Halloween Kills is a smug bit of a ill-advised fan service with dull kills, sanctimonious plot beats, and little narrative progression.
David Gordon Green’s 2018 take on John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic Halloween was not exactly the return to form many were hoping for when it came to legendary slasher icon Michael Myers, but it wasn’t an outright catastrophe either. In truth, Halloween has always been one of the weaker horror franchises, with each subsequent sequel and reboot going further down the rabbit hole of myth-making and sheer stupidity (though Halloween III remains innocent of all charges, of course). But even the most forgiving of horror fans won’t find much to praise about Halloween Kills, Gordon’s direct sequel that picks up moments after the events of his 2018 film — and moments after the events of the 1978 original, but more about that tomfoolery later. Gordon once again teams up with writing partner Danny McBride to deliver a new chapter that finds Michael killing even more Haddonfield residents after surviving the inferno that was meant to end his existence once and for all, initiated at the hands of his PTSD-riddled arch-nemesis, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and accompanied by ass-kicking daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
At the beginning of Halloween Kills, Laurie is hospital-bound after surviving part one’s brutal stab wound, this while Michael proceeds to dispatch roughly a dozen firefighters with various blunt and whirring instruments. Meanwhile, Gordon transports us back to 1978 for a bone-headed bout of inanity in which we see what transpired after Michael got shot off that balcony by Dr. Loomis all those years ago. Long story short: Michael fucked with that Lonnie kid who bullied Tommy, and a rookie cop accidentally killed a fellow officer when aiming for Michael because he appears to be the worst shot in the world. It’s all a setup for the return of numerous characters from the original film, as the now-grown Lonnie (Robert Longstreet) is joined by Tommy (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey (Kyle Richards), and nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) to portray a sort-of de facto Michael Myers survivor support group, because apparently Green and McBride intend to pump that PTSD well until it runs dry. But their appearance here actually has nothing to do with any thematics and everything to do with bland fan service, and this is where Green well and truly fucks up. Diehard horror fanatics are able to spot cheap nostalgia plays from a mile away, and the essential problem with Halloween Kills is that the director seems to believe that what he has concocted is truly clever while it only really scans as smarmy and off-putting. The overarching impression, then, is of Green lording his immense knowledge of the series over everyone, which is a surefire way to turn off any true fan, and that’s before even mentioning his limp-dicked execution of returning these series originals to no real end. Green assembles these “beloved” characters and then proceeds to dispatch with the majority of them so quickly that their inclusion feels distinctly forced and empty. If anything, their appearance exists simply as an excuse to stage an opening that looks like the original, except Green fails even in that department, as he and DP Michael Simmonds have done nothing to hide the fact that this was shot digitally, down to the overly-lit interior shots that leave this entry looking roughly as artful and visually appealing as your average daytime soap opera.
None of this is helped by the fact that Halloween Kills is low on actual kills, and those that do occur onscreen aren’t the least bit exciting or suspenseful — save for one; there’s a real winner here, so that’s something. The majority of the film consists of characters sitting around ugly hospital rooms giving pseudo-philosophical monologues about how they feel to blame for Michael’s murder spree. Meanwhile, Tommy has turned the townsfolk into a vengeance-minded mob of Frankenstein-like villagers who run around chanting “Evil dies tonight!” while chasing a short, bald, chubby mental institution escapee who they inexplicably believe is the lean, hulking Michael because “he took his mask off.” This subplot exists so that Green and McBride can engage in some meaningful conversations about how Michael’s worst crime is that he has turned ordinary folks into monsters themselves and how dangerous mob mentality is (the film also vacillates between suggesting this is his master plan and describing him as a six-year-old at his core, so… mixed messaging). But to be clear, yes, we’re back to the PTSD angle yet again, and no, it still doesn’t land with any oomph. Nothing really matters here anyway, as this is all very palpably nothing more than a setup for the final chapter in this new trilogy. And that’s the real rub here: all Green had to do with this middle film was deliver 90 minutes of gruesome kills that would satiate horror fans and serve as the semi-sturdy bridge to whatever end he has planned, but instead he has turned the whole thing into a self-congratulatory dick-measuring contest about who is the biggest Halloween fan. Curtis is only even only screen for approximately ten minutes, and she feels roughly as necessary here as the scene where Greer is thrown down a flight of stairs by a random doctor. Still, there may be method to this madness. Perhaps it’s a calculated ploy to make us all go easier on his intended magnum opus final chapter; after all, what could be worse than Halloween Kills?
You can currently catch David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills in theaters or streaming on Peacock.