2018’s Halloween was a surprisingly decent attempt at a soft reboot for the long-running slasher franchise. Ignoring all the previous installments save for John Carpenter and Debra Hill‘s superior 1978 original and picking up from there with the slate wiped clean, the end result was an involving and entertaining horror sequel that went back to basics in a satisfying way. Halloween Kills, the long-awaited follow up (and essentially the third in a series of four films) keeps to the formula of its predecessors, but finds time to build on the mythology and explore characters – old and new – in greater depth then previously afforded.
After a superb and grainy opening flashback, the film picks up exactly where the previous film left off, as a badly injured Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to hospital following her final bloody confrontation with the murderous Michael Myers (Nick Castle & James Jude Courtney). But unbeknownst to her, Myers has survived the fiery inferno she trapped him in, and immediately resumes his bloody rampage across Haddonfield. What happens next is pretty obvious.
In the tradition of most horror sequels, Halloween Kills is bigger, badder and gorier than what went before. Myers dispatches soul after soul in quick and bloody fashion, upping the body count considerably in often inventive ways that will make even the most hardened audience member wince. There are tons of jumps scares and fake outs – some well-earned, some less so, but most are effective and all work to create a foreboding, stress inducing film that never lets up.
Throughout all this carnage, director David Gordon Green demonstrates real skill behind the camera, creating horrific tableau and finding striking imagery amidst all the hacking, stabbing and bludgeoning, framing the monstrous shape that is Michael Myers in ways that are disturbing yet unavoidably eye catching. The various sequences of slaughter that follow are equally well thought out and brutal in their execution, particularly the opening firefighter sequence and a scene towards the end of the film, which are both elevated by the superbly unsettling score by John Carpenter, his son Cody and co-composer Daniel Davies.
Halloween Kills also puts a bigger focus on character than other average slasher flicks. Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems successfully utilise the events depicted in John Carpenter‘s original movie to develop an involving and engrossing mythology that feels real and relatable, depicting a town deeply affected by the traumatic events of Michael’s original massacre 40 years ago, survivors wracked with guilt, anger and grief, and a community living in a constant cycle of fear and frustration that threatens to boil over into violence and mob mentality. The resulting panic that boils up among the residents of Haddonfield offers some interesting plot developments, character beats and something almost akin to social commentary (though this aspect never really comes together in a way that feels fully formed), which lends the film and its characters a bit more depth and realism beyond the standard horror victim archetypes. The tragic figure of Tommy (a solid performance from Anthony Michael Hall) and a number of other returning cast-members from the original film best exemplify this, especially as Laurie is absent for much of the runtime.
Yes, fans of Jamie Lee Curtis‘ Laurie Strode be warned – you may feel shortchanged here. With Laurie hospitalised for pretty much the whole film, Curtis takes more of a backseat within the narrative of this chapter. But whereas Halloween (2018) was Curtis’ vehicle, Halloween Kills is very much Judy Greer‘s time to shine, and it’s all the better for it. Whereas in the previous film Karen had very little to do beyond worry about her mum and daughter, here she takes a much more active role, and as a result Greer gets some fantastic scenes to sink her teeth into (which she does so with relish). Both Greer and Andi Matichak as Allyson provide much of the heart and soul of the movie, whilst supporting players like Anthony Michael Hall, Thomas Mann and returning cast-members Charles Cyphers and Kyle Richards each bring real emotion to the horrors that ensue. There are a lot of characters here, and whilst the film does occasionally buckle under the weight of them all, they all get a satisfying moment or two amid the murder and mayhem- truly, a testament to the writers and director, as well as the actors themselves.
If there’s one major criticism that can be aimed at Halloween Kills, it’s the final few minutes. Whilst somewhat shocking and horrific, the final scenes feel somewhat rushed and underwhelming, as pieces are moved into place for the inevitable sequel. With Halloween Ends already confirmed for 2022, it was already obvious that Laurie and Michael’s story isn’t over, but the final moments here could definitely have used a bit more build-up. That said, this reviewer is still excited for what promises to be a powerful ending to this long running franchise and 2022 cannot come soon enough.
Fans of all things Halloween and Michael Myers will love Halloween Kills, which is a cut above most horror/slasher sequels, thanks to its focus on character and its old-school horror aesthetic. The scares and slashing are on a whole other level compared to the previous film, whilst beneath the surface there’s a stronger, more human focus which gives proceedings a sense of depth and tragedy that is notably absent from other recent horror movies.
If you see one film at the cinema this Halloween, then make it Halloween Kills!