Onscreen carnage is far from a requirement in horror cinema as stellar slices of terror can be made with or without bloody deaths. If you call you film Halloween Kills, though, you better be prepared to back up that title with a heavy dose of blood-red set-pieces. The follow-up to 2018’s monster hit reboot, itself a sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, delivers quite well on that front with with a higher victim tally than any previous entry in the franchise. Unfortunately, that’s the only element the film succeeds at as the rest is a cynical cash-grab designed solely to separate fans from their money under the bullshit guise of horror that has to be about more than just genre thrills.
First, a quick recap. Michael Myers killed his teenage sister when he was just six-years-old, and after escaping the asylum in 1978 he returned to Haddonfield, IL where he murdered a few teens in psychotic and ritualistic fashion. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) fought him off, and after having multiple bullets lodged in his chest he was arrested and incarcerated all over again. Forty years later he escaped again, returned to Haddonfield again, and slaughtered several more people only to be caught in Laurie’s elaborately stupid, four-decades-in-the-making plan that left him trapped and burning in her basement.
Halloween Kills picks up mere moments later (after a wholly unnecessary flashback to the cops who caught him back in 1978) as Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) rush her to the hospital with stab wounds. (Don’t get your hopes up for a slickly updated riff on 1981’s Halloween II as you’re better served checking out 2008’s Cold Prey 2.) The three generations of Strode women see their victorious celebration cut short with the news that Michael has not only escaped the blaze but also made quick and bloody work of the first responders. He begins cutting an epic and bloody swathe through the citizens of Haddonfield, and with Laurie recuperating from surgery the quest for vengeance falls to Karen, Allyson, and an unruly and unlikely mob of drunk townsfolk.
This being the middle film of a trilogy, you can probably guess how well that goes for them.
That last point is one of the many problems with Halloween Kills, and blame rests with the inarguable talents spearheading these reboots. Director David Gordon Green once again co-wrote the script with Danny McBride — they’re joined by Scott Teems this time around instead of Halloween 2018’s Jeff Fradley — and together they initially pitched the trilogy as one with a purpose. The implicit understanding was that the duo had a three-film story line mapped out to bring this narrative to an epic close. While the 2018 film is a messy, poorly written mediocrity skating by on nostalgia and grue, it at least feels like a whole movie. Halloween Kills is a different beast altogether and instead consists of generous filler and a set-piece stretched to feature length. The entirety of this film should have been a single sequence in a sequel, but greed is good and green is god.
Flashbacks take up a solid chunk of time as we see Officer Hawkins’ (Will Patton) back story — you’ll think it’s unnecessary, but the film disagrees and actually flashes back twice to the very same scenes. Others flashback to the 2018 film, while still others flashback to Carpenter’s original so that it can hit viewers with more nostalgia in the form of grown-up versions of Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and Lindsey (Kyle Richards, who actually played young Lindsey back in 1978). Not to be left out, both Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) and Nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens) are back too.
Do any of them add a goddamn thing to Halloween Kills? They do not. The script wants to convince you otherwise as everyone blames themself for something or other — the twin themes here are guilt and, wait for it, trauma — but not a single lick of it earns drama or interest. What it does do is keep Laurie on the sidelines as she’s barely a supporting player here. Instead we follow her daughter, granddaughter, and a mob in search of justice, and while both Greer and Matichak are strong actors they’re both tasked with playing increasingly stupid characters. It’s just difficult to root for idiots.
Speaking of dipshits we just can’t bring ourselves to care about, the bulk of the film sits on the shoulders of newcomers, strangers, and some familiar faces as the town of Haddonfield finally decides they’ve had enough of this Michael character. It seems the entire community is suffering from trauma and has been for forty years. This even though many of them have to be reminded that the original killings even happened at all. They’re not taking it sitting down, though, and with Hall’s bat-swinging, over-the-top Tommy Doyle taking lead the mob gathers their pitchforks — both metaphorical and quite literal — and goes hunting. Their warcry? “Evil dies tonight!”
Yes, you’ll want the majority of these idiots to meet the wrong end of Michael’s blade — especially after they drive an innocent man to suicide — and Halloween Kills is happy to oblige. If carnage without consequence or purpose was the plan then congrats to Green and McBride, I guess, but this is far from a standalone film. Its primary character has no arc, no journey, no movement here, and instead we’re saddled with other far-less interesting and paper-thin characters who simply appear, act idiotically, and die. Again, while that summarizes the bulk of slashers in the past and present, this new Halloween trilogy enjoys pretending it’s far more than just that. You could argue that the 2018 film succeeds on that front (even if its trauma-centric dialogue and themes are janky nonsense), but this one isn’t even trying. The town is traumatized, it tells us, and that’s that apparently.
While that’s an inconsistently successful shorthand towards ensuring we care about Laurie’s situation in the 2018 film, it’s highly ineffective on this larger scale. The film absolutely wants viewers to cheer at the grisly and admittedly entertaining demises, as Michael slices, dices, and tears his way through dozens of people with fighting skills he apparently picked up since escaping the asylum the night before. (Shout out to James Jude Courtney, though, for giving his take on The Shape a real pep in his step.) It’s something of a mixed message, though, because, you know, all their trauma and such, but it’s part and parcel with the laziness of the script as a whole. There’s no story here, there’s only a twenty-minute diversion stretched to one-hundred-and-six to squeeze out more profit. It’s Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit with far more dismemberments and a bit less singing.
What’s frustrating about it all is that Green is a wildly talented filmmaker. He crafts some cat and mouse sequences well alongside cinematographer Michael Simmonds and editor Timothy Alverson, but they’re in service of a script that’s utter junk. It diverts you from the character that matters with worthless flashbacks, cheeky nostalgia, and a Donald Pleasance lookalike/soundalike. Similarly, the score by John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies is so deceptively great you’ll almost think you’re watching an equally good slasher. You are not.