In Friday The 13th Part 2, after being stalked by Jason Voorhees, Ginny Field was wheeled away in a gurney looking for her boyfriend. After losing her brother and friends to a family of cannibals, Sally Hardesty rode off into the sunshine laughing maniacally in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After losing her sorority sisters and den mother to a heavy-breathing psycho, Black Christmas‘ Jess Bradford must face the future unsure of who to trust, much less feel safe in close proximity to. For Laurie Strode, the “final girl” of the Halloween series, her journey of trauma and recovery (or lack thereof) has been well-documented, with her attacker relegated to a sanitarium. Forty years after John Carpenter’s first film, the team at Rough House Pictures, with an assist from low-budget horror titans Blumhouse, has returned to Laurie, her hometown of Haddonfield, and her personal boogeyman, Michael Myers, with ample amounts of gore, shock, and humor to spare.
In a recent interview with Indiewire, Danny McBride discussed Halloween, a retcon of the legendary horror series that he co-wrote and produced with Jeff Fradley and director David Gordon Green. At one point he made a joke referencing the rabid fan backlash to the Star Wars prequels, “I hope we don’t ruin too many childhoods.” We genre fans can be rabid motherfuckers that hold their movies close to their collective nerd bosoms. Even though we know nothing will ever top that first time we saw that one movie, we hold out hope for an experience that feels like the first time. I mention all this to provide some context. I knew that no matter how perfect or flawless the latest incarnation of Halloween was, it would never beat that first time. I could only ask that a classic I loved so much got equal love from its new creators.
That love is glaring. The plot, like the original, is minimal and streamlined with a focus on the multigenerational effects of trauma. The events of 1978 and the long lasting effects have wounded Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), leaving her with two failed marriages and a strained relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her teenage granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) in its wake. Living in a trap-laden home deep in the woods, Strode has become a recluse with a sweet little arsenal, should the worst case scenario occur. Not long after the opening credits (themselves a subversion of the original film’s credit sequence) finish, that scenario comes to fruition when a bus crash frees Myers. Before too long, Myers is back to doing what he does best — killing anyone and everyone (including kids) who get in his way.
This is the most fleshed out the Laurie Strode character has been since the original. She wasn’t the crawling powerless victim she was in 1981’s Halloween II or the scarred mom/half-Myers sister living in Cali in Halloween H20. And definitely not the pointless casualty in Halloween: Resurrection. Even when she’s powerless and fucking up, she takes command in every scene. Whether she’s charging through the streets like a paranoid Chief Brody in Jaws 2 or firing off guns on a personal shooting range like a ready-for-war Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (one who knows all too well the hell awaiting), this version of Strode feels like a natural progression for the “Final Girl” (a phrase coined by feminist scholar Carol Clover in her excellent book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film) terrorized by her past.
When it was first announced that Green, the man who helped usher in discomfort cinema and who is behind films that work like visual poetry, would be taking on the horror icon, I overly pondered the possibilities. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that the crew behind some of the best, most bleak and tense humor in cinema be charged with taking on the latest Myers mayhem. I liked this movie. It’s not my favorite of Green’s films, but it’s by far my favorite Halloween sequel top to bottom.
Like a Pavlovian Star Wars fan, I appreciated the call backs to the other films in the series, but I wouldn’t have missed them if they were gone. I liked seeing familiar Charleston backdrops, but these personal meta moments didn’t add to my enjoyment. What made me happiest about this film is that Laurie Strode was given the arc that she deserves. She’s flawed and sometimes doddering, eliciting empathy but alternately perfect and strong, leading you to cheer her on.
For what it’s worth, after watching this film, I know my childhood wasn’t ruined. If anything I was given a temporary horrific respite from an increasingly horrific reality. As a fan of the director and the flawed series, I was happy with the end result. I’ll see it again. I want friends and strangers to see it. You can’t trump nostalgia, but Green’s Halloween doesn’t set out to unseat Carpenter’s original from its throne but instead intends to be an organic continuation of the 1978 film that doesn’t rely on bloated explanations or family trees to keep audiences invested. I don’t think I could ask for much more.
Halloween — Rated R. Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Nick Castle, and Andi Matichak.