Set exclusively in the universe of Halloween (1978) comes the latest spin on the what-happened-next timeline to John Carpenter’s horror franchise. Of course titled Halloween, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s vision is at least an explicit contradiction to Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and potentially even Halloween II, the two other films in the franchise, before this one and after the first to feature Jamie Lee Curtis’ “Laurie Strode.” Here, 40 years later, Michael Myers is an old man* who has been locked up in Smith’s Grove since that first Halloween night, while Laurie Strode has devoted her life to building a fortress to capture and training herself to kill Michael if, and more likely when, he escapes. In keeping to the franchise’s traditional tropes, he does.
(*Quick math puts him at 61 years old.)
Naturally, this installment has its modern influences from the current culture. Our obsession with true crime podcasts, procedurals and documentaries, for example, is what motivates two reporters to visit Smith’s Grove and Haddonfield in an attempt to tell the Myers-Strode story. That general cultural influence also seems to effect the movie in making it, maybe, not as scary — though that can be debated. It’s not clear whether Green and McBride intentionally made it so, or that our exposure to the other installments in the franchise, or even just that this Halloween is quite a bit funnier at times than I can remember others ever being, has dulled or redirected our senses.
Michael is a little different than before. He’s not the inhuman killing machine he was made out to be in other remakes, but I’m not a cardholding member of the group who thinks he should be. He’s unmasked for a much more significant amount of time in the movie and his knife feels less present at times, if even it’s the weapon he’s using at the time — this Michael is actually quite proficient in disfiguring the faces of his victims in several of his kills.
Regardless, it’s not at all disabling or disappointing. In fact, this version sticks to many of the traditions we love, which feeds to our thirst for it — not just in wanting to watch re-runs of the old ones but in our longing for fresh, modern versions.
Of course the look of Michael is a tradition bridging every installment of this franchise — the significance of his mask, the consistency of his attire (even how he attains it), his weapon of choice. But always worth a glowing commendation is how rewrites religiously stick to the same trope of an ending. This one, which I really* don’t want to say much of, seems to make a nod to Jamie Lloyd** while also casting doubt upon its own definitive ending with a classic shot of seemingly nothing from inside the place in which it happens.
(**Lloyd, despite that she would not exist in this universe’s timeline.)
The continuity of those tropes is what makes this installment satisfying, but some of the modernism takes it from satisfying to uniquely entertaining, like that it’s, in fact, almost laugh-out-loud funny sometimes, or that while Laurie Strode is the playbill’s main character because we know her, it’s, I think, the characters of her daughter (played by Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) that are the film’s primary vehicles for action and, ultimately, the best parts of it, or that there’s a wicked twist and that that twist initiates the most immersive and tense scene in the movie.
It’s the right kind of spin to jump forward in the timeline of the original film. It isn’t drunk on the legend of Michael created by the success of the franchise, making him out to be something he’s not. It references the good that came before and adds on to make it feel like it belongs to right now.
Halloween: ★★★★, a.k.a. Gonna be Re-watching It Forever