2021, R, 105 min. Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Airon Armstrong, Nick Castle, Anthony Michael Hall, Will Patton.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Oct. 22, 2021
Middle chapters are challenging; everyone knows that. But in the case of the lumbering, unengaging Halloween Kills (the slasher franchise’s 12th movie), they can be an unrewarding slog. David Gordon Green rewrote the history of Michael Myers in 2018 with his Halloween, the second direct sequel to the 1978 original. It was a simple set-up: Laurie Strode (Curtis) had spent the last four decades so traumatized by the bloodbath left by the Shape (Courtney, Armstrong in flashbacks, and, on occasion, original killer Castle) that she spent decades waiting for him to escape, just so she could kill him. Excessive as the plan was, it seemed to work, and Myers was last seen burning to death in her basement. So a sequel seemed challenging, unless Green was prepared to either go the Halloween III: Season of the Witch path and completely abandon the Myers story, or go Halloween 4 and have the evil of the Shape find a new host. Nah, he just has the seemingly invulnerable and ever-ingenious killer burst out of the cellar and butcher a whole station of firefighters.
After focusing on the Strode family in his first film, Green's plan this time around is to pull out to a wider vista. Picking up straight after the end of his first film, Halloween Kills looks at the psychological damage inflicted on the whole town of Haddonfield, Ill.: from Tommy Doyle (Hall as one of the kids that Laurie Strode babysat, and the biggest Halloween party pooper ever) to Deputy Frank Hawkins (Patton, now retroactively part of the posse that arrested Michael off-screen in 1978). What this means is sidelining Laurie's daughter (Greer) and granddaughter (Matichak) for basically the first two-fifths of the movie, while Laurie herself is recovering from surgery until the halfway point. Even when they do finally appear, it's for a clunky exposition dump recounting the night's massacre so far.
Many of the great slasher movies have less gore and more plot than audiences recall, but Halloween Kills lacks any of the lean efficiency of John Carpenter’s original, and the tedious conversations flatly delivered will lodge in the brain longer than any of Michael’s mayhem. Maybe it’s just because Green sidelines the characters in whom audiences have been invested for decades in favor of minor callback supporting parts. Maybe it’s the addition of Scott Teems to the writers’ room: Green and co-writer Danny McBride seem to want to add some of the meditations on small town violence that he brought to Rectify and That Evening Sun, but here it seems heavy handed, as a mob brays “Evil dies tonight” and hunts the wrong escaped man. Maybe Halloween Kills will make more sense when the finale of the trilogy, Halloween Ends, gives those themes some context. But as a sequel to the deliciously absurd 2018 resurrection, it’s a ponderous bore, far-too-intermittently broken up by spurts of the franchise’s signature gore.