To Old Friends - Halloween
There’s a certain charm to the familiar. Whether it’s worn-in shoes, your own furniture or your favorite pizza spot, our minds are coded to enjoy what we already know. And this latest entry into the Michael Myers lead Halloween franchise is nothing if not familiar. We get characters we know, homages to its predecessors and all of the basic tension tactics the original helped pioneer in 1978. Michael Myers remains the slow-walking, homicidal maniac that sparked a revolution in the genre and he is chasing down a teenage girl with a multi-generational spit. When it comes down to it, what more could you really want?
The film opens with investigative journalists going to visit Michael for their podcast in a very 2018 take on murder storytelling. With them, they’ve brought the now iconic William Shatner based mask that has defined the series. A few scenes later and Michael has escaped, because of course he has, and he has decided he wants the mask back. In a particularly clever sequence, he eventually recovers it and then he’s on his way to visit Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), his one-time target who escaped all those years ago.
Just as it seems Michael has not forgotten Laurie, she has not forgotten him. She has been preparing for his return for 40 years, arming herself with weapons and strategies for killing him if she ever gets the chance. Sucked into this vortex of obsession is her daughter, Karen (played by Judy Greer), who spent many of her formative years learning survivalist-level skills in case Michael ever came back. When child protective services took her away from Laurie, she built up a resentment that causes her to still not want her mother around her family. But when Michael escapes and comes after her daughter, Allyson (played by Andi Matichak), its game on for a family that has been waiting for this very moment.
Okay, so horror movies often require the willful suspension of disbelief. Where is the National Guard? How is it that individual police officers keep finding themselves face-to-face with Michael with no backup? Why does everyone keep shooting him in the shoulder? This modern take on the classic franchise only serves to deepen these mysteries, but the most important thing to remember is that this is a direct sequel to the 1978 version. So the nine movies in between essentially never happened in this universe. Yes, that includes a hilarious entry starring Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. But it also makes the fact that Laurie has been preparing so diligently even more crazy. She’s been preparing for 40 years without Michael ever having escaped and come after her before. Which is why her family thinks she is off the deep end, until Michael actually shows up.
The strength of the movie is the multi-generational core of women dealing with traditional family dynamics that are exacerbated by the menacing guy with he chef’s knife. The film does a decent enough job humanizing our main characters even as the plot grows more and more outlandish. It holds to its retro roots with graphics and music that feel classic, but inserts certain characters who feel decidedly modern (cue cursing kid fleeing his house when Michael is in the closet).
Overall, you know what you’re getting here. This isn’t the high brow horror of recent years like Hereditary or The Witch. This is a guy with knives and hammers. This is running victims who can’t seem to avoid tripping long enough to stay alive. This is teenage tropes and base humor mixed with fake me out jump scares and the occasional laugh. This is Halloween.
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