My carpets have been fitted, and so I can finally move everything back into place and get back to some semblance of a schedule. And just in time too, as today is the release of the long-awaited Halloween movie - released exactly 40 years after the very first one came out and invented a whole new horror subgenre. This new Halloween is a sequel only to the very first movie, throwing out such things as Michael and Laurie's familial relationship, the existence of his niece Jamie and, to the relief of many, Halloween: Resurrection. But is this movie worth all the anticipation?
40 years after his last escape and murder rampage through Haddonfield, Michael Myers is still being held at Smith's Grove Sanitarium, and he's spent those four decades not making a sound or reacting to very much at all. Shortly after a couple of podcasters visit him and show him his old mask, however, Myers is put on a bus to be transported to a new secure mental facility, whereupon he promptly escapes, gets his mask back and heads back to Haddonfield to deal with some unfinished business. That "unfinished business" is, of course, Laurie Strode, who has spent the last 40 years preparing for the possibility that Michael might one day escape again and come back to try to finish the job he started on Halloween 1978, including having enough guns for an NRA convention, a panic room in her basement and a wrecked relationship with her daughter and granddaughter as a result of her obsessive Michael-prepping. With Michael stalking the streets of Haddonfield once more, will Laurie be able to protect her family and stop Michael once and for all, or will Michael receive some help from unexpected places?
The opening credits of this new Halloween movie are deliberately designed to call back to the 1978 movie, complete with the same font and a jack-o-lantern on the left side of the screen. Only this time the jack-o-lantern starts off squashed and obliterated, and slowly reinflates during the course of the opening credits. I like to imagine that this is some sort of reference to the franchise being somehow reinvigorated by this new entry after previous entries (*cough*Halloween: Resurrection*cough) reduced it to little more than squashed... squash. It's far from the only callback to previous films in the series though - even Silver Shamrock gets a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo while the children of Haddonfield are out trick-or-treating. The movie still makes it clear, though, that the only canon it's following is the events of the first film, so no Strode family revelations, no Mark of Thorn, and no druids. We're back to Michael Myers just being a pure psychopath, killing pretty much for the sake of killing, with no explanation as to what drives him whatsoever.
And boy, does Michael kill a lot of people in this film! No-one is safe either, as Michael goes just about anyone who crosses his path or looks at him funny, be they man, woman or child. The deaths are a lot more varied than the traditional kitchen knife stabbing he's become almost synonymous with after all this time, as he uses his bare hands, a hammer he randomly picks up and even his feet during the course of the film. Clearly, he's been spending his time thinking about what he'll do during those 40 years at Smith's Grove - which must also have a first-class exercise facility when you consider that Michael is now around 61 and still keeping up with his victims, getting up from being shot and even at one point being run down by a car. Some things, at least, never change.
The evolution of Laurie Strode as a character is also an interesting thing. She's gone from being almost the archetypal Final Girl in the 1978 Halloween to taking on the role of the Woodsman, of Dr Loomis (side note: I'm not sure I liked the voice of the person they brought in to "voice" Loomis since Donald Pleasance is sadly long-departed), who is there to warn everyone of the threat and come in to save the day at the end, and it's good that there was no question of her filling that role. Laurie could easily join a support group for survivors of nightmareish stalkers out to kill you and everyone you love (founding members: Sarah Connor and Nancy Thompson). She's there to shoot Michael first and repair her relationship with her daughter later, and that's all there is to it.
There are flaws, though. The first act or so of the film felt less like it was setting events up and more like it was giving the audience the Cliff Notes of what happened in the first film - stating events a little too pointedly in case there were people out there who'd never seen, read or heard anything about the first Halloween (although to be fair, there probably are people out there now who might never have seen it). The two British podcasters/"investigative journalists" got on my nerves about as much as the loud idiot in the cinema with me who kept a running commentary on the film's events, and I really couldn't wait for their usefulness (a way to get Michael his mask back) to come to an end so they could die as the trailer promised us. And yes, the trailer does manage to give several key moments away, although they do manage to restrain themselves enough to not give everything away for once.
People are already talking about whether or not there will be another entry in the series after this one (not giving anything away, but if you know anything about slasher movies you know that masked slashers are like 1960s TV Batman in that if you don't literally watch them die they're going to pop back up at some point) but I really hope they don't. This was a good film, and it would be a good ending for the Halloween franchise... if they can just let it die.