devotion is never slavish, creating a sequel that honors its immediate narrative predecessor while shrewdly disregarding the other 40 years worth of dreck. By setting their story on the heels of Carpenter’s first pass, they’ve managed to avoid many of the pitfalls that plagued Rob Zombie’s regrettable 2007 reboot — and we don’t even need to bother discussing the many, many sequels that predate this one (although I still maintain that Season of the Witch is pretty good). Picking things up four decades after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) first confronted “The Shape” — aka Michael Myers — and following a logical course of reasoning extrapolated from those events, Green and McBride have crafted a script that honors the tone of Carpenter’s work while simultaneously making something that is distinctly their own.
There are so many callbacks and references to the history of the franchise that it’s impossible to detail them here, but it should suffice to say that Green and McBride have done their homework. On top of that, the duo innovate in some interesting ways, creating a thematic dialectic that serves as a response to the cultural upheavals that have taken place since Carpenter helped to introduce the “final girl” trope 40 years ago. The relationship between, Laurie, her adult daughter Karen (the always welcome Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak) is played like the evolutionary chain of feminist theory playing out over three generations. Matichak is in no danger of becoming an immediate screen icon the way that Curtis did 40 years ago, and that’s OK — we have the original article on hand here, reprising the role that kick-started her career. 2018 Laurie Strode kicks ass and takes names, and she’s serving as a role model to the women who have followed in her wake.
That Green and McBride manage to get such weighty social commentary across without becoming heavy-handed is a testament not only to their grasp of tone and narrative but also their capacity to deliver truly entertaining schlock on a shoestring budget. In the director’s chair, Green effectively builds suspense, executes some stylish and visually interesting kills, and inserts just enough of the duo’s offbeat humor to dissipate tension without intruding on the horror of it all. Add in Carpenter’s guidance and his inspired update of his score from ’78, and you wind up with a film worthy of carrying the franchise into the next century in a way that junk like Halloween: H20 could never have hoped to achieve. The Halloween franchise, much like Michael Myers, seems impossible to kill — but with this latest resurrection, it finally has a leg to stand on. Rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity.
Now Playing at AMC River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande.