David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills steps wrong early and never manages to keep from tripping over itself for the entire running time. It begins with not only the final moments of Green’s great 2018 Halloween, but also an extended ending to John Carpenter’s impeccable 1978 original, aiming to erase the events of the initial Halloween II (1981) and realign this film with both the first and most recent Halloween. Are you confused? Wait until you see how they do it: the pre-credits sequence doesn’t smoothly transition from each era, as the title cards establish the time but there’s no alteration of mood or tone, making it all feel the same. When we see young actors playing 70’s teens, they seem like contemporary kids wearing wigs and thrift store outfits. It’s not the first instance in which Green’s film feels strangely off.
I loved the 2018 Halloween, which was certainly violent but also had an elegance to it and a thoughtful portrait of how three generations of women deal with trauma. I loved the way it dealt with not just Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) but how her haunted daughter (played by Judy Greer) and her plucky granddaughter (played by Andi Matichak) all have to face a lingering monster, who has terrorized their lives in very different ways. Considering how good that film is, its peculiar and consistently frustrating that Halloween Kills gets so much wrong.
An early sequence, which has already become infamous and highly controversial, shows unstoppable serial killer Michael Myers slaughtering a group of first responders during a blazing inferno; there’s even a few moments where a couple of firemen attack Myers with a buzz saw and axes, only to wind up shish-ka-bobbed. The controversy is merited, as it just feels so tasteless. It gets worse, as soon thereafter (and sorry for the mild spoilers), Myers graphically murders both an interracial couple and, later, a gay couple. A weird thought passed through my mind- is Michael Myers committing hate crimes?
An uncomfortable moment from the prior film, in which Myers left an infant undisturbed in a crib after briefly lingering on the unattended child, is now taken in the opposite direction. Yes, the character is an iconic movie villain who has always dispatched innocent victims but here, each of these scenes are so gross and ugly, they stop the movie.
A handful of actors who appeared in Carpenter’s Halloween make extended cameo appearances and a little of this goes a long way. The screenplay is full of so many howlers, which were obviously written to give the trailer rousing sound bites for the fans, it renders this camp, except it’s too unpleasant to merit comparison to the likes of Halloween: Resurrection (2002). However, the blend of a few good elements struggling to emerge amongst all the misguided scenes makes this an easier comparison to Halloween 5 (1989).
The decision to downplay Strode’s connection to Myers (an element the previous film already established by erasing the brother/sister connection from series lore) even further doesn’t work and is only undermined by the closing moments.
Screenwriters Danny McBride, Scott Teems and Green have written an ambitious film that aims to check a lot of boxes for the longtime fans. Only Anthony Michael Hall’s commanding performance as Myers survivor Tommy Doyle keeps this ludicrous sequel from completely capsizing.
I like most of the actors in this, particularly Judy Greer, but they’re working at the mercy of a script that frequently grinds to a halt during either another disgusting set piece or, far worse, the preachy scenes set in a hospital. Putting Curtis’ always compelling Strode on the sidelines for most of the film isn’t a bad idea. However, having her and co-star Will Patton slowly recite didactic dialog right out of a Hallmark card are among the biggest low points.
Whereas the prior film left me impressed, this one reminded me that Green , for all his talent, is also the director of Your Highness (2011). If Green’s 2018 film was a worthy rethink of the franchise, then this is just another Halloween sequel.