David Gordon Green’s 2018 soft-reboot of the Halloween franchise set a high bar for reviving 40-year-old horror properties. “Halloween” itself has been rebooted and retooled and remade into oblivion, with crisscrossing timelines and false starts that led nowhere. This year’s sequel “Halloween Kills” is the middle part of a planned trilogy that tests the sturdiness of the narrative infrastructure that Green laid out.
This story picks right up from the closing moments of 2018’s “Halloween,” in which Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) leave the killer Michael Myers for dead after trapping him in Laurie’s basement and burning the structure down. While they head to the hospital, the fire department unintentionally lets Michael escape the wreckage, setting the infamous “shape” towards another path of murder. The news of Michael’s continued destruction sets off the civilians, and, led by the now-grown Tommy Doyle, they put together a lynch mob and declare that “evil dies tonight!”
The sparse visual language and traditional coverage, along with the stylized but purposeful lighting of this sequel, create harmony with the leaner predecessor. The early kill scenes and horror set-pieces are brutal, yet efficient and easy for the eye to follow. Green, along with co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems, take the subject matter seriously enough but they also understand the necessary beats of a populist slasher film.
Tonally, the picture works as part two of a continuing story. What doesn’t work is the stuttering pace, the reams of useless dialogue delivered by far too many characters, and a climax that aims for shock but elicits a shrug.
After all the characters and key players are introduced, the film runs back and forth from separate scenarios instead of setting up an emotional pay-off. Characters who carry over from the previous movie, such as Karen’s teenage daughter (Andi Matichak) and her boyfriend (Dylan Arnold) are sprinkled into scenes with chasms of competing plot points between them.
When Michael finally slays the dead weight within the cast and the film builds momentum toward the showdown between Tommy and the townspeople versus Myers, scenes find more space to breathe again. And though the last five minutes left me perplexed, a smooth transition into the upcoming sequel could justify the unnecessary anti-twist.
“Halloween Kills” is a worthy sequel but messy entry overall. As sequels tend to do, the eyes of the filmmakers were hungrier than their stomachs could handle. But in the grand scheme of things, this project meets the requirements of the genre and stacks up high amongst the worst entries of what could be a tired franchise.
Cassidy Robinson is a former Idaho State University student with a master’s degree in film studies from Orange County’s Chapman University. He is currently working as a media journalist in Los Angeles, California.