Halloween is a great slasher film and a rare horror sequel that doesn't totally suck.
Set 40 years after the original Halloween wrote the slasher playbook, the third film with the same title arrives during a verifiable drought of slasher films. After Scream upended the playing field in the late-90s, Hollywood completely ran out of ideas and subjected audiences to a deluge of shitty remakes and prequels during the mid-00s. Now we're entering the strange era of what I'm calling long-distance sequels – films with some of the original talent involved, picking up where things left off decades prior. This isn't inherently new, Bryan Singer tried it with Superman Returns back in '06, and even the Halloween franchise did it once before with 1998's Halloween H20, which ignored everything after Halloween II. We've seen it delivered in rare form with Twin Peaks: The Return, we're gonna see it again soon with the next Terminator sequel, and we're seeing it now with Halloween H40.
Thankfully, this iteration of Halloween does a commendable job of righting the ship and delivering some good ol' fashioned slasher goodness. We return to the suburb of Haddonfield 40 years after Michael Myers escaped from a sanitarium and remorselessly hacked up a bunch of babysitters. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, who's no longer the clumsy babysitter she was in '78, but is now a full-blown survivalist, who's prepared her family for the worst and outfitted her home with a complex security system and a shitload of guns. She's spent the last 40 years gripped with PTSD, waiting for a day when Michael may return, and gets her wish when he makes yet another escape from the looney bin and finds his way right back to Haddonfield.
David Gordon Green takes a lot of cues from the original, imbuing his sequel with a refreshing amount of simplicity. We aren't given any more useless backstory about Michael, he's just evil personified here to do some evil shit. Like the first time, he's just a random death machine who butchers people pretty much at random. Introducing a motive or a backstory makes him infinitely less scary, and I'm glad they didn't fall into that trap here. There are a few story elements that are kinda weak, but on the whole they do a fine job for what it is.
In true long-distance sequel form, John Carpenter returns to provide the musical score, and as usual, he delivers. He’s been enjoying a recent career resurgence for his music, including embarking on several world tours to play his music in front of his adoring fans. His new takes on his iconic themes feel right at home here, and don’t go too far trying to make it sound too “updated.” It’s exactly what I hoped it would be, not hewing too close to the sound of the original but not straying too far from it either.
This is a very self-aware Halloween movie, in mostly good ways. The shadow of the Michael Myers killings hangs over Haddonfield, but in 2018, a maniac killing a few people with a knife is pretty tame compared to the horrors that we're party to these days. The film makes it known that it's aware of how slashers don't carry the same weight as they did in the past, but it doesn’t really do much more than make it known. Which is fine! This film didn't need to reinvent the wheel or be too Scream-like, it just needed provide some thrills and kills, and they deliver on both. The kills in particular are much more brutal than usual.
My only real gripe with the film is that it doesn't really have much of a style of its own. It certainly looks good, and there are a few inspired moments (like the much-lauded long take that you see a lot of in the trailer), but it doesn't look much different from any other slick, big budget horror film, which is a style that I wish would go away. There's just not a lot of personality here, but it's competently made, which is more than I can say about most slasher films, let alone slasher sequels. I don't really have much to complain about. It kept me sufficiently engaged, and even though it wasn't very scary, and kinda stupid at parts, it was always entertaining.