Over the past forty years we’ve witnessed various iterations of John Carpenter’s prolific 1978 slasher film. At its core, Halloween has always been about the psychopathy of Michael Myers and his relentless pursuit of Laurie Strode and anyone connected to her. It’s nearly impossible to truly know what motivates The Shape other than the inherent evil that resides within. Alternate realities from different visionaries have offered plausible theories as to what drove him to kill, but nothing was more convincing nor terrifying than the simple fact that Michael Myers was a soulless, supernatural being destined to unleash terror on his unsuspecting victims.
David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to the original arrives in theaters this weekend and with it comes a complete retcon of the entire franchise. It concludes a 40-year arc without the thrills and frills of familial drama, dubious cults, reality shows, and convoluted timelines. Instead of wading through this complex property keeping the many moving pieces in tact, Green, co-writer Danny McBride and producer Jason Blum take it back to the basics with a powerful examination of violence and trauma.
In Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode is decades removed from her first and only encounter with Michael Myers but the repercussions of that night weigh heavy on her chest as if it just happened last week. Not unlike the version of Strode we found in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, she grapples with lifelong trauma and the relationships she’s maintained are strained by her PTSD and heightened sense of paranoia. Her vivid memories of the evil that took the lives of her friends and threatened her own persist despite the fact that Michael’s been institutionalized since the night he was shot off Tommy Doyle’s balcony by Dr. Loomis.
We catch up with Laurie Strode when two investigative journalists arrive at her fortified home after an unsuccessful visit with her would-be killer hours before. We learn that her isolation is the result of two failed marriages, losing custody of her estranged daughter Karen at an early age, and a total decimation of the bright future she once envisioned for herself as a young valedictorian. All of which is tethered to the very real expectation that Michael Myers will once again come for her. Unlike H20’s Strode, Laurie is unable to find a productive life outside of doomsday preparation. Consumed by alcohol, grief, and the overwhelming fear of impending danger, Laurie’s mentality never escaped that night.
Throughout the film, David Gordon Green alludes to what Laurie’s life has been like over the past forty years through minimal flashbacks of Karen’s intense childhood and the tension between the two in present day. Now a grandmother, Laurie does her best to keep her granddaughter Allyson aware of her surroundings and the evil that threatens it in spite of Karen’s insistence that the world is a more positive place than the one Laurie chooses to live in.
Gordon’s studied approach to Halloween comes with a deep appreciation for the lore of Michael Myers. It also offers viewers and fans of the franchise an interesting scenario in which motive, once again, comes into question. As previously mentioned, this sequel disregards all other entries including Halloween II, where Dr. Loomis’ revelation that Michael and Laurie are brother and sister lays the foundation for something far more personal than a random killing. That inseparable familial bond became a driving theme throughout the rest of the franchise, including Rob Zombie’s polarizing reimagining.
In Halloween IV-VI, we followed Laurie’s daughter, Jamie, after Laurie died in an off-screen car accident. Michael stalked and ultimately killed his niece over the course of three films. In H20, continuity is disrupted for the first time in favor of a reboot that brings back Laurie Strode twenty years after her first encounter with her brother. There she’s presumed dead and living under the name Keri Tate as a headmistress and a mother to her son John. She inevitably goes head-to-head with her brother leading to his presumed death in the final scene. That’s until Halloween: Resurrection reveals that Michael had swapped bodies with a man she’d mistaken for him, leaving her unable to cope with killing the wrong person and ultimately confining herself in a psychiatric institution. He tracks her down, yet again, and they come to a “final” confrontation where she hesitates in fear of killing the wrong person and instead, he kills her, ending a bitter family feud.
So what’s happening in Halloween 2018? Is it Michael’s bloodlust for Haddonfield that drives him to return to his hometown and kill again? Or does he remember the one that got away and is looking to resolve unfinished business? Or is this showdown between Laurie and Michael of her own making as she inserts herself into the hunt? Family bond or not, there’s an unbreakable tie between the two that transcends time and realities. All of these scenarios are plausible, and can even coexist.
Gordon and his team construct a less fantastical world propelled by Michael Myers’ innate evil, nothing more. It also delves into a more grounded study of the Final Girl trope and how Laurie Strode's steadied impulse for revenge accurately depicts a life stunted by violence. It's a bond darker and deeper than any contrived plot device could offer. Halloween pulls off a simplistic, and subsequently strong, return to form for the franchise that lands genuine scares and emotionally resonant themes with a sincere understanding of everything that came before it.