For better or worse, the Halloween franchise will arguably never be as good as it is right now. Regardless of any narrative avenues the series is exploring, the merits of which are understandably up for debate, this David Gordon Green-directed trilogy of films focuses on Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, while also featuring original director John Carpenter as a producer, and seeing Carpenter collaborating with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies on the score. In a number of ways, this trilogy shares the most DNA with what made the original 1978 film so successful. It's hard to imagine that, once this trilogy concludes, Curtis or Carpenter would be up to return to the series for any reason. This means that, while Halloween Kills has its fair share of shortcomings, it might be the best version of the exploration of the mob mentality of Haddonfield we're ever going to get, with the base components of the slasher series all being handled relatively effectively, even if it fails to push the narrative into any surprising avenues. Halloween Ends, however, still has the potential to truly shatter the status quo when it arrives in 2022.
Taking place moments after the finale of 2018's Halloween, Laurie, daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) head to the hospital to have their injuries addressed, while Michael Myers, immediately unbeknownst to them, manages to escape the blazing inferno they left him in. As word of Myers' murders spreads through the town, knowing that the police failed to prevent the tragedies from happening, survivors Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) rally up residents in hopes of ending Myers' reign of terror once and for all.
Longtime fans of this franchise will know that none of the ideas in this film are all that new for the series, as Halloween II saw Laurie largely isolated in the hospital as Myers continued his killings while Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers featured local law enforcement rounding up gun owners in hopes of catching the killer. While surely those previous films will have nostalgic connections for fans, this take on the concept manages to pull them off more effectively, even if those concepts do feel somewhat contrived as you watch them unfold on screen. Much like the previous film, a lot of Halloween Kills feels like "more of the same, but better."
Production on Halloween Kills concluded before the spread of the coronavirus, and surely some viewers who aren't aware of the timeline might think this sequel is a reaction to the pandemic, though its completion before the spread proves just how timeless of an idea that Halloween Kills explores: people, en masse, are morons.
The previous Halloween explored how one survivor coped with the trauma of the original film, with Laurie becoming a recluse who spent her entire life scared of Michael's return, even if it cost her relationships with those closest to her. Tommy, on the other hand, also spent decades coping with this trauma, but his reaction to Michael's return almost feels like a celebration, thrilled that he finally has a physical outlet for all of his anger. He doesn't care about finding the Michael Myers, he's just as happy to find any Michael Myers to direct his anger towards. Tommy's not the only one, as virtually everyone he meets is happy to join him on his mission, even if it means all banding together to chant the absurd slogan "evil dies tonight." The script managed to eerily serve as an example of countless in-person demonstrations or viral videos of one-on-one encounters that have been seen across social media for the past 18 months of people who are ambiguously mad about the world and are happy to unleash their rage on whoever is the first to wrong them. Given the filmmaking team's comedic history, it's hard not to see this as a satire as opposed to taking this rage as earned or justified, as the spread of disinformation proves more effective than the spread of no information. Halloween Kills manages to capture the overwhelming ignorance of communities who ignore the entire concept of a greater good in order for them to earn a solution for their own problems, no matter what destination that path might lead them towards. Additionally, the film reminds us in one key scene that, despite the good intentions of individuals, they aren't necessarily held accountable for their actions, as there are systems in place to cover up their mistakes, even if they are matters of life and death.
While the previous film dealt with long-term trauma, especially early on in this film, we get better looks at how characters cope with the immediate loss of Myers' victims. Anyone watching a horror movie knows not to grow too close to any character, though their deaths often result in little more than an opportunity to see some on-screen gore. Halloween Kills reminds us, even briefly, that the characters killed were fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, evoking at least a modicum of sympathy from the audience over deaths we might have previously cheered for when we first witnessed them.
Despite possibly sounding like Halloween Kills is revelatory with the themes it tackles, it assuredly isn't. It plants the seeds for some of these interesting ideas and lets them gestate just long enough to resonate with the audience, yet still contradicts itself and leaves audiences with muddled messaging. There's no doubt that this sequel is a messy movie thematically, which only reminds us further that this is just the middle chapter of a trilogy that won't pay off anything for another year.
Stripped down to its core, this film sees Michael traveling from Point A to Point B while killing most people he encounters along the way. For most Halloween fans, that's good enough for them, and this film satisfies that bloodlust. No longer merely restricted to a kitchen knife, Michael uses all manner of impromptu execution, truly earning its right to have "Kills" in its title.
Halloween Kills doesn't really bring anything new to the series, yet does find ways to improve upon previously introduced ideas and weaves them together in at least slightly more effective ways. Outside of those elements, audiences are given 105 minutes of Michael Myers stalking and killing his prey through the streets of Haddonfield, in relatively new, inventive, and compelling ways, all while the signature sounds of the series amplify the intensity. The sequel will likely be remembered as merely a formulaic continuation of its predecessors years down the line, though that's really all some fans are looking for.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Halloween Kills hits theaters and Peacock on October 15th.