All good horror icons, like bread, tend to rise.
Forgive the food metaphor, I’m currently writing this while hungry, but no matter how many times they get put down, be it by stake, bullet, or a tepid show at the box office, they eventually bounce back up to terrorize the world again.
It’s not like Michael Myers hasn’t popped up like a bad penny before, John Carpenter’s stalk and slash juggernaut has made dramatic comebacks no less than 3 separate times, be it a return to his own franchise after a Myers-less part three, a scream inspired re-shuffle for his 20th anniversary or even Rob Zombie’s marmite remakes. Even the hysterical news that original “final girl” Jamie Lee Curtis would also be returning isn’t really that ground breaking as she appeared in 4 out 10 movies as Laurie Strode and already had an epic knock down, drag out showdown with The Shape in Halloween H20. So what makes his most recent return so special? Why on earth should we care?
For a start, despite being not exactly terrifying, this new Halloween is immensely satisfying. Forging a new beginning that feels natural and new and yet lavishly connects itself to the original. Sweeping all of Michael Myers unnecessary and sometimes leaden backstory off the table the movie is mercifully free of all that Laurie/Michael – brother/sister malarkey and it pays off in spades.
Laurie Strode, survivor of a brutal killing spree by an escaped mental patient 40 years earlier lives a sheltered life. Holed up in a house that contains flood lights, panic rooms and more rifles than Texas, she’s been preparing for the day her attacker inevitably escapes, but it’s come at a cost. Two failed marriages, an estranged daughter and a granddaughter who’s trying to connect have left her regarded as the town loony.
Meanwhile two English podcasters have gained access to Myers via his new doctor and have even brought his tattered signature mask in order to whip up a response. Well, they get one all right… Escaping after a bus crashes during a transfer, Michael procures his mask, some overalls and some stabby things and gets back to doing what he does best. Making various holes in the torsos in anyone who crosses his path. Can three generations of Strode women finally put Michael in the ground, or will he achieve his murderous goal 40 years in the making?
Blumhouse pictures have been on a crazy streak as of late. From the surprise Oscar baiting antics of Get Out to giving us a full fledged Unbreakable trilogy in Split and the upcoming Glass, making Michael Myers a full fledged critical darling again may be their most audacious coup yet.
Getting Curtis back is great but getting Carpenter himself on Exec Producing and scoring duties is frankly a task I would have thought impossible. Plus the script (co-written by Danny McBride of all people) is smart and respectful and David Gordon Green’s direction is gritty and savvy, striking an impressive balance between the jumps, laughs and violence. All of which come together to make a horror sequel that hopefully should inspire intelligent returns of other floundering terror characters (a Jason Vorhees comeback, loaded with respect, could be immense).
Any downsides? An argument could be made that after the very appealing set up, the movie’s middle section gets bogged down with too much of the basic slasher shite that swamped other sequels, but the palm sweatingly tense finalè in which Michael and Laurie mutually stalk each other through the latter’s booby-trapped house is fucking exquisite.
Fun for newcomers and loaded with visual call backs and details for Halloween devotees (Laurie using Michael’s own tricks against him here, a 40 year hole from a knitting needle in the mask there) Halloween is a tough little popcorn cruncher to beat and speaking as somewhat of a horror sequel enthusiast (not as fun as it sounds, believe me), a massive breath of fresh air.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 40 years (or even 9) for Michael to resurface again.