Film Review: Halloween (USA, 2018) truly captures the atmosphere of John Carpenter’s seminal classic

Trick: The 2018 incarnation of Halloween acts as a direct continuation of the 1978 original, essentially wiping out all seven sequels (and the two Rob Zombie-helmed revisions) that succeeded in the years since.

Treat: It’s good.  Like really f***ing good!

After surviving the maniacal clutches of psychotic killer Michael Myers forty years prior, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has (understandably) been left paranoid, alienating herself from her family in the process.  Whilst she is aware this estrangement between herself, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is her own doing, she has no regrets in raising Karen to defend herself as she is certain that Michael will return to finish what he started on Halloween night four decades ago.

It’s a basic story at its heart, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective with Halloween (2018) truly capturing the atmosphere of John Carpenter‘s seminal classic.  There’s a purpose to director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride‘s reasoning to revisit the shape that is Michael Myers beyond cheap gory thrills (though the film has its share and how! Head stomp, that’s all i’ll say) with the examination of what surviving such a traumatic event would potentially do to one’s psyche; in Laurie’s case it’s transformed into her a hardened woman, transforming her secluded house into a weaponised fortress – think a suburban Sarah Connor or a Ripley of the neighbourhood.

With Curtis returning to arguably her most well-known role, original Michael Myers player Nick Castle similarly revisiting the figure he defined, and an open credit sequence lifted directly from the 1978 edition, it’s easy to accuse Halloween (2018) of banking too heavily on nostalgia.  And whilst Green and McBride’s script is indeed one that plays with the familiar, there’s an evident respect for Carpenter’s work from the writing duo present as what’s presented on-screen is a product of them understanding what made the original so compelling; a surprise given the two are responsible for such stoner comedies as Pineapple Express and Your Highness.

Perhaps the component most appreciated within Halloween (2018) is the respect Green and McBride have for their audience.  Whilst they throw out enough horror cliches to irk seasoned viewers, the characters on hand are, for the most part, sympathetic and given enough substance that we actually care what happens to them.  Carpenter and Debra Hill knew this with the original and this sequel has followed suit; Will Patton as the local sheriff on hand to combat Michael, Toby Huss as Karen’s husband, and Virginia Gardner as Allyson’s best girlfriend just a slew of prime examples of the script creating rounded archetypes as opposed to one dimensional obvious victims.

Whilst the film isn’t completely without its flaws – Michael’s obsessed doctor (Haluk Bilinger) could’ve been toned down in his theatricality – Halloween (2018) is by far the best sequel within the Halloween family, as well as being a striking film on its own accord.  There’s an emotion stirring beneath the undercurrent of Michael’s brutality here that distances itself from the stalk-and-kill mentality of previous entries that parallels comfortably with the distressed Laurie and her duties to her family, with these two avenues blurring in a blazing finale that is both fervent and ferocious.  Happy Halloween indeed!

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Halloween is in cinemas Thursday 25th October 2018 through Universal Pictures Australia