1978 saw John Carpenter’s low-budget slasher horror Halloween terrify audiences and set the template for horror movies to imitate for decades to come. After nearly a dozen cinematic appearances since, Michael Myers has become a somewhat defanged figure. He’s still fundamentally creepy of course – it’s something about the empty eyes in that mask – but after 40 years can Myers still give audiences at least one good scare?
When looking at making a successful Halloween, the first challenge that any filmmaker has is to consider how it fits in the series’ continuity. The mythology of Michael Myers and the Halloween series is messy at best, so it makes sense that the most recent take follows the Hollywood trend of the soft reboot: taking things back to the drawing board and essentially rendering anything after the first film null and void. There are nods here and there of course, but otherwise it’s back to the start.
As a result, here Myers hasn’t been meeting lots of interesting people and killing them over the years; he’s been locked in an institution since 1978 and the murder of 5 babysitters. Come October 30th, with thrilling inevitability, Michael escapes and comes home again to cleave through Haddonfield’s latest crop of teenagers.
This time there are some people ready for him to descend upon the sleepy Illinois town, namely one Laurie Strode who has spent every day since that fateful night preparing for him to return. Laurie is a broken woman after 4 decades of living with trauma, and thanks to Myers’ rampage has been removed from normal society – literally. She’s hidden herself away in a compound, training every day with weapons and traps, turning her home into a cage ready for Laurie’s rubber-masked prey.
It’s an interesting look at what happens to the Last Girl after the story ends, but more significantly given current events it focusses on the consequences of a traumatic event on someone’s psyche. There’s a story in there too about a victim taking back her power from her assaulter, which in the wake of the Me Too and Times Up movements is incredibly timely.
For the slasher sub-genre this is an important step forward; after the release of the original Halloween its imitators descended into quite retrograde, misogynist material and pretty much missing the point of what made Halloween so good in the first place. It’s fitting then, that the franchise should re-emerge at this time in history to set the record straight.
The final product here is a much smarter film than people may expect of a big-budget horror movie: of course there are the expected jump scares and moments of gore throughout, but for the most part it’s a really engaging inversion of hunted and hunter. Eagle eyed fans of the original will notice some scenes reimagined with certain twists, and it all feeds into this role reversal. All of this culminates in a fantastic and incredibly tense climax, where all of Laurie’s planning and waiting comes into full effect to finally put an end to her Boogeyman.
As with the original, Halloween is absolutely a product of its time and yet retains the timeless feel of its 1978 predecessor. It’s breathed new life into the series, and while the story feels like it’s been wrapped up from here, there’s really no stopping Michael Myers forever. He’ll no doubt be back to terrorise Haddonfield and its residents in future instalments, but Jamie Lee Curtis et al can give themselves a big pat on the back for making Halloween relevant – and, most importantly, scary – again here.