Halloween Kills is so busy being a sequel to Halloween (2018) and Halloween (1978) that it forgets to be a coherent horror film. Don’t get me wrong, David Gordon Green’s follow-up to his 2018 hit reboot is a bloody mess of a slasher movie (in a good way). But it is also a bloody mess of a script (in a bad way).
When Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley (Scott Teems replaces Fradley on this sequel) decided to scrap franchise continuity to focus on creating a reboot/sequel solely to John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic, the idea seemed to be to avoid complicating the movie with lore and franchise canon. Halloween (2018) was a pure homage to the slasher, mixing direct influences from Carpenter with the exploitation gore of other hack-and-slash imitators. It had its flaws, but that pure slasher energy was effective.
Now, two films into a trilogy, the lore is already way out of whack. The balance between slasher mayhem and franchise affection just isn’t right. As a horror fan, I find that almost every kill in this movie works. Each is gnarly and bloody, its excess bleeding into almost a parody level of violence. It isn’t really until the very end that the Myers rampage loses me (and this has much more to do with the aforementioned legacy issues than anything else).
Halloween Kills is a fun horror film. It would be much more fun if the script didn’t care so much about its name brand legacy. The film picks up immediately where the last film left off. The three generations of Strode, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Alli (Andi Matichak), and Karen (Judy Greer) are carted off to the hospital following their valiant effort to trap killer Michael Myers in a house fire. Little do they know that Michael is about to lay waste to a host of firefighters as he escapes the blaze and sets out to continue his Halloween night massacre.
If you were expecting round two of the Strode vs. Myers title match, though, you will be sorely disappointed, as the film quickly pivots to a new(-ish) cast of characters. A variety of characters who were on the scene during Myers initial attack in 1979, upon learning that Myers is on the loose, are out for blood (and there are a handful of other characters introduced for the mere fact that this sequel needs a higher body count than the previous film).
Pivoting the focus away from the Strode family is not inherently a problematic aspect of this script. But that the script chains Laurie Strode to a hospital bed and in her place provides a rabid mob causes a general confusion within the town of Haddonfield that has little to do with the characters’ ire.
The confusion has to do with story and mythology coherence. In one scene, a character tells the legend of Myers to a bar full of patrons, saying most are too young to remember. Later, a gaggle of children do not even know the name Michael Myers. But in almost every other scene, a character is talking about how severely Myers has haunted their small town and that they need the evil to end. Which is it, exactly? Is he a forgotten specter, or an unsettling legend whom everyone remembers? Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that in this trilogy’s canon, Myers only killed four people prior to Halloween night 2018.
The dialogue feeds this unceasing desire to pay lip service to Michael Myers as a cinematic behemoth, a horror deity that has to be respected, even it doesn’t make much sense for the characters within the film to act as such. The dialogue in this film is shockingly awkward, to the point where it feels like one out of every five lines was written with the express purpose of being in a trailer.
Frankly, Halloween Kills would be a more enjoyable slasher if it had nothing to do with the Halloween franchise. The set pieces are fun, but their superfluousness to the larger mythology renders them largely unimportant. If this film didn’t need to return to the past, if it were merely populated with anonymous characters in an anonymous suburban town being pursued by an anonymous boogeyman, I think I would have loved it. Instead, it is bogged down in reflexive nods to the past at the same time as it twiddles its thumbs, waiting patiently for the plot of the third film to begin and for Laurie Strode to finally vanquish the Shape which haunts her.
Halloween Kills: C+
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