Like other 90’s kids, my introduction to many a classic film was via other popular movies. My first taste of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was seeing it get ripped apart at a drive-in movie theater by an F-4 tornado in 1996’s Twister. ’96 was also the same year that Wes Craven’s Scream tore through theaters. While watching Scream though, my focus always drifted to the film it drew heavy inspiration from, referenced repeatedly, and even played long stretches of: John Carpenter’s Halloween. I had to see this movie and I quickly digested the entire series, but none had the lasting power of the 1978 original — a classic and masterpiece of horror in every sense that would give me nightmares for years to come. So how does this pseudo-sequel-reboot stack up?
The latest entry in this long-running franchise employs an increasingly popular mantra in filmmaking today: being that of a “selective sequel”. It disregards nearly 40 years worth of movies and built-up mythology to position itself as the true heir to Carpenter’s original, and by going back to what the original did best: unleashing an unstoppable force of evil to senselessly murder on Halloween night. Jamie Lee Curtis returns once again but this version of Laurie has had her life completely torn apart and defined by that fateful night and we see how that trauma has been passed down through three generations of Strode women. Dealing with the lasting effects of trauma is where the movie is most successful and is a component often overlooked in most horror films. Curtis gives one of her best performances with this version of the character.
The rest of the film could, coincidentally enough, best be compared to The Force Awakens. It retreads the same structure, set-ups, and character types of the original though finding some clever ways of subverting these familiar set-ups but also tipping its cap fairly frequently. The film is stunningly shot, including an exceptional long take that follows Michael Myers (aka The Shape) from a street full of Trick-R-Treaters, into a house to make a kill, and back out again. All of this leads up to a final confrontation between Laurie and Michael that does not disappoint. While the film is a bit too comfortable replaying bits from the original, it nevertheless succeeds as a fun, scary, and brutal thrill-ride. Fans have long waited for a worthy sequel to one of horror’s all-time greats, and their patience has finally been rewarded. Grade: A-