HALLOWEEN

It would have been so easy to rehash, remake, give us two hours of fan-service or just re-release the original and walk away with a tidy profit. It would also have been a non-event; instead, the filmmakers did what was hard.

If you’ve seen every Halloween movie you’ve dedicated at least a solid day to what is by almost all accounts reliably diminishing returns. Obliterating every successor from the record, this direct sequel to the breakout hit for all involved, forty years on, sees Michael Myers, again, terrorising locals and, of course, the return of Laurie Strode, with Jamie Lee Curtis fondly reprising the role which introduced her to the world.

Having broken out of his 40-year incarceration following a transfer between facilities that really shouldn’t have been scheduled for, you know, the end of October, this time around Laurie, traumatised from the events of her formative years, is immeasurably more prepared. Obsessed, armed and estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak – more than matching her seasoned co-stars in stretches), Halloween is that much different from countless other horror flicks; boasting a heroine peerless in her knowledge of her tormentor and conversely ready to confront him.

Commencing quickly with the carnage, and there is a great deal to boot, Halloween, for the large part, cleverly takes those tried and tested tropes of horror, some of which the series pioneered, and coyly acknowledges or dispenses with what we’ve come to expect. Whether it be that insufferable boyfriend who almost always meets their end, horror taboos around those in their younger years or family units who you don’t typically think will get torn up, it takes us to places we weren’t ready to expect and it’s all the better for it.

To be sure there’s the familiar hallmarks ala Haluk Bilginer’s psychiatrist in place of Donald Pleasance, though here his role in proceedings is taken to markedly different, shocking territory. There are of course a fair few coincidences while it’s never quite explained how Myers manages to track some particular folks down, nor do we learn anything new about his curious abilities. This matters little in a film with a myriad of distinct horror sequences all heralded by one of cinema’s most famously lo-fi villains invariably sporting little more than a knife if that.

And it must be said, how Myers comes across his requisite mask, a plot development that could very easily have been convoluted and trite, serves the story well in too setting the uncompromising, pitiless tone for the violence that persists throughout.

Written in part by Danny McBride, it’s unsurprising that there’s a few comic touches littered here and there. Used well to offer the briefest of reprieves, some of the gags (such as the presence of some poor bloke who inevitably accompanies his babysitter girlfriend on that most fateful of nights) while subverting our expectations as this screenplay does oh so well are however played for straight laughs, diluting a lot of the tension hitherto built. When someone who may as well be in the audience shouts out “don’t go – send him!” or a blatant jab is made at story developments in the sequels there’s but no other endemic reaction and if this had been a lighter film those sparing innovations would have worked better.

Directed by David Gordon Green, one marvellous tracking shot as Myers lumbers between locations is among the best in the film and matched soon thereafter by the phenomenal deployment of a motion-sensor light in the worst possible circumstances.

Building to a much touted, thrilling confrontation that takes up the third act, the final lengths in equal parts proffer both that refreshingly new and that dedicated to homage; serving up abundant fan service which even casual devotees of the original can wryly follow along for the ride.

Focused welcomely on three generations of Strode women, as good as Matichak is, and Greer with perhaps the film’s most memorable one-liner, for the most part they don’t nearly measure up to Curtis who is clearly relishing re-enacting her iconic role. Surrounded everywhere by useless dudes (pretty much every man in this film is either hopeless or a sociopath), the three deliver a strong finale and indeed feature that fans of the original will no doubt make a staple of many October spook-a-thons to come.

Halloween is in cinemas now