Despite being heavily dependent on the legacy of John Carpenter's 1978 film, the franchise's latest offering still packs its own set of surprises.
It is impossible to watch director David Gordon Green’s belated sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic without thinking of the original. 2018’s Halloween is steeped in references to its predecessor, from parallel shots to the use of footage from 1978, and of course the ever-present Jack-O’-Lanterns which litter both films.
Perhaps the most welcome piece of continuity from the original is Green’s use of sound. A pre-title sequence set in the asylum in which psychopathic murderer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) is housed uses the ticking of clocks, whimper of police dogs and moans of the inmates to create a chilling soundscape which leaves the audience with a sense of unease before the main body of the film has even begun. The aural strengths of the film are reinforced through the use of John Carpenter’s iconic original theme. Fortunately, Green does not use this as a crutch but rather a springboard. For example, when young female lead Allyson Strode (Andi Matichak) sees Michael for the first time the original theme morphs from the creeping piano of Carpenter to a synthetic roar which complements the hulking figure of the masked killer.
Matichak’s character is one of three generations of her family who are preyed on by Michael. Jamie Lee Curtis’s return to the character of Laurie Strode stands out in particular; she manages to portray the despair of a woman who has had her entire life derailed by the effects of Michael’s crime while also providing a dry wit which offers some refreshing and well-needed laughs. In fact, Halloween is full of humour. Most of the laughs are lovingly directed at the original, most notably Jibrail Nantambu’s portrayal of a brilliantly foulmouthed child seems to mock the earnestness and naivety of the characters in the original film. His wisecracking banter with baby sitter (Virginia Gardener) offers the audience a break from the stabs and screams of the rest of the film.
In terms of characterisation, Green has done a great job juggling the screen time and development of all three generations of the Strode’s. Grandmother, mother, and daughter each have personal struggles to overcome alongside dodging the film’s knife wielding villain. For Laurie Strode, now the eccentric grandmother, this involves finding closure with regard to the events of the first film. In turn, Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) struggles to reconcile with her mother who ruined her childhood through neurotic preparation for what Laurie viewed as Michael’s inevitable escape. Allyson, the youngest Strode, attempts to draw these two estranged older women together, while also dealing with the staple teenage problems of managing boys, grades and a social life. Despite initial family conflict, all three of these women are motivated by love for each other, and the film poignantly leaves us asking the question of how far will someone go to protect their children?
Even minor characters are well written, with Jefferson Hall portraying one half of a pair of British podcast writers who provide melodramatic monologues on the nature of evil similar to those given by Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in the original. Dr Lommis’ professional replacement is Dr Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who took over the study of Michael after Loomis’ death. Sartain is a Freud like figure with a slight accent, moustache and a perverse interest in the crimes of Michael, who he is desperate to capture. Despite having smaller roles, we are intrigued by both of the Docs, a testament to the writing of Green and co.
In short, despite being heavily dependent on the legacy of the 1978 film, the franchise’s most recent offering still packs its own set of surprises and is definitely a cut above the string of sequels which were released after 1978. A strong performance from veteran Jamie Lee Curtis coupled with Green’s adept directing make for one of the year’s better slasher films.
Halloween (2018), directed by David Gordon Green, is distributed in the UK via Universal Pictures, certificate 18.