‘Halloween Kills’ Murders Any Reason to Keep Michael Myers Slashing

The real curse of Michael Myers is that he works best for one movie. “Halloween Kills” follows 2018’s entertaining “Halloween,” a reboot of the famous franchise, which worked as a gothic homage to the 1978 John Carpenter original. Ironically enough, this sequel falls into the same traps as the seven sequels that followed Carpenter’s influential classic. As a horror villain, Myers aka The Shape aka The Boogeyman is most effective as a threatening, sudden presence who disappears back into the shadows. The real tension he creates is in how we don’t know when he’ll appear. In this movie he’s everywhere, slashing and dicing for an hour and a half, plowing through a hilariously schlocky script. 

Director David Gordon Green makes the odd choice of following the format of the first sequel in the franchise, 1981’s “Halloween II,” and not only picks up exactly where his last movie left off, but keeps it all within the same night. It’s still Halloween night 2018 and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are in the back of a truck, riding off injured after trapping Myers in Laurie’s fortress home and setting it ablaze. You would think enough stabbings and an inferno would be enough to kill a masked psycho, but this is Michael Myers, of course. He soon fillets and decapitates a whole squad of firefighters and makes his way back into Haddonfield, Illinois. While Laurie and her kin recover at the local hospital, along with old buddy Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), word spreads that Myers is back on the loose, setting off a wave of mass hysteria. Because the cops are useless in this small town, apparently, vigilante groups form to go after the unstoppable killer.

“Halloween Kills” is another curious example of a director with artistry attempting to elevate hollow material. Green’s first “Halloween” was an atmospheric homage to the Carpenter film, dismissing the previous sequels and giving the franchise that gritty realism in vogue everywhere since “The Dark Knight.”  It was fun having Jamie Lee Curtis reprise the role that first made her famous, now as a haunted grandma with a bunker and weapons, waiting for her tormentor from forty years ago to return. As with many recent revivals, there was the feel of a class reunion in seeing notable faces in an updated setting. “Halloween Kills” now overkills the premise. The great challenge with a franchise like this is that after seven other sequels, not to mention Rob Zombie’s own colorful remakes, what else can you really do with Michael Myers? Here he’s transformed into the serial killer equivalent of an MCU villain. Neither fire nor gunshots or stabbings can stop him, since per the dialogue he represents pure evil. Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently knocked over by a crazed fan who kicked him from behind. Myers can take bats to the face and not flinch. All of Haddonfield goes into a panic, since Myers, who still maintains the pace of about two or three steps at a time, is the equivalent of an invading army. All he needs is his bleached William Shatner mask to take on platoons of lynch mobs.

The screenplay by Green, Scott Teems and Danny McBride, is a basic throwback to B-movie horror, but of the truly hacky kind. Since the police are rendered useless because their bullets can’t take down Myers, the good citizens of Haddonfield decide to take the law into their own hands. They go nuts at the local hospital, nearly killing a mental patient who escaped from the same prison bus crash that unleashed Myers in the previous movie. They all run around mindlessly chanting “evil dies tonight!” Now, per this take on the story by Green, Myers had been locked away for four decades without ever escaping until two doomed podcasters tried to get an interview. No one can devise some trap to just get him back to the asylum? Of course, then you can’t have an excuse then for some fresh blasts from the past. Three returning characters form the core of a new Michael Myers hunting squad: Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), who as a kid was spared by the killer back in ‘78, Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), another survivor, and for the hardcore fans, we get Lindsey (Kyle Richards), whose babysitter was slashed by Myers in the Carpenter movie, and Marion (Nancy Stephens), the nurse who survived a Myers attack with the late Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence). This at least serves for some real movie trivia fun, since both Richards and Stephens did appear in the original “Halloween.” 

There’s no other way to describe the rest of the movie than as a pure bloodbath. The “plot” basically consists of Myers sneaking into someone’s house, car or hallway and beating their heads into a wall, stomping on their limbs and gouging their eyes out, repeatedly. Characters are thrown at him like meat to a grinder. So hypnotic is Myers’ half-charred mask that victims don’t rush out the front door when it’s right there behind them. Green is a superb director, who is best known for his elegiac takes on small town American life in films like “George Washington,” and his first “Halloween” combined that sensibility with unnerving terror. The cinematography by Michael Simmonds is still rich and shadowy. John Carpenter himself is back with son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies to compose the score featuring the iconic theme song, with many queues that wink at the original film. Alas, Jamie Lee Curtis is reduced to spending the entire film at the hospital, helpless before the chaos outside and sharing at least one sweet moment of dialogue and memories with Hawkins. The teen romance between Allyson and Cameron (Dylan Arnold), which felt authentic in the last film, gets lost in the slasher mayhem.

Thankfully the film is only 1 hour and 43 minutes in its running time. Green realizes you can only carry a killing spree for so long.  “Halloween Kills” is the second in a planned trilogy, so we assume the reason it never goes beyond a mere gore fest is because the real meat of the story will arrive in the next installment, or maybe not. As we continue to be stuck in this era of endless remakes and reboots, where every studio meeting appears to consist of looking over checklists of 40 to 30-year-old franchises that could use a re-do, “Halloween Kills” confirms the greatness of the original, by demonstrating again why it never needed a sequel. This one might appeal only to the Friday night date only interested in blood and popcorn. They can even enjoy it at home this time around, since Universal will be following in the footsteps of Warner, releasing the movie simultaneously in theaters and on the Peacock streamer, if you sign up for the Premium package. In film history Michael Myers endures as a great horror villain, but the franchise can be laid to rest.

Halloween Kills” releases Oct. 15 on Peacock and theaters nationwide.