‘Halloween Kills’ Delivers Plenty of…uh…. Kills (Movie Review)

Halloween Kills, the 12th entry in a series that began in 1978, is finally opening in theaters and on Peacock after a now de-facto COVID-19 delay. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode for this second entry of a new trilogy from Blumhouse and Universal Pictures. The final installment, Halloween Ends, is set for release in October 2022. Following 2018’s aptly titled Halloween, David Gordon Green returns for his second at-bat as director. The iconic slasher series had been dormant for nearly a decade before Green and co-writer Danny McBride took a stab with a fresh take that raked in an impressive $255 million worldwide. A sequel was inevitable. However, the question of whether a planned trilogy could fare better than the “let’s just make another” motto that many slasher movies often fall victim to was up for grabs. The premise for the middle installment is a big swing. With that said, it’s time once again to return to Haddonfield…

Following the structure of 1981’s Halloween II, the bulk of Halloween Kills immediately follows the previous film. After her encounter with Michael left her stabbed and bleeding, Laurie (Curtis) is rushed to a hospital with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Meanwhile, the rest of the town goes into a tailspin regarding the return of Michael Myers. Chief among them is now middle-aged Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), who Laurie babysat on “The Night He Came Home.” A host of other characters from the original film show up too. As a fan, it’s fun to see the ’78 cast reprise their roles as Sherif Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), and even Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), who was Dr. Loomis’ assistant.  All are ready to take down Michael, chanting, “Evil dies tonight!”

Regardless of my issues with this entry, I have to give big props to Green and co-writers McBride and Scott Teems for being all-in on such a premise. We’ve seen the town of Haddonfield mount up to kill Michael before, most notably in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, but this story leans into the psychology of such a mob mentality affair hard. Michael still gets some solid kills here and plenty of screen time, but the main throughline of the narrative is Tommy assembling others to find their knife-wielding nemesis, The Shape.

Frustratingly, this puts too much dramatic heft on Hall and not on Curtis. Like Halloween II, Laurie’s injury has her laid up in a hospital room for the bulk of the film. Hall has been good in his adult roles, although they’re primarily supporting ones like in The Dark Knight. Here Tommy’s PTSD and need for payback is front and center. Hall plays nearly every beat at an eleven from frame one, which gives him nowhere to go performance-wise for the bulk of Halloween Kills’ long (for a horror film) running time.

Curtis and the rest of the returning cast are good but pretty underused. I understand why Laurie is mainly relegated to speeches about Michael and the nature of evil (good stuff), but why do Allyson and Karen feel stranded plot-wise? To be fair, the Strode family do get some good turns in the final act, but I wanted more.

Thankfully, in-between all those crazed villagers’ need for bloodlust, Michael shows up often enough to “do his thing” (I know that line is from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D, so I guess I’m mixing icons here). Whether he’s playing home invader to an elderly couple or coming out of the shadows to take on a group of kids in the park, the editing, the score (by John Carpenter!), and the movement of Myers (performed mainly by James Jude Courtney) does not disappoint. In the 2018 version, the mask looked as aged as the now sixty-something Myers would certainly be. After a massive fire scene leaves many first responders butchered, the mask is now slightly singed. It’s terrific make-up and prop work. So if you’re here to see Michael make with the killing, you’ll be pleased.

Yet as someone who’s recently been re-watching all the films, I’d place Halloween Kills in the bottom half of the twelve. At its heart, while I admire how it’s not just doing the same thing, using the mob as the true face of evil is a motif that lands with a thud. Also, the beefed-up run time does the pacing no favors despite some solid flashbacks I won’t spoil. As a Halloween fan, I could never really not enjoy one of these films – I even sat through the entirety of 2002’s infamous Halloween Resurrection. That’s dedication! Halloween Kills still satisfies, even if my own bloodlust isn’t quite satiated. Here’s hoping Halloween Ends is great and hey, maybe even retroactively makes me appreciate this entry even more!

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