The weirdo set-up of Danny McBride and David Gordon Green collaborating on a slasher movie gets me into the theater on this movie. And it’s a strange idea, but it works. It’s underselling the movie, I think, to just say, as many are, that it’s the best of the franchise since the original. Taking that at face value, there’s still the chance that this movie could be pretty bad, but it isn’t; it’s substantially better than the best of the franchise since the original. Green doesn’t have quite the facility for tension that Carpenter did, but he does pull off some nice set-pieces. There’s a lengthy tracking shot that follows Michael through the streets of Haddonfield that’s really nice and the scene of Laurie stalking Michael through her house with a rifle is pure nail-biting tension. I liked that the film didn’t flinch at being really disturbing as a horror movie; this isn’t exactly a fun romp, as some slasher movies try to be. There’s a lengthy sequence that involves the film’s most likable character (maybe the film’s ONLY likable character, to be honest) being killed that is quite disturbing. And the best sequence in the film in my opinion, a confrontation at a gas station, is really scary and grim. The performances are all quite good. Curtis inhabits her old character like it was only yesterday she finished off the first movie. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are also quite good as the next two generations. The real standouts in the supporting cast, in my opinion, are Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rhees as a pair of sleazy podcasters trying to do a series on the Haddonfield killings. This feels really perfect, like exactly the kind of thing someone would try to do a podcast investigation of and, yes, probably the people who did it would be unlikable jerks. Somehow, maybe because they are so unlikable, they registered the strongest of all the characters for me really and Jefferson Hall actually has my favorite moment in the entire film, though my desire to leave things unspoiled means I can’t talk about it. Virginia Gardner, Miles Robbins and Drew Scheid are also worthy of note; their characters are not particularly deep on the page, but they give them interesting life and don’t turn them into stereotypical slasher movie teenagers.
The flaws of this movie are mainly in the area of missed opportunities. I love the basic premise of Laurie having gone full-on Sarah Conner and turning the tables on Michael when he returns, but the film doesn’t quite do as much with that as I wish it had and while Curtis is wonderful, the movie never quite gives her the opportunity to really go as nuts as I wanted her to. A couple of moments where iconic shots from the first film get kind of turned on their head are nice, but I wanted even more of that. Likewise, we get a nice moment with Judy Greer’s character near the finale that hints at a really interesting way they could have leaned into with the character and I would have liked to have seen that. Meanwhile, the film wastes a fair amount of time on a worthless stand-in for Dr. Loomis; Jamie Lee Curtis actually greets him as “the new Loomis” at one point. I thought the performance by Haluk Bilginer was pretty bad and the script kind of goes off the deep end with his character in a twist that I thought added nothing to the film. But still, for all those flaws, I have to say that I found the film really enjoyable. It’s not a masterpiece, but in the land of slasher movies, a movie that’s just good and solid stands out. I think what this film has that most of these movies don’t is the sense of an auteur or rather a group of people who actually care about making a good movie and who have a personal vision of how to do that. Stylistically, this isn’t what one might call a “David Gordon Green movie,” but what he does bring to the film is an artist’s sense of how to craft a movie, tell a story, frame things in an interesting way. He’s a real filmmaker and that shows. There’s a sequence, for instance, surrounding a bus crash in the fog and it’s a beautifully filmed sequence, even if it isn’t exactly the most original or striking in terms of its place in the story. This is a really good movie. I feel like it probably should have been great, with all the talent working on it, but we’ve finally gotten Michael Myers in another movie that’s actually watchable, so why complain? 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – sequel falls short of greatness, but it’s smart, frightening and compelling; in this franchise, and in this genre, even a flawed movie is better than most. 3 ½ stars.