I remember when I saw the first entry in the Halloween revival series back in 2018. Sure, the movie had its issues, but seeing a true return-to-form for the franchise was fantastic, and watching Jamie Lee Curtis so passionately reprise her role as Laurie Strode was even better. When I found out that this was actually the first part of a trilogy of new films, I was cautiously hopeful that we would get a thrilling, epic “revenge of the Final Girl” set of films. My caution turns out to have been warranted because the second film in the trilogy, Halloween Kills, is not so much thrilling as it is depressingly tedious.
The films opens immediately after 2018’s entry leaves off, with Laurie and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaugher Allyson (Andi Matichak) fleeing Laurie’s burning home, where killer Michael Myers is trapped inside. Unfortunately, the fire department has been alerted to the blaze, and the first responders inadvertently help Michael escape. When news of Michael’s escape gets out, Laurie’s fellow 1978 survivor Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) organizes a mob to hunt Michael down once and for all. Meanwhile, Michael cuts a very bloody trail en route to his childhood home.
WARNING! MAY CONTAIN MILD SPOILERS!
Halloween Kills is a mess, to put it succinctly. While entertaining at times, its energy is scattershot and its focus is fractured by too many subplots, too much winking at the original film, and far too many characters. Where the first film found its energy in examining the lifelong animosity between Laurie and Michael, this one seems far more concerned with racking up as many gruesome kills as possible.
That means that so many of those supporting characters are, of course, meat for the beast. But for the most part, we never get a chance to learn who they are before they’re sliced and diced, so who cares? The few times we do get more screen time with Michael’s victims, such as with the people who live in what used to be his childhood home, their fates seem particularly cruel and heartless. This is a film where nearly anybody and everybody can die, usually in the bloodiest and squishiest way possible.
This is all part and parcel of a slasher film, of course, but here it seems especially sadistic. There is no real thrill in the carnage, no vicarious adrenaline spike. While several of the attacks are creative — Michael is much more cunning and self-aware this time around — there is no artistry to most of them. Just brutality. In small doses, that’s not so bad for a film like this, but when that’s all there is it just acts to numb and disengage the audience. It’s hard to get terrified by Michael Myers when you’re bored by him.
Myers still serves as an imposing figure of course, almost to an absurd degree. It’s hinted at that he might be supernatural, bringing the film uncomfortably close to some of the franchise’s lowest points. Laurie herself all but calls him an avatar of chaos. More than once, Michael gets injured and knocked down but always gets back up again ready for the next round. The few times he is brought down, the people who do so are stupid enough to give him a moment to recover instead of finishing the job.
There are still several heart-stopping moments in the film, however, and director David Gordon Green should be commended for eschewing jump scares for a slow, rising tension that almost imperceptibly builds on itself. Although he has a very rough start of it in the first act, he eventually finds his footing at least when it comes to this aspect of the thing. Even his constant cutting between all the different storylines and points of view can’t dampen the evolution of the tension too much.
To be honest, the most terrifying aspect of the film isn’t Michael Myers but what he does to people. The town of Haddonfield has been haunted by his legend for 40 years, and it takes just the smallest spark to turn the crowd into a crazed, enraged mob out for blood. When Tommy starts organizing a posse to hunt down Michael, the bloodlust spreads like a virus. Michael is a silent, brutal killer, methodical and thorough. But the citizens of Haddonfield are more like rabid animals, blindly lashing out in frustration and fear. Both Michael and the mob become equally incapable of reason, occupying polar opposite ends of murderous insanity. Green and his writing team do spend some time developing this idea, but then frustratingly abandon it just as it becomes interesting.
Trapped in the middle is Laurie’s family, although they often seem like supporting players in their own film. Whereas the Strode women were the clear protagonists of the 2018 film, here they exist mainly as support for Anthony Michael Hall’s serviceable but uninspiring take on Tommy Doyle. In one of the film’s biggest flaws, Jamie Lee Curtis barely seems to get screen time as Laurie. In-universe, it’s justified because Laurie is recovering from injuries in the ER, but I didn’t come to this movie to watch Tommy Doyle do…well, anything really. Dropping the focus from Laurie is a mistake, and it’s even hinted at that Michael’s motivation has nothing at all to do with Laurie and possibly never did. Judy Greer gets far more to do than Curtis, and she fully commits to her role, but Andi Matichak is mostly sidelined. Her promising Final Girl energy in the first squelched by the film’s focus on the 2018 versions of minor characters from the 1978 original.
It quickly becomes clear as the film unfolds that this entry in the new Halloween trilogy is just filler. It’s a lore-heavy, fan-servicing stepping stone between the first film and next year’s Halloween Ends. Any narrative trajectory that might exist ends up as mutilated as Michael Myers’ victims.
And had this film been a standalone event and not a sequel to a film that actually did respect and honor its narrative and the characters within, that would have been fine. There’s a time and place for a plotless slasher film. But when taken in the broader context of the events and energy of its predecessor, this just comes off as inert and only occasionally exciting. A film like this should make me want to check my pulse and not the time on my phone.
FBOTU Score: 5 out of 10 / C
Halloween Kills can be streamed through Peacock Premium.