If 2018’s “Halloween”— the first installment in a new trilogy that continues the events of the classic 1978 slasher— was about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her family facing the pain of the past, its sequel, “Halloween Kills,” is about how weaponizing that pain can turn us as evil as the entity we are fighting. At least, I think that’s what writers Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Scott Teems were partially going for, in addition to expanding the field of those Haddonfield residents who have been impacted by Michael Myers’ attacks beyond the Strode family. But even though it contains a plethora of grisly kills and thrills that will entertain horror fans, the tone of the film is too uneven, and the story so shallow that it does virtually nothing to move this story— which should be wrapped up in one more movie— forward.
“Halloween Kills” is directed by Green (who also helmed the previous installment) and is set immediately after the events of “Halloween”— in fact, the entire movie takes place over the course of the same night. Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) take Laurie to the hospital for treatment of the grave injuries she suffered fighting Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney). There, they discover that Michael did not in fact die from the house fire they trapped him in, and he’s once again on the loose. Meanwhile, a group of survivors from Haddonfield’s original 1978 attacks gather to remember the 40th anniversary, and subsequent band together to stop Michael once and for all.
Fans of the franchise may appreciate the many callbacks and references to the original film, as well as the inclusion of so many familiar characters, some of whom are played by the original actor. These include Kyle Richards as Lindsay, one of the kids Laurie babysat in 1978, Nancy Stephens as Dr. Sam Loomis’ former assistant Marion Chambers, and Charles Cyphers as former Haddonfield sheriff Leigh Brackett, whose daughter was killed in the 1978 attack. Old characters resurrected by new faces include Robert Longstreet as Lonnie Elam and Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle, another one of the kids Laurie babysat and who becomes the sort of self-appointed leader of this revolution. But the way “Halloween Kills” goes about expanding on the original story is unnecessary. For instance, it opens with a flashback to 1978 in which Deputy Frank Hawkins, played by Thomas Mann in the past and Will Patton in the present day, first accidentally shoots and kills his partner in the pursuit of Michael, and then prevents Dr. Loomis and the other officers from executing Michael, an act he now regrets. This doesn’t do a whole lot to either make the original film nor the current storyline more impactful. It frequently feels more like service to the fans— which is fine if that satisfies them— than service to the story, which the first film really set up to be focusing on the three generations of Strode women. In this movie, they are barely in it, as “Halloween Kills” turns the spotlight on a bunch of clumsy fools’ attempts to foil Michael. For a film that’s supposed to be about trauma, Karen and Allyson barely even mourn the loss of their husband and father. He’s no more than a blip in the proceedings.
That’s also where this movie feels like it doesn’t entirely know what it wants to be. Since we start the film already knowing Michael’s whereabouts, there’s virtually no build-up to the action, and these scenes swing back and forth between serious and slapstick. When one group of characters run into Michael, the way he offs them one by one unfolds almost comically, as their idiotic, half-hearted attempts at survival are swiftly thwarted. Meanwhile, the gay couple now living in the former Myers home often come off as stereotypes, and it’s again played for laughs, as one of them grabs a tiny cheese knife to defend himself from an invader.
I won’t lie, a lot of these scenes are fun, but the movie also makes a shallow attempt at being a cautionary tale that doesn’t mesh well with the other scenes. As crowds gather at the hospital where Laurie and other victims are recovering, Tommy whips them into a vengeful frenzy, chanting “evil dies tonight” as they prepare to fight Michael. But their violent lust has horrible consequences as they take it out on the first suspicious individual they see. The mob mentality that overtakes the characters goes as swiftly as it comes, and while I can respect the attempt at exploring the idea of a monster creating more monsters, it’s handled heavy-handedly, and is more of a brief interlude than a theme that is carried throughout the film.
“Halloween Kills” is not the abysmal movie many have made it out to be. If you enjoy slasher films, there are brutal kills and buckets of blood around every turn. It feels like an epic finale to this trilogy is being set up, but it’s hard not to wonder just what the point of this film was that ended up almost in the exact same place we started.
“Halloween Kills” is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock Premium. Runtime: 105 minutes. Rated R.