“Are you afraid of the Boogeyman? You should be.” — Laurie Strode, sole Michael Myers survivor
If you’re reading this, you know who the Boogeyman is: Michael Myers. (If you don’t, stop reading, call your parents, and berate them for not giving you a good childhood.)
The original Halloween made its debut in 1978, cementing itself as one of the greatest horror films of all time. It opened the floodgates to countless slasher knockoffs and blessed us with horror icons such as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. It also spawned now 11 sequels, reboots, and reimaginings, with only a few being worth a watch, either for nostalgia or because they’re so bad they’re fun. (Rob Zombie’s “reimagining” diptych can burn in hell.) After countless duds, David Gordon Green’s Halloween is finally a worthy sequel that John Carpenter’s slasher needed. It’s scary as hell and gives the Laurie-Michael feud a finale that fans deserve.
The current movie already has a lot going for it: Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie, Carpenter, who co-wrote and directed the first sleeper hit and is known for scoring his own films, came back as a creative consultant and composed an original score for this movie -- something he hasn’t done for anyone else in his career since 1981, which was for Halloween II (his final involvement in the franchise). The icing on the cake -- more for fans of the original -- is Nick Castle (who played the Shape and made the character his own) coming out of retirement to play Michael Myers for a few scenes and also recorded Michael’s infamous breathing, which we hear throughout the movie. It’s an alert to the audience that Michael is lurking near. Halloween is not complete without Laurie Strode and Carpenter, and this is the first (and possibly last) time they’ve been involved with the Halloween franchise together since the original. All three coming back together for the first time, one last time, invokes the terror of the original.
By the way: 1998’s Halloween: H20 previously brought back Curtis as Laurie. I saw that film in theaters three times in one day and still love it despite its plot inconsistencies and mask troubles. I will fight you if you say it’s a bad movie. (Note: You must be shorter than five feet and weigh less than 100 pounds.)
Green’s Halloween is a direct sequel to Carpenter’s, erasing all the other films from the original’s canon. This means Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are not blood relatives anymore, and she is very much alive. If you’re panicking like I did when I learned the former, don’t worry, Michael’s determination to rip Laurie’s head off is as sharp as the knife Myers uses to butcher his victims.
The new film picks up 40 years after the original. Michael has since been locked up in maximum security at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, having been arrested shortly after falling off that balcony. The once-innocent girl next door Laurie (played to perfection by Curtis) has spent her life training in combat and firearms and building her own security compound for Michael’s inevitable return to Haddonfield, his hunting ground. In the meantime, she lost custody of her daughter Karen (played as an adult by Judy Greer) because she spent too much time training her to kill a psychopath who may or may not come for her one day instead of letting Karen play with toys and be a normal kid. The town thinks Laurie’s crazy, and adult Karen doesn’t want her mother anywhere near her or her own daughter (Andi Matichak). When Michael escapes and slides on his wicked mask (the original one from 1978, but crusty, cracked, deteriorated from aging, and with a hole where Laurie poked him in the neck long ago), he wastes no time crushing skulls, ripping out teeth, and butchering every unlucky soul in his path.
The script is co-written by Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride), Jeff Fradley, and Green. The film is sharp, terrifying, and the most violent Halloween I’ve ever seen, and yet most of Michael’s offscreen kills are the most bloodcurdling. Green also pulls off something unconventional for diehard fans of all of the Halloween films. There are clever callbacks to the original, and even though they’re no longer canon, he salutes every Halloween film made by peppering popular moments from those movies liberally throughout the film. It’s deliberate and for the ones who’ve dedicated their admiration for the masked maniac for over 40 years.
Part of what makes Michael Myers an icon of terror is his mystery -- why does he kill and kill and kill again for no reason and no remorse? Perhaps fascination being the only hint of a clue we’ve been able to gain in his forty years of death.
In Halloween (1978), he gets stabbed and shot multiple times and will not fucking die. Michael is flesh and blood, has no supernatural abilities, is about six feet tall and slender but unnaturally strong. He’s an unstoppable killing machine. Dr. Loomis (another iconic character in the franchise, played by the late, great Donald Pleasence) says it best: Michael Myers is “purely and simply evil.” Born to kill. Michael Myers is death in human form.
The ambiguity around his survival after being mortally wounded in Carpenter’s Halloween is a real mindfuck because the unknown is more frightening than, say, a killer with supernatural powers offing sex-crazed teenagers (a popular trope for horror movies). Carpenter went for the “less is more” approach and it worked because it carves out the suspension of disbelief, and leaves it up to the audience’s imagination.
This is Green’s first stab at directing horror and hopefully will not be his last. From the opening credits that mimic Carpenter’s Halloween (and a really cool use of a rotted pumpkin coming back to life while the credits roll) to the set design of the doomed town of Haddonfield, Ill., the film looks as if we time warped right back to 1978. He also did a terrific job showing us Michael has aged (he’s now like 61) but is still a colossal threat. Maybe it’s his rage or a new strain of Viagra, but he is still able to pick up 160+ pound humans and impale them into walls.
However, the filmmakers demonstrate that Laurie is legitimately dangerous to Michael and other people. There’s a moment in the film when someone says they want to “track down the monster’s counterpart.” The counterpart is Laurie, and she’s called that because her rage and 40-year determination to kill Michael makes her an equal match for him. He learns rather quickly she no longer fears the reaper when they reunite, and that he needs a new bag of tricks if he wants to be the last one standing.
After 40 years of filmmakers trying to cash in on Michael Myers, we finally get the sequel that respects the original, will make you squeal, clap, and leave the theater completely satisfied. This is the Michael Myers we have missed. Welcome back, Boogeyman.
Source: This review first appeared on Fort Worth Weekly.