When director David Gordon Green and his co-writing compadre Danny McBride jumped into the “Halloween” franchise it already had a messy and hard to follow timeline. Their 2018 film simply titled “Halloween” made it even messier much to the chagrin of many franchise faithfuls. Basically, the creative duo would be disregarding every movie that came after the original 1978 classic. They retconned its ending and made their film a sequel to the very first film. So if you have a scorecard, “Halloween” was the sequel to “Halloween”.
I poke fun at it because I’m hardly a “Halloween” diehard. That being said, I do have a soft spot for Michael Myers and his mythology which made Green and McBride’s neutering of the timeline seem like an odd choice. But to their credit the pair had a vision that both told a new(ish) story while staying true to the spirit of the franchise. “Halloween” turned out to be a big hit, grossing over $255 million against a modest $15 million budget. With numbers like that you know Blumhouse Productions would be quick to green-light a follow-up.
That follow-up comes in the form of the “Halloween Kills”. Hokey title aside, this direct sequel was set up for success. It’s predecessor left the storyline in a place ready-made for more Michael Myers mayhem. And Blum’s modestly budgeted blueprint helps to ensure these horror ventures can make money. And with Green still at the helm to keep his vision intact, franchise fans and genre enthusiasts in general had plenty to look forward to.
As it turns a out, “Halloween Kills” is both a fairly entertaining middle installment that packs a lot of what fans will want and a weirdly ineffective mess with some neat ideas that end up being fumbled terribly. While it just barely nudges its story forward, it does fill in some gaps that better connects Green’s films with the original John Carpenter classic. And for those in it to see Michael Myers do his thing, he gives you plenty of well shot carnage to relish.
But other than plugging some holes, Green doesn’t do much to progress his story. Instead he takes a couple of detours that look important at first but kinda fizzle out. Also, Green doesn’t make the best use of three of his biggest strengths – the Strode women: Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). All three return for the sequel, but rather than making them the centerpiece of the movie (as they were in the 2018 film), Green leaves Laurie stuck in a hospital for the entire movie, Karen bounces around from place to place with no real purpose, and Allyson takes off with a carload of uninteresting side characters (more on them in a second).
“Halloween Kills” opens with a terrific flashback to Haddonfield on that infamous Halloween night in 1978. Green and McBride show us what happened after Dr. Loomis emptied his revolver into Michael sending the killer falling over a balcony only to rise and vanish into the night. It’s a clever setup with a few surprises packed in that fans should enjoy. These are easily the film’s best moments.
From there it’s back to Halloween night, 2018. The previous film ended with Michael being left to burn alive in Laurie Strode’s booby trapped farmhouse. But apparently that message didn’t get to the incredibly prompt first responders who end up letting the care-free killer loose. Meanwhile at a local bar, we’re introduced to a handful of Michael Myers survivors from the 1978 killing spree. Among them is Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards reprising the role the played in Carpenter’s original). They’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Michael’s capture when they get wind that he is once again terrorizing Haddonfield.
Bringing back Tommy and Lindsey has a nice nostalgic ring to it. Unfortunately none of the new characters get any of the attention they need to be the slightest bit interesting. Tommy is especially bland and poorly written. While the police search for Michael, he organizes a posse of fed up townsfolk to hunt down Michael and kill him once and for all. But in his zeal he incites a full-blown riot. The idea is good – the notion of decent citizens turning into the monsters. But Green’s handling of it is simply too hard to believe. Tommy turns a crowd of people into a bloodthirsty mob with only a couple of sentences and a corny mantra “Evil Dies Tonight”. Of course, it doesn’t end well.
“Halloween Kills” is a hard movie to categorize. In one sense it offers plenty of splatter thrills that fans of this horror sub-genre pay their money for. It also makes an attempt at explaining Michael’s twisted motive (although I still don’t fully understand it). And this isn’t meant to be a fully packaged story. It’s a bridge to the third installment due out next October. But that doesn’t make the movie’s shortcomings any easier to look past. There simply isn’t enough story progression and too much time is wasted on shallow, meaningless side characters. Here’s hoping “Halloween Ends” puts the Strodes back in the spotlight and gives us a fitting finish to make it all worthwhile. “Halloween Kills” is now showing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.