Although in recent years we have seen the horror genre birthing some fantastic new features and subsequently experiencing newfound popularity, we’ve been lacking the franchises that terrified and amused through the 80s and 90s. And no, the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, or Ridley Scott’s persistent bastardisation of the Alien franchises do not count. However, director David Gordon Green is keen to remedy this, by returning to the franchise that started it all, while stripping away the excess canonical baggage created by many poor sequels. A job that he pulls off flawlessly, with the help of series creator John Carpenter as Executive Producer.
The premise for this sequel/reboot is remarkably like the intense simplicity of the 1978 original, deranged killer Michael Myers has escaped a top security institution and is out to wreak havoc on the small town of Haddonfield. Only this time Laurie Strode (a returning Jamie Lee Curtis), who fell prey to Michael’s rampage exactly 40 years earlier, is waiting for her assailant’s return; driven to the brink of insanity in the shadow cast by that fateful night. Yet, what’s interesting (without giving too much away) is that this is not a straightforward revenge story. In fact, it’s not until the final act that the pair are reacquainted, and Halloween is far stronger because of this. In fact, the events of that night seem to have no impact on Myers as he goes from house to house killing indiscriminately in one stunning tracking shot, a beautiful homage to the original’s revolutionary use of Steadicam. This is the perfect continuation of the character, he is evil incarnate and shown to be ruthlessly efficient in his hunting, resulting in some very effective jump scares that toe the line but don’t fall into cheap territory.
This accentuated menace is matched in tone by the new entry’s heavily increased violence, earning its 18 certificate in the UK. Whilst it never quite matches the sheer unpleasantness (thank God) of Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboots, it is a serious increase upon anything in the core series. A lot is still left to the viewer’s imagination, but the aftermaths and simplicity of how Myers operates allow you to fill in the gaps without too many problems. Yet, this creates the film’s biggest problem in the form of a wildly inconsistent tone. There are too many moments of inappropriate comedy, such as an attempt to recreate Tarantino-esque dialogue surrounding sandwiches, that only serve to stagger the pace in what should be a lean modern horror. The film also relies upon inverting some of the original’s most iconic moments, which serves as a nice gimmick when used for incidental visuals. But, when used as the basis for a pivotal plot twist, patience starts to wear thin. One call back to the original that really works though is the re-imagined score by Carpenter, who now has a far larger selection of toys to create ethereal and terrifying soundscapes with. Each piece compliments the action on screen nicely, while building small motifs from the ’78 film, and thankfully Carpenter never falls into the potential laziness of just repeating the iconic main theme endlessly.
When Halloween immerses you into the tortured world of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers it excels, reaching the heady heights of Carpenter’s cinematic debut. The action is brutal, there’s a real tension when Myers appears, driven by a nuanced score that understands when to show its hand, or hint at what’s to come. It’s a shame that some poorly conceived comedy, and the aforementioned twist are so jarring then as this could have been a masterpiece. Instead it’s a very competent horror with a few imperfections. It’s undeniably the best Halloween film since the original (Halloween III: Season of the Witch in close third) and if it sparks a resurgence of big budget horror franchises, well then that’s just great!