It is a bold move to write off six sequels and effectively retcon a major horror cinematic milestone after forty years. Yet that is exactly what Director and co-writer David Gordon Green has done, producing a follow up movie to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, that is distinctly more than the sum of its parts. And in the process of doing this, Halloween has attracted a great deal of media attention that has somewhat skewed subsequent reporting. There has been a great deal of hyperbole and marketing hype in the lead up to the film’s release which is concerning, because in an atmosphere of such exuberance and fan excitement, it can be difficult to accurately gauge the public mood. I have only ever experienced the one other deferred sequel that generated such a similar buzz and that was Psycho II back in 1983. Despite a lot of reservations, that proved to be a worthy successor to Hitchcock’s classic.
However, I am pleased to say that Halloween is as good as the early reviews indicated. It takes many of the essential themes of the original film and presents them from an alternative perspective. To summarise the uncomplex plot, Michael Myers escapes from custody while being transferred to a new psychiatric facility. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode now traumatised, fixated and estranged from her own daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), prepares for the inevitable return of her nemesis. Throughout its 106-minute running time Halloween frequently makes clever and wise nods to its predecessor. The movie has a very dark tone, but it knows when to lighten things with some humorous banter. There is a higher body count and certainly the mayhem is more graphic this time round, but this is not to the detriment of the movie and simply reflects the style and tastes of the contemporary horror genre and its consumers.
The film benefits from a strong and focused performances by all three female leads. Jamie Lee Curtis excels in her role, providing a fulcrum for the narrative. There is also a robust support role from Will Patton as local Sheriff Frank Hawkins. If there is a weak link it the character of Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who is the new “Sam Loomis” and telegraphs his intentions quite early in the story. However, his role is needed to expedite events and assemble everyone for the inevitable showdown. There are some excellent tracking shots by cinematographer Michael Simmonds and some cunningly contrived set pieces set around the alley ways and back entrances of suburban Haddonfield. The classic score from the original movie has been re-arranged and further embellished with some superb additional cues written by John Carpenter himself, his son Cody Carpenter and David Davies. Some of which stray into Goblin territory, which is magnificent.
Films of this nature that are directly connected to established and iconic cinematic milestones, need to do far more than recreated that which has gone before. They need to juxtapose classic scenes or sequences and explore content from a different perspective. The key element of this that features in Halloween, is the concept of predator and prey. It is cunningly reversed during the film’s climax and there are several scenes that mirror those from the 1978 movie but are done with a tangible difference. To reference them would be to spoil them, so I’ll simply say that fans of the original movie will recognise them when they see them and should hopefully be impressed by the new inflection that the director imbues them with. Overall, irrespective of the hype Halloween is a genuinely worthy successor to John Carpenter’s original. It is inventive, intelligent, suspenseful and knows when to hit the audience right between the eyes.