Up front I’ve got to admit that out of the eleven films in the Halloween franchise, I’ve only seen John Carpetner’s original Halloween (1978), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and Rob Zombie’s remake Halloween (2007). That means there are eight films in the franchise that I’m missing. I’m not an expert on the franchise. Which winds up being a good thing because this new film, Halloween (2018) - and can we talk just for a moment how there are now three films in this series simply named "Halloween"? I mean, come on guys, stop making everybody put dates behind your films in order to differentiate between them - pretends all the sequels don’t exist. It posits that after the events of Halloween (1978) happened Michael Myers was arrested and has spent the last 40 year in a psychiatric hospital.
Of course he escapes because this wouldn’t be a Halloween film without Michael Myers running around killing people, would it? But first, we get some completely unimportant scenes of two true-crime podcasters trying to interview the killer at the asylum, and they’ve ever so conveniently brought his original mask with them.
Back in Haddonfield, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) resides on a fortified compound where she lives in both fear and hope that Michael will escape so that she can have her revenge. Clearly still suffering from the trauma of those terrible events in 1978, she has lived a survivalist life. She did manage to marry (and divorce) twice and have a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) whom she trained in weapons, fighting, and survival until social services took her away. Their relationship has been strained ever since. There is also a granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), with whom Laurie has built something of a relationship with.
Michael escapes when being transferred to another hospital and after killing several people in rather horrific ways, he heads back to Haddonfield on Halloween night to do some more murdering and seek out Laurie. This time she is ready for him. No longer the meek teenager she was in Halloween (1978), she’s spent the last four decades training for such a night. The movie alternates between the oncoming Laurie/Michael Myers showdown, which acts like a proper sequel and something akin to a reboot/call back to the original movie with Allyson having typical teenager fun until Michael starts picking off her friends.
Both work reasonably well on their own, but together they create a mishmash that doesn’t entirely gel. It's really cool seeing Laurie as a badass and when she drives into town to hunt Michael with a shotgun I cheered. Likewise, the teenager scenes are really fun, surprisingly funny, and are filled with loads of callbacks to all the films in the franchise. There is a scene in which Allyson is in class and she looks out the window to see her grandmother standing exactly where Michael Myers stood so many years ago while Laurie was in the same classroom. She disappears like Michael too. The film is filled with clever little mirroring moments like that which will surely make fans happy. It did this one and I’m sure there are all sorts of things I missed having not seen many of the films.
But as the film shifts between these two things - a harrowing thriller with Laurie fighting a monster and a funny, referential horror movie - it never quite comes together as a whole. I almost wish they’d made them two separate films, though I have no idea how that would work. There are some typical horror movie nonsense as well where characters act in complete idiotic ways. Like how Laurie doesn’t bother turning on the giant spotlights she has at her compound until Michael is already inside, but as a fan of the genre those things don’t really bother me too much.
Ultimately, it's a really well-made, funny, thrilling sequel to a franchise that ran out of ideas a long time ago. To find the 11th film in a franchise dealing with serious themes like how trauma effects a person and her family for a lifetime is pretty radical. That it's also the most fun I’ve had watching a horror film since the original Scream is astounding. That these two things don’t always work well together within the same film is but a minor flaw.
The video presentation on this Universal Blu-ray looks spectacular. Colors are rich and filled with depth. Much of the film takes places at night. The darkness is black and beautiful, and its use of light in those scenes is glorious. Textures are detailed, just look at Michael Myers worn-out, ragged mask. Every wrinkle and worn-out bit comes in crisp and fine. Audio likewise is very good. It doesn’t make great use of the surround channels but otherwise it's a powerhouse performance all around. Extras include numerous deleted scenes and a few short featurettes on the making of this film and its legacy.
Halloween (2018) is a fine film. It's perhaps a little too beholden to the original and its two-toned structure doesn’t quite work, but otherwise it's a really well made and enjoyable sequel to one of the greatest horror films ever made.