This is not the first time that the Halloween franchise has retconned its canon in an attempt to renew itself, however this is certainly one of the most drastic. Halloween (2018) rejects every film made since the first (cheekily implying that they are urban legends spawned by that night) to make this the actual sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 genre-defining slasher film. It’s a bold play to wipe that slate clean, and one that pays off.
It’s 40 years after the events of that Halloween night, and a couple of true crime podcasters (Rian Reese and Jefferson Hall) revisit the events of the infamous Haddonfield murders. What they discover is an incarcerated Michael Myers (Nick Castle/ James Jude Cortney) that has not spoken a word during his imprisonment, and an emotionally scarred Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), whose post traumatic stress has detached her from her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). Yet when an accident during a prison transfer unleashes The Shape upon the public once more, those events from decades past threaten to again repeat themselves. However this time Laurie is prepared.
This take on Halloween draws on the original for inspiration and tone, rejecting the more supernatural elements that crept into the later iterations and focusing on Michael as a nigh unstoppable spree killer. The feel and suburban setting remain similar with many nods to the original film, but director David Gordon Green ups the gore and body count to draw closer to current audience expectations. He also subtly shifts many of the codes of the of the slasher genre, in a more evolutionary than revolutionary way. This doesn’t overly sexualise or titillate in the style frequently associated with the genre (mixing sex and violence), nor does it follow the same moral coding. The good, the bad, and the neutral are devastated in Michael’s wake – he is an unnatural force bent on destruction.
Halloween (2018) takes an impressive stab at not only updating the original for modern horror sensibilities, but in burying the trope of the final girl. Laurie Strode is not merely haunted by Michael – she is living a life derailed by that night, a survivor struggling to overcome in a way that would make Terminator 2 Sarah Connor proud. Curtis plays it with brittle strength, as someone incapable of forgetting the past and moving on, but rather her life has become defined by that, and she is determined to be ready to protect herself if it happens again. In living with the aftermath, she has deprived herself of the present, spurning a connection to society and alienating family. It may not be entirely successful in forging its metaphysical links between victim and perpetrator (as espoused by Loomis substitute Doctor Sartain), but it does act as an ode to survivors.
The result is a return to the tension of the first film, captured in a handsome and bloody style. It may not forge expansive new ground, but it tweaks the old in a refreshing way, creating a solid addition to the franchise and a great horror film.