David Gordon Green’s follow-up to the 2018 reboot offers an astonishing body count, but little else worthwhile.
With the release of The Rise of Skywalker and the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the term “fan service” has come to mean going to extremes in order to please fickle audiences of a TV series or film franchise. Though framed as an acknowledgment and appreciation of fan support, it feels forced and phony, an Easter egg hunt where a plot should be. While David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s 2018 reboot of Halloween was far from a perfect film, they were determined to make it their own, rather than continuing the same interminable, by then thoroughly ridiculous storyline. Its sequel, Halloween Kills, however, feels like whatever Green and McBride were originally trying to do was shoved aside in favor of winks and nods at the “true” fans of the series. The body count is much, much bigger, and almost laughably gory, but if you’re looking for any kind of coherent plot and characters not doing anything but the stupidest things imaginable, look elsewhere.
Like 1981’s Halloween II, the movie takes place immediately (like minutes) after the events of the earlier movie. Now let’s stop right there: I mentioned Halloween II. When Green and McBride took over the franchise, everything from part two and beyond were retconned out of existence, all for the better. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers were no longer long-lost siblings. Michael didn’t have a little niece who may or may not have inherited his urge to kill. Michael wasn’t born into a Druid cult, thank God. Only the first movie, a simple-but-effective story about a masked killer who chose a teenage girl entirely at random to terrorize, remained.
Now, just as she did in Halloween II, Laurie spends virtually the entire movie in a hospital. Corpses are found wearing masks identical to those in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which wasn’t even related to the rest of the series in the first place. Laurie says some mumbo-jumbo about how the more Michael kills, the more unkillable he becomes, suggesting some of the supernatural nonsense of The Curse of Michael Myers. It may be nitpicking, but it’s bizarre to see the sequel to a movie so determined to make you forget everything that came before it suddenly give in and elbow you with “Remember this? And that?”
Anyway, the plot. Well, there isn’t much of one. Laurie is grievously injured, and Michael is still on the loose, weaving an ever more horrific path of destruction. While all this is happening, there’s a get together involving the survivors of the 1978 attack, including Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), the little boy Laurie babysits in the original Halloween. Presumably it’s meant to be poignant to see these characters, like Laurie, worn down and haunted by such long ago events, but then the movie turns them into reckless idiots engaging in vigilante justice with the rest of the town, including Laurie’s daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Alyson (Andi Matichak). This results in the film’s low point, an absurd riot in a hospital, of all places, where even some of the patients get out of bed and chant “Evil dies tonight,” before forcing a wrongly accused mentally ill man to jump to his death.
Whether or not the riot sequence is meant to be evocative of the Capitol riots (unlikely, given Halloween Kills was actually filmed in 2019), it illustrates a significant problem with the script. As the viewer, I simply had no idea how I was supposed to feel about watching people woefully unprepared to go into battle with an unstoppable killer, and then paying for it with their lives. Is it supposed to be funny when a woman starts wildly firing a gun at Michael, only to end up accidentally shooting herself in the face? When a carryover character from the 2018 movie gets an extremely drawn out, especially gruesome death, is that supposed to be satisfying in some way? It’s frustrating, because Green and McBride are clearly trying to do something that rises above the slasher genre, but it’s just not connecting somewhere.
They also introduce a new and not necessarily improved Michael Myers, who seems to be determined to figure out as many different ways he can mutilate a human body as possible. Rather than just go into a room, stab someone, and walk out, now he’s taking his time, drawing out the deaths as long and cruelly as possible, preferably while a loved one of the victim watches. Granted, these kinds of things are the lifeblood (no pun intended) of slasher movies. Nevertheless, I am hardly the first person to point out that one of the reasons the original Halloween works so well is because you’re made to think you’re seeing more than you actually are. Here, when Michael crushes heads, runs elderly women through with fluorescent light bulbs, and jams a knife up someone’s nose and out their eye, it just doesn’t feel like it’s in the same universe as its 1978 predecessor, even though it’s trying to be, to the point of writing out everything that came between it.
To be fair, Halloween Kills accomplishes its most basic tasks. It will more than satisfy gorehounds, and it sets the stage for the inevitable showdown between Laurie and Michael, presumably to take place in 2022’s Halloween Ends. But, considering how little Laurie actually gets to do in it, it’s also inessential, other than to get seemingly half of the population of Haddonfield out of the way. It’s as though Green and McBride got a three picture deal, but only had two pictures worth of plot.
Halloween Kills is now playing in theaters and on Peacock.