Wiping out all sequels that have come after the 1978 John Carpenter masterpiece Halloween is a bold move. David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride set expectations very high in this new sequel. A fan of the series should expect something completely new with such a move. Yet Halloween (2018) is an oddly familiar retread of the first film that occasionally cleverly reverses things but never fully pushes past sequel familiarities.
Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, the single survivor of Michael Myers originally night of terror in which he killed 5 people. She is the best thing about this new sequel. Curtis gets to reimagine Strode as a hardened survivor with PTSD who has been preparing for another showdown with Myers for 40 years. There is a lot of pleasure to be wrung from such a setup. This plot may feel familiar to fans of the franchise as H20 which also saw Strode confront Michael after 20 years, pushing aside her fears to protect her family.
Strode's paranoia has distanced her from her daughter (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak). She lives in a bunker type home complete with floodlights and several locks. She has been preparing for Michael's return for ages, even bragging at one point that she has been praying for his escape so she could kill him. While being transferred to a prison, he does escape and begins a new night of terror full of dead babysitters and even a child.
Green has been jumping genres for a while and Halloween marks his first horror film. It shows as he relies heavily on tropes from the genre. Aside from Curtis, the other major joy from Halloween is Michael Simmonds' camera work. Taking nods from Carpenter's predatory framing, he really excels at his use of fluid camera movements and depth of field. Carpenter reworks the film's famous score and gives it some nice new moments. These elements keep the film going even when it becomes a bit paint by numbers.
That is until the film's third act that promises the showdown fans have been waiting four decades for. While it doesn't disappoint, it never fully satisfies either. There is a clever through line about women coming together to stop an evil man but I so wished from more. Curtis gets a big moment but it doesn't feel as emotionally satisfying as it should. The third act also feels rushed in comparison the slow first act.
One particular fascinating element of the film is how it deals with moral judgment so prevalent in slashers. In the original film, Myers killed teens who had sex and did drugs. The same is true in this sequel but added to the list of sins that will get you killed is unwanted advances by men towards women. Coupled with the element of three generations of women banding together to kill a murderous man and this new Halloween feels updated for 2018 and the #metoo movement.
While this sequel is certainly one of the better out of 11 films in this franchise, Halloween never took off in the way I had hoped. There are enough fantastic moments and clever reversals for fans of the original to make it a good time at the movies. However, I feel robbed of something more meaningful to the Strode character. The showdown between her and Michael should have felt epic and it didn't for me. The fan service is fun in moments but wears thin over time. Curtis is great but almost underutilized.