This might sound like faint praise, but the new Halloween is the best film in the long-running franchise since John Carpenter’s 1978 original.
It also restores Michael Myers’ status as the ultimate screen boogeyman after numerous lame sequels reduced him to a stereotypical masked maniac – and an oafish redneck in Rob Zombie’s dire reboot.
40 years after he stalked babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) on Halloween night and murdered her friends, Michael has once again escaped from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, only this time Laurie – now a hippy survivalist grandma – is ready and waiting for him.
Nevermind that she killed him in Halloween H20 (1998) – this latest chapter ignores the events of all prior sequels to serve as a direct follow-up to the original. Technically, it’s the official Halloween 2.
What it isn’t is another generic slasher film aimed at the teen market. Director David Gordon Green has eschewed jump scares and cheap shocks in favour of the slow-build suspense and shadowy milieu that distinguished Carpenter’s film.
The bodycount is higher, the kills brutal without being gratuitous, and Michael’s murderous MO is as measured and methodical as that of his younger self. When you consider he’s now a sixty-something maniac in a Shatner mask, he’s even creepier.
A lot has happened to Laurie since they last met. She lost custody of her 12-year-old daughter and has been living as a recluse in a fortified house. Wearing the trauma of the past like her own mask, she has been preparing for this very night, and Jamie Lee Curtis rises to the occasion as if she’s harbouring a personal grudge.
Comedy duo Green (Pineapple Express) and co-writer Danny McBride (TV’s Eastbound & Down) may have seemed unlikely candidates to revive Halloween, but their resurrection is a resounding success, paying respectful homage to the original while avoiding blatant fan service. The only gripe is a surprise and unnecessary twist that simply doesn’t work at all.
Die-hard Halloween devotees can look forward to a worthy sequel-cum-reimagination, full of Carpenter-esque shots scored to his signature synthesiser theme, and a sustained and satisfying showdown. It’s a welcome homecoming for Michael.
In cinemas: October 25, 2018
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton
Directed by: David Gordon Green