‘Halloween Kills’ Review: A Bloody Mess of a Sequel
In the original Halloween, Michael Myers’ rampage through Haddonfield resulted in just three deaths. That surprising statistic, cited onscreen in the new Halloween Kills, shows how much has changed in the last 40 years. In this latest sequel, Michael Myers singlehandedly slays 11 dudes in his very first scene. And Michael is well into his 60s by now! Age really is just a number.
Michael Myers might have gotten more murderously efficient, but that’s about the only part of Halloween Kills that shows improvement over its predecessors. Otherwise, this sequel is a major step down from 2018’s Halloween, even though both films were largely made by the same creative team, including producer Jason Blum, co-writer Danny McBride, and director/co-producer David Gordon Green. I can’t recall the last time a talented group of filmmakers followed a sequel as good as Halloween (2018) with a sequel as bad as Halloween Kills.
In their previous Halloween, Green and company stripped away most of the dopey mythology that had burdened Michael Myers’ later appearances. Instead, they made a simpler, direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original slasher masterpiece: A deranged killer named Michael Myers breaks out of a mental hospital after 40 years in captivity and returns home to kill again. 2018’s Halloween also reintroduced Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, Michael’s most famous opponent, as an emotionally scarred survivor who let her fear about Michael consume her life and poison her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
On the one hand, Laurie’s demons cost her years she could have spent with her family. On the other hand, all that practical knowledge about booby traps really came in handy when Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney, with an assist from the original Michael, Nick Castle) returned to finish what he started. So, I guess becoming a paranoid survivalist ... is good, actually?
Laurie narrowly escaped her most recent encounter with Michael, but not without massive wounds that require treatment, meaning she spends most of Halloween Kills — which picks up exactly where 2018’s Halloween left off — in the hospital. (That’s an homage to the setting of the first Halloween II, which, in the extremely confusing continuity of the Halloween saga, never actually took place.) Laurie’s convalescence is Halloween Kills’ first and biggest problem, because Laurie is the most interesting character in these movies, and here she’s barely conscious for half the film, much less active in the story. Instead Green, McBride, and Scott Teems’ script alternates between scenes of Michael sneaking around Haddonfield, slaughtering random suburbanites, and sequences where a group of Michael Myers’ survivors led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall taking over the role for Paul Rudd from Halloween 6 which, in the extremely confusing continuity of this Halloween saga, also never actually took place) band together to end Michael’s reign of terror once and for all.
If these new Halloweens are about anything besides finding creative new ways to stab people (Spoiler alert: This time Michael tries a broken light tube!), it’s the destructive effects of trauma. In 2018’s Halloween, Laurie has been so twisted by her encounters with “The Boogeyman” that she nearly becomes one herself. In this film, Tommy and several other returning Halloween alumni (including Kyle Richards’ Lindsey and Nancy Stephens’ Marion Chambers, who both appeared in Carpenter’s film) hope to exorcise their own demons by hunting down Michael Myers — but in their frenzy to stop him, they become part of an ugly, violent mob.
Tommy’s gang should be even scarier than Michael Myers; they’re certainly a more relatable thing to fear than an unstoppable senior citizen in a William Shatner mask. In execution, the whole subplot misses the mark. The mob has their own ominous slogan — “Evil dies tonight!” — and they chant it so often it becomes an unintentional punchline. When they’re not chanting, they keep laying out Halloween Kills’ themes about fear and anger in several painfully on-the-noise monologues.
While the residents of Haddonfield are nominally fighting Michael Myers, their true enemy is their own dunderheaded decisions. This is a movie where a character gives a big speech about the importance of “strength in numbers” right before the entire casts splits up into small groups. A little while later, a character who heard that very same “strength in numbers” speech demands everyone he’s with wait in the car while he investigates a house alone. Was he just not paying attention?
In yet another scare sequence, two people realize that someone, likely Michael Myers, has broken into their house. They hear footsteps upstairs, but rather than make a run for it, they arm themselves with tiny knives and decide to investigate. (These characters may know about Michael Myers and his past crimes, but they have clearly never seen one of the Scream movies.) I won’t spoil what happens, but rest assured Haddonfield real estate is going to be a buyer’s market for the next few years. Everyone acts so stupidly and with so little regard for their own well-being, even by the low standards of slasher movie victims, that at a certain point it’s hard not to start rooting for Michael. At least he’s not an idiot.
Halloween Kills is a mess. Its hero barely appears for the first hour of the movie, and the new characters introduced to take her place act like dummies and/or lunatics. Green and McBride are smart filmmakers, so my instinct is to try to give them the benefit of the doubt; to argue that all of this was intended as social commentary about our angry, violent, terrified society. But it’s hard to make a cautionary tale about the danger of inventing imaginary Boogeymen in a movie about an actual Boogeyman hacking people to pieces, especially when Tommy and his vengeful buddies play their roles so broadly they make Michael’s antics seem relatively restrained in comparison.
The Haddonfield mob and Michael finally meet in a conclusion that is both deeply unsatisfying and a little confusing. And of course, it sets the table for another sequel, the already announced Halloween Ends. Frankly, it’s about time.