I’m a bit hesitant to claim that Halloween Kills as the direct successor to Halloween – David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel to Halloween, John Carpenter’s 1978 horror masterpiece – is less interested in respectability than I just ended my previous rant claiming about Halloween ’18. It certainly hammers on harder with the didacticism that made the earlier movie so annoying, easily the most verbose of the original films and no closer to making a single character sound like a human being. But one thing is certainly true: Halloween Kills is also the closest any of David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy got to feeling like a conventional slasher. Much as I was happy to welcome the extended bloodletting – especially in the extended home video cut – I unfortunately do not think that’s a strength in the favor of what it is trying to do.
Beginning no more than 2 hours from the end of the previous entry, when Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) altogether trapped Strode’s stalker-from-40-years-ago Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney, with once again a few ceremonious shots of original actor Nick Castle) in her shack and set that shit on fire with him in it. Ostensibly Laurie has spent the last 40 years completely forgetting the fire department exists as they rush right over there to do their job, only to find Michael miraculously surviving the inferno. For some strange reason said firefighters immediately wield their tools for life-saving and attack Michael one-by-one like action movie henchmen, which of course does not end in their favor and only becomes the beginning of Michael’s singular stomp deep into the town of Haddonfield once more, leaving a trail of bodies behind him. Ostensibly he hates married couples especially, given how we have 3 pairs attacked before the movie is over.
For the record, this completely stupid Michael vs. the Fire Department battle is the highest point of Halloween Kills. And if all the movie was was what I described, Michael on a bloodied track to someplace unknown to us (though foreshadowed by the movie’s opening flashback, a distant second high-point in how Michael Simmonds’ cinematography recaptures the quintessential nighttime blues of the original and has a fairly convincing piece of makeup resurrecting Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Sam Loomis albeit with significantly less convincing voice performance), I think this might salvageable as a work of trashy slasher cinema.
But it’s not. Green, trilogy co-writer Danny McBride, and their current co-perpetrator Scott Teems have about two parallel start points going on here: Laurie is of course rushed to the hospital on account of a stab wound she received in the previous film. A few scenes later, Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) is admitted, a character in the previous film who has the distinction of being maliciously attacked by someone who is NOT Michael (though the third film in this trilogy will make this less rare). In the way that the previous film was a retread of the very first Halloween picture, this shall match up by retreading Laurie’s complete lack of any action or agency in Halloween II while she espouses extended twitter threads about fear with Hawkins, as though they were on pleasant rocking chairs in a porch rather than dealing with severe abdominal stab wounds. Perhaps the best excuse for how idiotic their dialogue is for the majority of the film is how they must be on a major amount of morphine.
And the other plot thread, which will eventually intersect with Michael’s in a way that Laurie’s never does*: apparently every Halloween, the fellow survivors of the 1978 massacre get together to drink and commemorate. Those individuals are of course Nurse Marion Chambers (returning actor Nancy Stephens in another retconning appearance after being killed in H20), Laurie’s babysitting wards Lindsey Wallace (returning actor Kyle Richards who now is better known as a reality tv star!) and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall, replacing Paul Rudd who decided if he was gonna embarrass himself with a legacy sequel, it’d be a Ghostbusters movie!), and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet) who is literally retconned into this movie to have encountered Michael back in ’78. And I guess it sort of makes sense that these particular characters would want to comfort each other once a year, but this apparently also happens to be a point of notoriety in the entire town which… ok, I guess town gossip is believable enough. But then once it’s heard at the bar they’re lounging in that Michael is back in town and hacking and slashing, it seems the ENTIRE TOWN was so involved in this minor massacre that they form a mob hunting down the first unfamiliar face they catch, a frightened escapee (Ross Bacon) from the same bus crash that freed Michael.
So now in addition to being a terrible delivery system for observations on trauma, Green and company are making their movie a terrible delivery system for observations on mob mentality (and given the obvious “immediate relevance” that having . And against the odds of a franchise that has reasonably been trying to balance the sensational basis of slasher storytelling with at least some reasonably dimensionality in its characters including this movie’s direct predecessor, Halloween Kills meets an all-time low with the counterproductive ways it delivers shallow assertions regarding psychological harm through lip service on one hand and then Green as director genuinely embodies this subgenre’s active indulgence for that violence without the slightest bit of shame. Probably the most painful shot it gives itself in the foot is how one of the goriest and detailed deaths in a movie with a lot more average blood than the body count Kills claims is in fact a tragic suicide late in the film, but this also wouldn’t be as huge an embarrassment if there was the slightest bit of profundity to Kills‘ desire to be “A Very Special Episode of Halloween” instead of just letting its characters ramble and spin wheels any time they are not being fatally interrupted by the big dude in the mask. The closest it gets is a 10-second throwaway set of cuts to a mother screaming as she recognizes her son through a morgue window during one of the film’s most high adrenaline sequences, her voice drowned out by the pummeling score of John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Dan Davies (a score which is a better overall composition than Halloween ’18 but honestly gets that way by abandoning any real recognizability as a Halloween score).
The mean-spirited nihilism that would be a better fit for a less-ashamed version of a slasher film wins out this movie’s soul, particularly in the final moments of the film where its fan service plays in a way so clumsily dark that I highly doubt it’s intentional. Because this is not a movie that wants that nihilism to feel as lurid and amoral as it truly is in its nonsensical writing, its hideous cinematography (aye, it looks good in the flashback sequences like I said but the present-day material is all smeary in its color and untethered in its lighting), or in its maddening lack of understanding how people react to such traumatizing events. Which is why such a saving grace for this movie as slasher cinema could be if Green somehow had a moment of clarity during post-production and just decided to surgically remove all the movie’s sobriety and streamline the narrative strictly to the hunt for Michael Myers, this might actually be a more watchable piece of entertainment. One that could accommodate the heavy amount of brutality that it eagerly portrays, enough that puts this pretty close to the largest body count in the entire franchise if not at number one.
But no, instead not only was Green proud enough to drop this second part of the world’s most ill-advised attempt to make a therapy version of a notoriously violent and reductive horror franchise (as dictated by a drunk bro you walked into at a party you’re trying to leave rather than a qualified person who understands such pain), he probably realized at the end of the job “well fuck, this movie really was just a bunch of running around to nowhere” and doubled down on the worst elements of Kills to make sure this trilogy ended truly on a useless, contradictory, and flat note…