'Halloween Kills' review: Sequel suffers from middle child syndrome
Sandwiched between 2018's "Halloween" and next year's "Halloween Ends," "Halloween Kills" feels like waiting around for something to happen.
The most surprising thing about 2018's "Halloween," the reboot-slash-revival of the 40-year-old horror franchise, was not that slasher extraordinaire Michael Myers was back to his old killing ways, but that director David Gordon Green was able to, for the first time in a long time, make those kills matter. He set up a death match between Myers and his nemesis, Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, and their battle had stakes, erasing years of pointless chapters in the "Halloween" series as Green positioned the film as a direct sequel to the 1978 original.
Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted because "Halloween Kills" — the second chapter in Green's "Halloween" trilogy, to be followed by next year's "Halloween Ends" — amasses a huge body count but can't find a reason for being. New characters are introduced only to meet the sharp end of Myers' knife. Curtis' character spends more than half the movie lying in a hospital bed, recuperating. If she's getting ready for one final showdown in "Halloween Ends," then bring it on. But until then, the main thing this "Halloween" kills is time.
"Halloween Kills" picks up right where the last movie left off, and revisits the original "Halloween" to reintroduce some characters that we now join, already in progress, as adults.
Chief among them is Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), an early Michael Myers survivor, who now does open mic nights at the local pub in Haddonfield, Illinois, and tells tales of the boogeyman he once escaped. One, two, Michael's coming for you — er, wrong nursery rhyme, but you get the picture. Doyle knows the town will truly never be rid of Michael Myers, and will always live, in some form, underneath his curse.
But wait, didn't Michael Myers die in the last movie? Child, Michael Myers dies in all the "Halloween" movies, but he always manages to find a loophole out of the actual death part. This time it's thanks to the firefighters who put out the blaze at the Strode home, where Myers was locked in the basement, roasting like a turkey on Thanksgiving while the house burned around him. It's bold to lay blame for his resurrection on first responders, and even more so to watch Myers gruesomely pick off an entire unit of firemen one by one.
As the revived Myers resumes his killing spree, visiting all his old (literal) neighborhood haunts, Laurie is in the hospital, recovering from all the stuff that happened to her in the last movie, where she put up a pretty damn good fight against ol' Stabbypants. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) wants to stay at her side and help protect her, while Karen's daughter (and Laurie's granddaughter) Allyson (Andi Matichak) wants to get some revenge of her own on Myers.
She's not alone. A mob eventually forms at the hospital when they think they have Myers cornered inside, and led by chants of "evil dies tonight!" the scene at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital starts to resemble the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th. It's not a pretty sight. It's an attempt by the filmmakers to throw a little social commentary in the mix, about mob rule and the dangers it poses to communities, timely elements that feel preachy wedged into a horror movie about an unstoppable killing machine.
Director Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Teems and actor Danny McBride, certainly knows the "Halloween" terrain, again expertly mimicking the original film's opening credits and throwing in some nice allusions to the Myers-less "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" as well. But nothing here feels essential, not even in the mythology of the series, which is a low bar to clear.
There's a scene in 1995's "Kicking and Screaming" where a group of college friends are quizzing each other to name all of the "Friday the 13th" movies — this is how people passed time before the internet — and one of them guesses "Jason Kills." "Jason Kills is an idiotic title!" one of them shoots back. "Jason kills in every one of those suck-wind movies."
Michael Myers kills in every one of the "Halloween" movies — again, with the exception of "III" — and "Halloween Kills" is also an idiotic title. (Although if it's a sly tribute to "Kicking and Screaming," it's genius.) Yes, Michael Myers will be back to kill again. But for now, "Halloween Kills" just sucks wind.
Rated R: for strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language and some drug use
Running time: 105 minutes
In theaters and on Peacock