Fans of the Halloween film series have had a rough time over the last few decades. The original Halloween was brought to us by rebellious film maker John Carpenter and not only was it a delight for horror fans – it was also a rare example of one of his movies performing well at the box office. Of course the studio executives wanted sequels and the stories that followed were like a bizarre roller coaster ride. We saw a direct sequel and another movie that had absolutely nothing to do with Michael Meyers. We got the “Jamie trilogy” and those movies would be ignored with Halloween: H20 and Resurrection. Then we got Rob Zombie’s reboot and a sequel for that.

This universe has been retconned to Hell and back. And the quality! Oh my goodness, some of these movies were awful. The longtime Halloween fans are not asking for much – just a well paced movie with Michael Meyers that does not rely in ridiculous story gimmicks. I am pleased to say that 40 years after the original film was released we finally have a worthy sequel – for the most part.

Plot

This movie is a direct sequel to the 1978 film meaning all of the other sequels are essentially non-canon. Jamie Lee Curtis once again reprises her role as Laurie Strode. While I do appreciate her presence in this story I can’t help but feel that the impact of her return is somewhat diminished by the fact that this is her fifth appearance as Laurie. Don’t get me wrong; the conflict between Laurie and Michael Meyers is fantastic but her return lacks a bit of punch when she showed up in three earlier (and non-canon) sequels.

The years have not been kind to poor Laurie. As the sole survivor of Michael’s 1978 killing spree, she has had difficulty moving on from her fateful encounter with The Shape. Laurie is absolutely convinced that Michael Meyers will escape his incarceration from the mental health facility that holds him and when he does he will seek her out. Laurie has spent her life training and preparing for this confrontation with Michael – even going so far as to train her daughter with firearms and fortifying her home. Her obsession with Michael has destroyed her personal relationships. Laurie lost custody of her daughter at a young age and her relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson, is also strained. It is sad but in some ways Laurie is Michael Meyers’ most tragic victim.

As luck would have it, Michael Meyers is due to be transferred to another facility – on October 30th. You don’t need me to tell you what happens to any bus in a horror film that carries a dangerous killer. Meanwhile, Allyson is attending a dance with her boyfriend and her mother has cut Laurie out of her life due to the old woman’s behavior.

The story of Michael closing in on Laurie and her family is reasonably well placed for the most part. If I have to complain about any aspect of the plot it would be that the movie focuses on Allyson’s high school drama a bit too long but at no point did I ever feel the movie was dragging.

Even though all of the previous Halloween sequels have been ignored, the movie still manages to pay homage to them. Longtime fans with sharp eyes will be able to spot quite a few references to other stories. A non-spoiler example can be found in the trailer – you’ll see kids wearing Silver Shamrock masks while they are trick-or-treating. At the end of the day the story is still essentially a killer-on-the-loose tale but there is nothing wrong with that. The movie even gets surprisingly brutal at times; at one point a child is killed which we don’t often see in horror flicks.

Cinematography

The bulk of the film takes place at night and director David Gordon Green does a delightful job with shadowy corners and disturbingly composed violence. There is an especially great shot of Michael peering at one of his victims through a living room window. You see the woman inside chatting on the phone and Michael’s faint reflection in the glass. When his face disappears from view you know something is about to happen. Even the opening credit sequence has a nice sequence of a decayed Jack-O’-Lantern which slowly reconstitutes itself – a silent promise that the spirit of the original Halloween film is resurrected here.

Performance

Nick Castle originally played Michael Meyers way back in 1978 and he reprises his role here (with help from James Jude Courtney). Having Castle in the film is a nice parallel to casting Jamie Lee Curtis – it feels as if the two really are coming together for their final confrontation. On that note, Curtis does a magnificent job portraying a woman who is barely holding it together. Laurie Strode knows in her heart she is right about Michael and it hurts her that her family views her efforts as mentally unhealthy. Andi Matichak is shaping up to be a fine actress; she genuinely comes across as pained that she does not have a closer relationship with her grandmother but at the same time is a fun-loving and mischievous high school student.

Verdict

Despite a couple of minor missteps, this is the Halloween film that I feel many fans have yearned for. If there are future films in the franchise (and there are signs that there will be) then I feel we are in fine hands.