Saying that a film is “not bad” but caveating that statement by noting that it’s the 12th entry in the franchise is not really a compliment. Unfortunately for Halloween Kills, the sequel to the 2018 franchise reboot by Director David Gordon Green, that statement is about as good as it’s going to get.
Much like the maligned post-1978 movies that followed John Carpenter’s brilliant original, this follow-up mostly does not know what to do with the quieter scariness of its predecessor. Lost, it devolves into pulpy, slasher gore that makes the film ultimately indistinguishable from every other horror film. If it were not for the treat that the film provides franchise fans in terms of characters old and new (with little Tommy again making an appearance), this would have been a total Halloween trick.
Halloween Kills picks up moments after 2018’s Halloween concluded. Though we saw terrifying, pale-faced killer Michael Myers trapped in the fiery inferno created by arch-rival Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) basement, it turns out that he finds a way to escape and cause more mayhem. This twist is somewhat ironic—and foreboding—for a supposed “reboot.” After all, 1981’s Halloween II pulled a similar trick—picking up moments after 1978 Halloween concluded. That first sequel could not replicate the scary quietness of the original, and instead devolved into a series of admittedly creative, bloody kills. Halloween Kills does not do much better, even though it tries to insert a new twist into the proceedings—that a mob forms to finally rid Haddonfield, Illinois, of the masked menace.
That mob, as it turns out, is egged on significantly by no other than the scared little boy that Laurie babysat all those years ago—none other than Tommy Doyle. Tommy had actually appeared in one of the now-discarded sequels, portrayed by none other than Paul Rudd as a troubled teenager traumatized by his near brush with “The Shape.” This Tommy is much older, but he is no less scarred and angry. Then again, Michael should be well into his late 60s by now, too. Anyway, a group of vigilantes form and, as you can expect, things go awfully awry for them in more ways than one.
The fundamental problem with the Halloween reboot is the severing of the terrifyingly cruel relationship between Michael and Laurie. Though this was not revealed until Halloween II, Michael was supposed to be under some witch’s curse to kill the members of his family, and Laurie was his half-sister. Witch’s curse aside, the fratricide aspect of the franchise and Michael’s murderous determination is what always set him aside from say, a killer who wanted to take revenge against people who were mean and bullied him, like Jason or Freddy. Without that motif, Michael has selected Laurie for no apparent reason, particularly given that he still has an uncanny ability to satisfy his bloodlust with rapidly escalating body counts.
Anyway, Tommy (Anthony Michael Hall) is a good excuse for a well-intentioned but ultimately poorly executed plotline. The addition of his character, though, at least provides some connection to the original stories for a franchise as determined to sever them just as Michael is determined to sever faces. Indeed, Kyle Richards, the actual little girl who played Tommy’s friend Lindsay, also appears to reprise her role. Newcomers to the franchise – Judy Greer as Laurie’s daughter and Andy Matichack as her granddaughter – are as good as they were in the original, but the mob set up robs them of their greatest opportunities to shine. You have to wonder about certain script choices like calling the gay couple “Big John” and “Little John,” or the moment of awkward silence Tommy holds for the victims of Michael’s massacres. It is as messy as the film’s sloppiest deaths, but only the latter is purposefully so.
Finally, one can blame insecurity on the ridiculous jumps that Hollywood screenwriters need to make to get you from making you believe he’s dead at the end of one film to bringing him back to life in the next. These unbelievable plot twists come about because of their insistence of trying to tell you Michael really is dead at the conclusion of a particular movie—presumably, this is so the character can be finished and done should fan thirst not lead to another sequel. This just goes to show how little the studios behind these sequels think of their own products. And how confused they are—after all, it is their own bottom line that prompts a revival, not really fan demand. If they left Michael alive, half of their plot issues would be resolved.
Ultimately, though, it is hard to pull your eyes completely away from a killer monster that has all of his 1970s and 1980s killer brethren. There is something inherently terrifying about Michael Myers. For all its extensive problems, Halloween Kills is still a treat for fans of the characters. Fans of horror are also given much to cheer for given the brutality, even if it’s not necessarily memorable. It behooves the makers behind these movies to end it with the promised trilogy, and let Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and Haddonfield, Illinois, rest in pieces once and for all.
Halloween Kills will be released by Universal Pictures in theaters and will stream on Peacock starting October 15.
All photos courtesy Universal Pictures. Photographer: Ryan Green.