Do you remember the rush of seeing Halloween? No, not John Carpenter’s 1978 original, the Rosetta stone of modern horror and greatest man-meets-knife film ever. (And for the record, we don’t mean Rob Zombie’s 2007 love-letter-slash-living-wax-museum-exhibit to Carpenter’s slashsterpiece, either.) We’re talking about David Gorden Green’s 2018 version, which reset a long and winding franchise essentially back to Square Two. Gone were the many Roman-numeraled sequels and odd detours — pour one out for Halloween III: Season of the Witch — that followed Michael Myers’ first murder spree. Instead, Green and co-writer/partner-in-crime Danny McBride go directly back to the source and imagine that the guy in the pale white mask had been institutionalized for decades. As for Laurie Strode, the babysitter who narrowly escaped his clutches decades ago, she’d been estranged from her family and living on a compound, seemingly awaiting her tormentor’s return. Fate, and an arrogant British true-crime podcaster, would put “the Shape” and the survivor on a collision course one more time.
This Halloween 3.0 was smart, savvy, and the perfect mix of reverence, revision, and reclamation. There were enough callbacks to check off the minimum of fan-service boxes, but Green and Co. were more interested in channeling the original’s spirit than rehashing greatest hits. Jamie Lee Curtis transformed what could have been a mere victory lap into a hall-of-fame performance, beautifully building off the notion that fear — and trauma — had forged Strode into a steely warrior. It ended with a cross-generational sorority of final girls having vanquished evil, or at least fought it to a fiery draw. Carpenter himself gushed over the way the new movie had dragged his “the night he came home” concept into the modern world. It was quickly announced that Green would then build out a trilogy from this update. This was wonderful news. Or at least, it seemed like wonderful news at the time.
From the Department of Credit Where Credit is Due: Halloween Kills does indeed pay tribute to the series’ past. Specifically, it’s going back to the franchise’s long-running tradition of producing subsequent Halloween movies so painfully inferior that you can feel not just your fandom but your very lifeforce being drained. Bad sequels produce diminishing returns, and very bad sequels send those returns plummeting down to the earth’s core. The worst, however, cast a retroactive pall over an entire legacy. Kills comes incredibly close to erasing every ounce of good will that Green’s revolutionary redo built up. It murders the desire to ever watch another Halloween movie again.
You may remember that when we last left Laurie, she — along with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) — had trapped Myers in the basement of her burning house. Our hero was also wounded from the fight, which means she’s in need of medical care. It also means, and apologies if this is a huge spoiler: Laurie is basically sidelined for the majority of the movie. In fact, Curtis is barely in the film; she occasionally shows up to discuss the philosophical nature of evil and why Michael can never be stopped and to hold hands with Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) in her hospital bed, since he too is out for the count. It’s the first of many questionable choices the filmmakers make here, and while you understand that they may want to save a winner-takes-all showdown for the next film, it contributes to the sense that Kills is really just a time-killer. Yeah, we’ll get around to the big payoff, eventually, maybe, perhaps. Meanwhile, never mind the MVP, here’s a bunch of other people to follow.
So, rather than the Queen of All Final Girls, we get the Federation of Assorted Rando Survivors. A loose group of those who once faced down Myers and have lived to tell the tale — some of them adult versions of characters plucked from the original’s periphery, others merely unlucky enough to be along for the ride — are commemorating their bond in a bar. They’re led by the now-grown Tommy Doyle, the kid who Strode was babysitting when things started to get stabby, and who’s played by a beefy, barking, and bellowing Anthony Michael Hall. News gets out that Myers has escaped his would-be flaming tomb, slaughtered a bunch of first responders, and is headed back to the ol’ homestead, now currently occupied by an affectionate gay couple. (It’s tough to say whether this duo is supposed to be a correction to decades of homosexual caricatures or a slightly lighter continuation of the same — all we know is that they aren’t likely to last past the end credits.)
Doyle decides that a coalition of those who’ve been wronged, plus or minus with a few dozen good men who “aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty,” are the only solution to ending this psychopath’s reign of terror. More people begin crowing about how the system was supposed to take care of Myers, “but the system’s broken!” And if you think the repeated chants of “Evil! Ends! Tonight!” begins to take on a rather MAGA-ish tone, well… you’d be correct. Thus we soon find ourselves not so much in a Halloween movie but in the middle of a giant, obvious metaphor for how the only thing worse than an un-killable maniac is the mob mentality, with characters who will proclaim, “It’s like he’s turning us into monsters,” and seriously, what is this shit? Kudos for not just giving audiences a series of gruesome fresh kills — horror is nothing if not a genre ripe for diving into social issues under the cover of scares — but this is beyond lazy.
And while these scenes are still preferable to the intermittent flashbacks to 1978 and the original sin of the younger Officer Hawkins (Thomas Mann), you still feel a creeping sense of impatience and dread that has nothing to do with who lives or dies. As with so many middle parts of proposed trilogies, Halloween Kills feels designed to get you from Point A to a future Point C. It forgets, however, that a middle chapter still has to work on its own, and that stranding fans, completists, casual moviegoers, etc. in a weak-link entry runs the risk of permanently turning people off of the whole endeavor. We still have one more movie to go before the undead can be possibly stopped once and for all. It seems we just have to suffer through a dead-on-arrival disaster to get there.