BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC It’s been nine long years since the last Halloween film, Rob Zombie’s 2009 franchise-killing sequel to his ill-fated 2007 re-boot of the series. The latest chapter in the Michael Myers’ slasher saga — simply called Halloween — dumps six sequels worth of convoluted plot, mythology and character development to position itself as a direct sequel to the original 1978 film. David Gordon Green (Eastbound & Down) is directing this entry with a script co-written with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride that picks up 40 years after the Haddonfield Murders with Michael Myers safely tucked away in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.
It’s the day before Halloween when we catch up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), now a grandmother whose home is less a house than a locked-and-loaded survivalist compound. You see, for the last 40 years she’s been obsessively prepping for Michael’s eventual return, stockpiling weapons and training herself and her family in various forms of hand-to-knife combat. We soon learn that over the years this obsession with Myers has cost her the custody of her daughter and alienated most of those around her, with the exception of her plucky granddaughter Allyson played by Andi Matichak. Meanwhile, Michael Myers is about to be transported to a maximum-security prison to live out his remaining life in solitary confinement.
Myers escapes as you would expect, leaving behind a blood-soaked trail across Haddonfield on his way to finish what he started that Halloween night. But this time Laurie is battle-ready. While ostensibly a horror film, Halloween paints a heartbreaking story of Laurie as a survivor who has sacrificed everything to ensure that her and her family will never again be victims. In the Kavanaugh era, it’s satisfying to watch a world who refused to believe a woman learning the hard way she was all too right all along. As per usual, with no handsome hero on the horizon to rescue her, Laurie is forced to take matters into her own hands and what we get is a very satisfying face-off between these two horror icons that feels very definitive.
Halloween is a feminist slasher flick for a new generation. As the men bumble their way through the narrative, each easily dispatched by Myers, it’s three generations of Strode women who are tasked with taking out the Boogeyman. Thankfully, Halloween is also funny. But given the pedigree of the writers and director it should go without saying that the humor has an edge as sharp as the long blade of Myer’s omnipresent knife. While not completely meta in its laughs like a Scream, the film does play homage to its cannon and is littered with Easter eggs and call backs. Jamie Lee Curtis turns in a complex and vulnerable performance giving us a very realistic take on just what happened to the last girl alive in the first Halloween in the intervening 40 years since the credits rolled. The new Halloween is a much-needed update to the slasher template that genuinely has something important to say while also delivering the gory body count fans expect. This fall feels very much like the gore-drenched horror renaissance the long-suffering fans of these films so desperately deserved. Let the buyer beware.