It’s Halloween, baby, so that means one thing: we’re going back to Haddonfield. For years that meant making a ton of popcorn and heading to our couch to rewatch John Carpenter’s iconic holiday horror. Maybe even some of the enjoyably corny later sequels. But we now have new entries to the franchise. In 2018, Blumhouse brought Michael Myers back to the big screen with the confusingly named soft-reboot / sequel Halloween. And now the little horror studio that could has returned with Halloween Kills.
Ignoring every movie after the 1978 original (sacrilege), 2018’s Halloween reintroduced us to Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. She’s a terrified and paranoid woman. That fateful Halloween night decades ago when she almost lost her life defined her. It’s not only Laurie whose life Michael Myers destroyed though. We also met her estranged daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). The three teamed up against Michael, who they apparently defeated thanks to Laurie’s innovative trap. But as Halloween Kills immediately reveals, the Shape isn’t as dead as the Strodes might have hoped.
Following on directly from the 2018 film before a quick flashback to 1978, this is a sequel that wants to get straight to the action and thrives when it does. Alas, the path to that action gets lost in the weeds as Halloween Kills tries to navigate the emotional gauntlet its predecessor set up. Namely, that Laurie is a traumatized mess who will go to any lengths to kill Michael. In this movie, that fervor inspires her neighbors to join her quest. Luckily, as always, Curtis is fantastic and brings heart and authenticity to Laurie. At no point do you question why the townspeople would follow her—only why we don’t spend more time with her. Greer is also great but desperately underutilized. Halloween Kills also misses the charm and personality that the young cast brought to the 2018 movie and the previous entries.
If you’re here for the deaths the title promises, then Halloween Kills delivers. There are comedy kills, wild gore kills, creepy kills, kills with a neon light bulb, armpit kills, playground kills… just so many kills. Actually, this might legitimately be Michael Myers’ highest single film body count. But is that what any Halloween fan is really here for? Carpenter’s original work is a masterclass in tension and fear. It notably doesn’t include any blood or have a particularly high body count. In that way, Halloween Kills suffers from the same issue as the movie that preceded it: it’s unclear what director David Gordon Green is aiming for.
By erasing the previous sequels from canon he seems to want to tell a stripped back horror tale with a story about trauma at its heart. That said, it’s still ironically a horror sequel. And Halloween 2018’s fresher take felt muddied with an often more fun to watch subplot of Michael Myers killing charming teenagers. That’s the ultimate quandary in these films. Sure, we’re here to see kids get killed. How do you add more layers to that? Is it worth it? Can it be done? Halloween Kills doesn’t answer those questions but it does offer up a distractingly gore-filled watch starring one of horror’s most famous icons.
For a movie that apparently wants to erase most of the past, Halloween Kills seems obsessed with it. And it’s at its best when reuniting the cast of the original 1978 Halloween in a vendetta against the masked man who ruined their lives. That reunion also offers up the most exhilarating potential of the movie: a community coming together against a terrifying threat. It brings together normal people, of all ages and all backgrounds, against the near existential terror of Michael Myers. Though, of course, many of them don’t survive long enough for it to become an interesting exploration of what any of this could actually mean. It soon becomes a pitchfork waving mob rather than a show of power against a mass murderer.
Perhaps Halloween Kills will be a more satisfying film when watched in between the two movies it’s made to follow and precede. But as a simple sequel and standalone feature, it’s disjointed to the point of confusion and seems to be stuck between two worlds. If you’re going to commit to an outrageous body count and kills, then go for it by all means. Want to make a deep meditation on trauma and cycles of violence? Please do! If you can expertly balance both then there’s a definite power to that. But, sadly, Halloween Kills isn’t that film.