Has there ever been a movie more murderous than the new “Halloween”?
It’s a movie that kills at least six other movies. That pretends that the “Halloween” sequels of ’81, ’88, ’89, ’95, ’98 and ’02 never happened. That (mercifully) scrubs away the scuzzy remnants of Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake and its sequel.
The only sequel that could potentially exist in this recalibrated timeline is “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” that sublimely bizarre 1982 side adventure that eschewed Michael Myers for a plot involving witchcraft and Stonehenge.
For anyone outraged that “Halloween” is retconning away 37 years of horror movie history, let me remind you that this series has always been a little dodgy when it comes to continuity.
Its heroine has died twice. Its villain has died a few times. Myers’ mythology has encompassed everything from telepathy to Druid curses to Paul Rudd.
“Halloween” (2018) wisely casts all that aside in favor of a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original. And better still, the film brings back Carpenter (as creative consultant, executive producer and composer of an awesome new score), along with Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle, who reprise their roles as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.
The new film, directed by David Gordon Green, isn’t much more than a quick, crisp and deeply competent slasher movie. And yet that’s not an easy thing to do, as evidenced by nearly four decades of sequels — and “Halloween” copycats — that sucked. (With the exception of “Halloween II” and “H20.” They’re fine.)
What the new “Halloween” does with the franchise is expressed visually in its opening credits sequence, which shows the reinflation of a busted-up jack-o’-lantern, something made whole again after four decades of damage.
The film picks up exactly 40 years to the day of “Halloween” ’78. Myers and Laurie might not be siblings (as “Halloween II” never happened), but they are still very much on each other’s minds.
Michael survived his wounds and has ever since lived in a mental institution. Laurie is still very messed up from that night; she’s now an agoraphobic, PTSD-ridden prepper with a side of alcoholism.
Laurie’s had two failed marriages and a rocky relationship with her daughter and granddaughter (Judy Greer and Andi Matichak). But she’s also become quite proficient at shooting guns and hand-to-hand combat. She lives outside Haddonfield, Illinois, in a country home compound with security cameras and a panic room. She’s taken all precautions because she knows just as well as Michael that one day he will escape and come after her.
The most perfectly 2018 thing about this movie is that the plot is instigated by a duo of journalists making a true crime podcast about the Michael Myers murders. One of the podcasters obtains Myers’ old killin’ mask and shows it to him in an effort to, I don’t know, spur Michael into some big moment that will help the podcast skyrocket to the top of the iTunes charts.
Michael shows no reaction, but he does escape shortly thereafter and get revenge against the podcaster. Myers also finds a ride and heads back to Haddonfield. (He hasn’t forgotten how to drive!)
And the killing starts. Michael’s body count is about three to four times higher than in the 1978 “Halloween.” But with one exception — in which a man’s skull is smashed like an old pumpkin — the kills are clean, quick and efficient. Like Carpenter’s original, the movie is more concerned with suspense than gore.
It’s still not clear what Michael’s motivations are, whether he derives pleasure from this or if he’s merely compelled to just keep moving and killing. This has always been his strength as a movie monster. He kills just because. No reason. Nothing to understand. Just something to kill before it kills you.
Laurie gets this, and tries to convince everyone in town: Evil is real. It means you harm. And it’s gonna be here any minute.
In addition to three generations of Strode women, a few other notable characters try to survive this Halloween night: a grizzled police officer (Will Patton), Laurie’s son-in-law (Toby Huss) and Michael’s doctor (Haluk Bilginer), whom Laurie just calls “the new Loomis.”
The “Halloween” script — which Green co-wrote with comedic actor Danny McBride — is often quite funny. It cleverly inverts a few of the original’s most iconic moments, and it features some piquant dialogue and even a bit of “Scream”-esque meta humor.
For instance, when someone asks Laurie’s granddaughter if her grandma and Michael were siblings, she says: “No, that’s just something somebody made up.”
Even if “Halloween” erases the events of the previous films, the sequels still inform the power Michael holds over Haddonfield and over Laurie — and over us.
After all these years, the man in the mask still cuts a frightening figure, and this movie knows just how to use him. But where “Halloween” truly excels is in how it handles its heroine.
To quote the tagline of David Fincher’s “Zodiac”: “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer.”
Laurie survived that night in ’78, but the trauma of her experience poisoned her next 40 years. She can’t maintain healthy relationships. Her family thinks she’s nuts. She can barely leave the house.
And so when Michael comes back into her life, she’s almost relieved. She finally has a chance to kill him and take back control of her life. It’s not unlike Laurie’s trajectory in “Halloween: H20,” but I think it’s a bit more poignant here, given the added 20 years. Plus, Curtis plays the hell out of it.
Laurie’s brutal showdown with Michael makes for about as satisfying a finale as one could hope for. It’s so good and so final that this really should be the end of this series once and for all.
But “Halloween” is expected to score a $70 million this weekend, which would make it one of the top October openings of all time. So I’m betting this isn’t the last we see of Michael Myers. As boogeymen go, he’s pretty hard to kill.