FEW horror films are as legendary as John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher Halloween. Its impact on the genre – from visual aesthetics to iconic music to its portrayal of evil – cannot be under-estimated as a sea of wannabes, its own sequels very much included, flooded in to try to emulate what Carpenter and his stalwart writer-producer Debra Hill achieved.

Now we’re a whopping 40 years on from that original and this update from writer-director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley attempts to bring some closure and dignity that was steadily eroded by the previous sequels.

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Their clever tactic is to essentially invite you to forget all but the original film, allowing it to not only keep the focus on the best the series had to offer but follow through on the impact that fateful Halloween night had on series legend Laurie Strode (a returning Jamie Lee Curtis).

This is Curtis’s film to its very core. She triumphantly returns as the beloved character who survived that original night and has since been training and praying every day that the murderous Michael Myers would escape so she can get revenge.

Her personal relationships aren’t as rock solid, however. She isn’t on good terms with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who feels alienated by the way her mother raised her and her continuing behaviour, which also impacts on her relationship with her sympathetic teenage granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).

Strode gets her wish for a chance at revenge when Myers manages to escape while being transferred from the facility for the criminally insane in which he has spent the past 40 years and heads for his hometown of Haddonfield.

This new installment certainly doesn’t live up to the elegant brutality or atmospheric magic of the original. What it does do, however, is function as a rewarding continuation for both fans and newcomers alike.

It’s lovingly sprinkled with call-backs and hat-tips that should scratch several itches of the franchise die-hards out there. It gleefully revels in laying out the iconic ingredients – mask and knife, wandering camera shots down a familiar suburban setting, the peerless theme music – that has so entered pop culture.

Clearly the writers and director are huge fans and sometimes that reverence does become a little too much, tipping into blatant fan service. But it’s thankfully an occasional over-indulgence rather than one that suffocates the entire slasher horror package. Generally it does a solid job of bringing an appealing modern vibe while keeping the old-school stalk-and-slash spirit of the original alive in its very bones.

It’s a two-pronged rewarding gambit that largely pays off: firstly, it gives us a therapeutic resurrection of Curtis’s heroine determined not to be defined as a victim anymore and a way to explore the idea of lasting trauma on the psyche and the primal need to break free. It builds to a crescendo of a finale that is both thematically cathartic but also just damned entertaining as it releases the many slasher tricks it has up its sleeve.

Secondly, it brings the series almost mythological villain back to scary basics as a force and monstrous embodiment of pure evil that has no feelings of empathy, understanding or reasoning.

It certainly goes about things in coarser fashion than the more elegant original; it yields to the cinematic expectations of the era in which we live by being too graphic at times. But in shrewdly wiping the slate clean from the bloody mess of the franchise’s diminishing returns, it provides an efficient and effective pay-off after a long wait.