The Shape Returns In What May Be The Greatest Horror Sequel of All Time
Director David Gordon Green takes John Carpenter’s iconic original film from 1978, and lovingly shares it with a new generation. Retconning all of the sequels that preceded the original film (including Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, which takes place directly after the events of Halloween), co-writers Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley deliver a direct sequel forty years later. As a huge Halloween fan, I absolutely ADORED this movie. It lived up to my lofty expectations and then some.
The film picks up on a broken, PTSD ridden Laurie Strode, who has spent her entire life preparing and awaiting Michael’s return to Haddonfield. Forty years to the day of the “babysitter murders”, Michael Myers escapes and, of course, starts killing a lot of innocent people. Nobody is safe, but Laurie will do anything to protect her family. No, this is nothing like T2: Judgement Day! Okay, maybe it is. Kinda. And I love it.
First, let’s talk about the cast & their characters…
Jamie Lee Curtis delivers the performance of her career. Curtis’ heartbreaking, grounded, yet extremely badass performance as the iconic Laurie Strode really took me off guard. Other than her OUTSTANDING performance in the third act, one scene in particular truly captured Laurie’s tragic state of suffering. No dialogue, no music, just Laurie sitting in her truck, restraining herself from the very thing that has tortured and consumed her entire life. I found it incredibly profound, and unwaveringly compelling. Jamie Lee knocked my socks off.
Judy Greer as Karen and Andi Matichack as Allison beautifully orchestrate a “full-circle” narrative for the Strode family. Throughout the first two acts, Greer isn’t given much to do, but, boy, does she command the screen in the third act. Her arch is essential to the larger story, and it pays off tremendously. Who knew that Judy Greer, of all actresses, could sell a perfect one-liner? Matichack is wonderful as Laurie’s granddaughter, and brilliantly plays the 1978 Laurie character for a new generation. Both of these great characters truly come to life in the third act.
Will Patton, Rhian Rheese, Jefferson Hall, Virginia Gardner, and Miles Robbins also deliver great performances as their respective characters. Some characters, however, are obviously used as plot devices or cannon fodder for Michael, my main flaw with the film. Many characters make some dumb decisions for the sake of the plot, and some characters’ sole purpose of being is to conveniently drive the narrative forward. Luckily, most of them are likable enough so that you forget why they are there.
To talk about Dr. Sartain, played by Haluk Bilginer, would be a huge spoiler, so I will keep it light. There is a big decision made in the beginning of the third act involving the character, and it has been quite polarizing for many viewers. Without spoilers, I loved this scene and found it to be immensely surprising, but I can totally see how it wouldn’t sit well with others.
To round out the cast, young actor Jibrail Nantambu as Julian absolutely stole the show at our screening. His banter, comedic timing, and heart was unforgettable, and totally relatable. Nantambu has a big future ahead of him.
Let’s talk about the much anticipated return of “The Shape”.
Michael Myers, reprised by Nick Castle in a few scenes and the insanely talented James Jude Courtney, is more ferocious, brutal, and intimidating (andsupernatural!) than ever before. This version of Michael is a undeniable love-letter to the slasher genre as a whole. Green and McBride brilliantly upgrade Michael’s iconically sinister persona with a brutality akin to Jason Voorhees. For someone who has never directed a horror film, David Gordon Green does so seamlessly and masterfully.
The stunning cinematography coupled with the smooth directing style make for some truly unforgettable imagery that will stick with me for a while. The dynamic tracking shots, the tension-filled “wides”, and the “in-your-face” brutality of the kill scenes make for a perfect slasher film experience. Smartly, Green sometimes refrains from showing the kills in grisly detail and, instead, opts for disturbing sound design and a bloody aftermath. The impact of this technique is profound, and makes for some phenomenal practical effects. You will never look at Jack-O-Lanterns the same way.
Without spoiling anything, this film has one of the best third acts of any film this year, complete with smiles, screams, treacherous suspense, thrilling action, and applause-worthy moments. It is truly something to behold. Get ready.
Finally, John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies have crafted an emotional, nostalgic, and toe-tappingly terrifying score. Recycling and updating themes from his 1978 original, Carpenter takes full advantage of all of his new tools, and to great effect. This score is absolutely phenomenal, and is possibly even better than the original. It’s one of Carpenter’s best compositions and one of the best musical scores of the year. It deserves all of the awards recognition it can get.
In conclusion, David Gordon Green’s slasher sequel is everything I wanted and more. From Laurie Strode’s emotionally impactful storyline to The Shape’s terrifying and grotesquely satisfying return, Halloween blew me away. It’s one of the best films of the year, and is, without a doubt, the greatest horror sequel of all time.