Producers: Malek Akkad, Jason Blum and Bill Block Director: David Gordon Screenplay: Scott Teems, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall, Dylan Arnold, Robert Longstreet, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers, David Lowe, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Omar J. Dorsey, Michael McDonald, Scott MacArthur, Diva Tyler, Tom Jones Jr., Carmela McNeal and Michael Smallwood Distributor: Universal
With the original “Halloween” of 1978, John Carpenter made not only a great little horror movie, but a picture that proved as influential as Hitchcock’s “Psycho” of eighteen years earlier—arguably more so, given all the sequels and copycats, almost all of them grossly inferior, it spawned. Its immediate successor, 1981’s “Halloween II,” which Carpenter wrote with Debra Hill but didn’t direct, was one of those dreadful progeny.
The franchise had fallen into such disrepute that when David Gordon Green and Danny McBride rebooted it in 2018, the success of their picture—in terms of both scares and receipts—came as a surprise. Not so surprising is that it too has now brought a sequel, and with it the curse of Michael Myers has struck a second time. “Halloween Kills” doesn’t, except in the sense of multiplying the level of slaughter; it dies.
The script, with Scott Teems joining Green and McBride as co-writer this time around, takes up exactly where the first picture ended, with Myers trapped in the basement of a burning house while the wounded Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is carted off to the hospital for treatment. This is the same tactic used in “Halloween II,” and it works no better the second time around.
Naturally Michael escapes the blaze and promptly slaughters the entire team of firefighters sent to put it out. Meanwhile Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) comfort her in the hospital, where she’ll remain for the movie’s duration. She’ll be joined there by Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), also wounded; one of the few addenda to the mythology focuses on why he blames himself for Michael’s new spree—his actions back in 1978 are shown in flashback, with Thomas Mann playing him as a young, inexperienced cop.
Elsewhere, Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Doyle), one of the kids Laurie was babysitting back in 1978, is celebrating—or remembering—Halloween at a bar with other survivors of that night—Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet)—when news arrives of Michael’s return. Grabbing a bat from behind the bar, he recruits others to join him in ensuring that “Evil dies tonight!” Eventually their mob will wind up at the hospital, too.
Weirdly, the movie now splits into two tracks. One involves Michael killing folks indiscriminately as he makes his way to the old Myers house. His victims include young and old, gay and straight, black and white—just to show, one supposes, that he’s an equal-opportunity slaughterer. The deaths are brutal and gory, less indebted to Carpenter’s original, which relied on suggestion and clever compositions rather than blood and guts, than to the innumerable slasher movies than followed it; and they’re much more numerous (Carpenter made do with four deaths, while the corpses here pile up in such profusion that it would be a tedious business to try to count them). But since the script gives almost none of the victims anything but the most perfunctory introduction, their demises carry little emotional content.
Meanwhile Tommy’s band of merry marauders goes berserk, causing the death of a guy who’s escaped from jail (David Lowe)—an event that causes old Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), the former sheriff who’s working security at the hospital, to observe sadly, “Now he’s turned us into monsters!” Vigilantism is bad, apparently, because it can so easily get out of hand.
That doesn’t stop everybody from congregating at the Myers house, where Michael has offed its new owners, a gay couple (Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald) who get a bit more screen time than most of the other victims. As usual, he’s apparently killed, but really isn’t, and mows down virtually all his pursuers before reclaiming his old room in expectation of the next sequel. Of course, Laurie and Hawkins are still recuperating to prepare for it as well.
The 2018 “Halloween” couldn’t match the original, and fed into the contemporary appetite for carnage, but it had a certain discretion and cleverness to it. “Halloween Kills” lacks both, becoming as nasty and dumb as the myriad sequels and clones that followed clumsily in the footsteps of Carpenter’s picture. Technically it’s a step above bargain-basement grade—Richard A. Wright’s production design and Michael Simmonds’ cinematography are at least professional, and Christopher Nelson’s makeup effects are splashy enough to appease the carnage crowd; and while Tim Alverson’s editing has its sloppy moments, it does a reasonably good job of distinguishing among the large ensemble cast. The score wisely uses Carpenter’s creepy music for the 1978 movie as its basis.
The acting, as usual in such gorefests, is of minimal concern. Curtis’s contribution is limited to shrieking and suffering; one scene, in which she injects herself with a syringe, is silly and embarrassing. Patton adds a few grace notes, as does Mann; but Hall is one-note blustery, and neither Greer nor Matichak gets beyond the rote. Nobody else registers as anything but lambs being led to slaughter.
Green has made some interesting films, and his first stab at “Halloween” was much better than anyone might have expected. But this sequel is no more than a hack job, no better than the slew of awful sequels to Carpenter’s original that its predecessor swept aside.