Despite the fact that I’d long ago abandoned the “Halloween” franchise (in a convoluted, zig-zag, somewhat related way, there were 10 earlier entries), I quite enjoyed experiencing the shocks and laughs (yes, laughs) in this sequel. It not only celebrates the 40th anniversary of the original John Carpenter film (released Oct. 27, 1978), the story also plays out as 40 years ago in the script, and it features both that film’s original star — Jamie Lee Curtis, now as grandma Laurie Strode — and some perfect placement of that film’s eerie music (composed by John Carpenter).
Directed this time and co-written by David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness”), which explains some of that humor content, the current “Halloween” works as an ode to the original in that so much of it is shot in low-lit rooms, the ever-unstoppable murderer Michael Myers is still unstoppable (and slow-moving and vicious and wearing that same old hideous mask), and Green has included a few shots that, if memory serves, are directly from that first one.
The big difference is that while the 1978 “Halloween” had plenty of gruesome violence, most of it wasn’t all that gory. The multiple mindless killings were mostly offscreen, or bodies were shown only after the deeds were done. The 2018 version has a higher body count and, though it starts off with the same sort of killings, and it eventually grows gorier, the actual gross-out factor is kept relatively low. This isn’t an Eli Roth torture kind of film, but, yeah, there are a few moments that might require sensitive eyes to be covered or heads to be turned.
Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode with a convincing seriousness, as a damaged character who, all these years later, has been transformed into a woman who can’t shake the horrors she went through but is now prepared to deal with them should they ever happen again.
So, when Michael Myers is about to be shipped from the tightly guarded facility where he’s been studied for decades to a different facility, and he somehow manages to escape ... (Oh, please, that’s not a spoiler; that’s what Michael Myers does in these movies), and somehow makes it back of Haddonfield, Illinois, where the first film happened, Curtis puts on her game face as effortlessly as crazy Myers dons his old mask.
But this is not just a story of innocent teens getting killed while engaging in mischief, it also sticks with some of the family components. Fans will remember that Strode is not Laurie’s real last name: It’s Myers, and yes, Michael is her brother. As mentioned above, Laurie, with hiding spaces and guns galore, is now a grandmother. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), though well trained to battle evil as a kid, is now just short of being estranged from her, and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), though close to her, believes that Grandma’s deck is not exactly full.
There’s a doctor from the facility (Haluk Bilginer) who’s trying to figure out what makes Michael tick, there’s a cop in Haddonfield (Will Patton) who isn’t quite sure what he’s up against, and there are lots of victims to complement the dark rooms, heavy footsteps, even heavier breathing, and long tension-filled silences. And then there’s the ending. I think it was in 1998’s “Halloween H2O” that Michael was decapitated just before the end credits. Well, he came back from that one for a sequel. So, who knows how/if he’ll recover from his well earned fate in this one.