Retconning the previous sequels, David Gordon Green follows up John Carpenter’s original film forty years later with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode. If there’s anything to be said there, Jamie Lee Curtis certainly hasn’t lost a bit of what it is that we’ve loved about Laurie Strode over the years, but of course it only fits that so many years since the original Halloween we would have a radically different approach to her character after the trauma that she had endured after her friends were killed in cold blood by Michael Myers. Yet of all people who would be perfect enough to bring Laurie Strode a perfect return to the big screen, it had to be the people behind Eastbound & Down to allow it to be every bit as graceful as it should sound. As odd a combo as it may sound to have Green, Danny McBride, and John Carpenter working together, it strangely works.
After Michael Myers had already went on his own killing spree upon his return to Haddonfield in 1978, Laurie Strode now lives in complete isolation from the other members of her family – after having gone through two failed marriages, still haunted by the trauma that the experiences of her youth had left upon her. But in the many years that she had spent living in isolation from her family members she only sensed that Michael Myers was going to return to Haddonfield and continue his reign of terror, thus giving Laurie Strode more time to prepare herself for one final confrontation with him. It sounds nearly implausible enough after the way the original Halloween film had ended off with the note that Michael Myers’s presence still looming after having seemingly disappeared for good – because evil never goes away as quickly as we would like to think. Green’s understanding of what made Carpenter’s film so effective shines right through in a return to the screen for Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, but it’s already stunning enough to me that this ended up working nearly as well as it did.
There’s never a bad moment whenever Jamie Lee Curtis shows up on the screen to return to the very role that had made her famous in the day, but Judy Greer and Andi Matichak also do well with material provided to them by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride of all people. Yet something else I love about how well this combination works together to bring a new life to the Halloween series comes by through its exploration of trauma and how it unites people – for all we would know is that even after the first Halloween was over, Michael Myers’s reign of terror was not. It’s never not an interesting development for her own character, but Green doesn’t simply look back at Carpenter’s film merely to pay a tribute once again after so long and rather as a template to explore new possibilities especially with the mythos that made Michael Myers as distinctive a presence as he was by merely being a force of nature.
In the film’s most effective moments, you have tension arising even before you know Michael Myers shows up because of how assertive that presence of evil remains from start to finish. But what I love most about how David Gordon Green crafts this Halloween sequel comes out from how Green and McBride so clearly understand the roots of what made Carpenter’s film so effective – even having his own return to composing the score not come back as a letdown. This is a film that is haunted by Strode’s own trauma, all of which had started from the very presence of Michael Myers. Green directs these moments with such care, for Myers’ presence haunts the film at every possible turn, thus creating great moments of dread as they lead up to the eventual kills. But Green doesn’t simply turn this into a film all about the killings, which is something I appreciate – rather about how Myers’s presence is one that never leaves.
Where the film doesn’t exactly work though, are in moments where it seems more focused on the more comedic bits. It has always been a common complaint towards the original film that the dialogue often had felt rather stilted, which was one that I never was able to get behind, and yet the case here never really shows much for an improvement in that regard. In particular, the first scenes with Strode’s estranged family as we are introduced to the youngest member of the bunch, stood out to me as being particularly unbearable. If anything, it feels like too drastic a break from the tone that Carpenter already set up with the original film – but I also never felt particularly compelled by the arcs of many of Allyson’s friends. They only ever felt at most like stock characters – something almost typical of a slasher film in this regard.
But if this is the very direction that new Halloween sequels are set to take, and if Jamie Lee Curtis is going to return to the role, I must admit that I am all for it. David Gordon Green makes clear his own love for John Carpenter’s original, for in the legacy of said film Green makes a sequel that feels like a perfect homage and even understands the very foundation upon which it had ever remained so successful. It isn’t perfect, but the very best moments allow Green’s take on the Halloween series to shine so brightly – and if there’s anything else to be said, I can’t help but admire the very range that David Gordon Green has as a filmmaker. If his drastic turns from a debut film like George Washington to the stoner comedy Pineapple Express show one anything, he’s truly one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Screenplay by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, from characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Produced by Jason Blum, Malek Akad, Bill Block
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Running Time: 106 minutes