David Gordon Green’s Halloween is something of a miracle. After all, the creative team, whose experience is exclusively in comedy, had to deliver legitimate scares while making sense of a franchise with 11 films' worth of convoluted history, and simultaneously doing something new. The odds seemed stacked against it, but Green presents an astonishing work that dives into the consequences of the 1978 original while still moving into uncharted territory.
In this age of reboots, remakes and rehashes, Halloween utilizes arguably the most intriguing approach to resurrecting a dormant property: the legacy sequel, which typically take place in the same same universe as the original, and frequently feature returning cast members, but make use of the time gap to present the franchise to a new generation. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Disney’s Tron: Legacy have found mild success in that arena, but the revived Star Wars saga holds the real blueprint for injecting life into these old stories. And while Halloween doesn’t reach the heights of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it certainly represents a high-water mark, respectful of the past but never restrained by it.
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the series for the first time in 20 years as the original final girl, Laurie Strode. Writers Green, Danny McBride (yep, that Danny McBride) and Jeff Fradley decided to ignore every entry in the series that came after the John Carpenter original, which permitted them to effectively start from scratch. It’s 40 years to the day after Michael Myers terrorized Laurie and killed her friends, and the trauma of that experience has taken over her life. She’s spent four decades preparing for Michael’s return, basically barricading herself in a fortress, surrounded by weapons. Excavating real-world consequences from a 40-year-old slasher film is an interesting turn for the series, reminiscent of how Creed found a way to explore a darker fallout from the goofy Rocky IV. Curtis plays the role perfectly, transforming into a seemingly hardened warrior, who nevertheless frequently cracks under the paranoia that comes from having faced evil himself.
The portrayal of Michael also works surprisingly well, fleshing out the horror icon while retaining a necessary sense of mystery. The audience is introduced to Old Man Michael in the opening minutes as he's interrogated by true-crime podcasters. Intriguingly, he doesn’t wear his classic mask until about a third of the way through the film, and it's exactly that kind of restraint that makes this new vision of Halloween so great. Green withholds the mask from the viewers, waiting to unleash it at just the right time. The decision pays off, as Michael Myers’ first real moment back in costume is one of the best horror scenes in years, a tracking shot that follows The Shape in a violent return to form.