As a longtime fan of the Halloween franchise, I can safely say that I was the target audience for Halloween Kills. David Gordon Green’s brutal and satisfying descent into pure slasher madness must be seen to be believed. With a clear love for the series at large and embracing fan service with open arms, the script from Green, Danny McBride, and Scott Teems is a valiant effort. This fast-paced thrill ride easily makes the top four best films in the franchise. From start to finish, my heart was racing as Michael (James Jude Courtney) decimates nearly everything in his path. The central Laurie versus Michael action may take a backseat in favor of a more ensemble approach, but I took no issue with this considering the ties to the original 1978 film. Returning mainstay characters like Tommy Doyle (this time played by series newcomer Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) return with a vengeance, members of a sort of ‘survivors corner’ whose sole mission is to make sure “evil dies tonight.” Diving deeper into the town of Haddonfield itself, fleshing out the night from 1978 in an extended opening, and a chilling meditation on mob mentality make Halloween Kills a decidedly different type of sequel.
In an approach similar to 1981’s Halloween II, the Halloween night of Michael’s 2018 rampage ravages on, picking up essentially right where we left off. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Allyson (Andi Matichak), and Karen (Judy Greer) have just trapped Michael in a hellish burning basement where he is destined to be burned to a crisp and the evil forever vanquished—or is he? Laurie is rushed to the hospital with her daughter and granddaughter to treat her wounds just as a set of first responders show up to douse the blazing flames of the fire she set. Of course, Michael manages to escape, and carves a path of death and destruction across the town of Haddonfield. Operating under the belief that they “burned him to the ground,” Laurie quietly recovers. Meanwhile, Tommy Doyle and other survivors of Michael’s original Halloween murders revolt with a plan for vigilante mob justice. Is ‘safety in numbers’ an actual concept when it comes to Michael Myers?
Right down to the opening credits, this sequel brings nearly everything that fans will be looking for. Multiple flaming pumpkins set the October-mood nicely, and callbacks like Silver Shamrock masks and exact lines of dialogue had my theater audience screaming in delight. More than anything else though, slasher movies are known for having varied inventive kills. In this aspect, Halloween Kills deserves the crown for largest body count and most twisted level of brutality. In a franchise that has pushed into the double digits, Michael Myers has not been quite this vicious and mean since the two Rob Zombie films. Every gnarly death is gory and horrifying; best of all, few of them are simple offscreen mutilations. James Jude Courtney’s version of Michael has a chilling, quick swagger that makes him indomitably intimidating.
The filmmakers may choose to revel in many of the deaths, but it makes the important ones hit hard on an impactful emotional level. 2018’s Halloween was advertised as delving into the trauma of survivors and the weight that forces one to carry, but it is really Halloween Kills that examines this topic with pressing importance. After arriving at the hospital post-massacre, Karen rinses the blood from her hands and is finally forced to acknowledge the death of her husband. Her wedding ring glimmers through the redness of the blood like a harsh reminder of everything she has lost. This becomes a recurring theme throughout, as Laurie takes full responsibility for now wrapping up three generations of Strode women in her obsession with Michael Myers. Laurie herself is deprecating and hilarious about her own situation and determination to bring down the psychopath for good. Despite a slightly reduced role, Laurie feels crucial to the endgame, and Curtis plays a deeply committed character who will stop at nothing to protect her family—no matter the personal cost. When Karen urges Laurie to take it easy because she had a literal knife in her stomach, Laurie responds “it’s a paper cut.” We also see how the years have affected other characters too, including those we did not have a chance to catch up with since 1978. Throw in the addition of an effective and tragic side story with an escaped mental patient, and Halloween Kills does a great job at handling the trauma and effect Myers has had on the town of Haddonfield.
As much as I loved the 2018 Halloween, my primary complaints were the excessive amount of offscreen kills and overuse of humor that clashed with the darker tone. Halloween Kills fixes both of these issues, and with its strong ties to the previous film, manages to strengthen and expand those shakier moments. In this way, Kills is a better sequel in nearly every way. This time around, I found Karen and Allyson far more likable as characters. Judy Greer’s Karen has my favorite arc in the entire movie, and she gives a complicated but relatable performance. Allyson’s boyfriend, Cameron (Dylan Arnold), is also far less of a douche than when we last saw him kiss another girl and throw Allyson’s cell phone into a bowl of nacho cheese. The 1978 portion tightens the screws between new and old, and the jet-black bleakness is never afraid to go for the jugular.
Just from preview screenings, audiences are clearly quite divided when it comes to their views on this sequel. Critics seem split down the middle, with the film barely reaching a 50% on the Tomatometer, whilst fans appear to mostly be embracing this brutal and thrilling iteration of Myers. The original plan had been to film Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends back-to-back, with concurrent 2020 and 2021 release dates. Unfortunately, when the worldwide pandemic happened, production on the final installment in the David Gordon Green trilogy was delayed. The original plan had been for Ends to still be set on the same night to conclude Michael’s reign of terror on Haddonfield. I am unsure as to how the box office performance and critical reaction to Halloween Kills will affect Ends (if at all), but the brilliance of this late-in-the-game sequel proves without doubt that Michael Myers has plenty of gas left in the tank. The shocking and emotionally devastating ending sets the stage for a final film that will hopefully close out this multi-generational horror story on a note halfway as magical as that of Halloween H20. I am practically counting down the days as to when we can see this iteration of the Michael and Laurie saga reach its explosive climax.
Halloween Kills carves a gory path of mayhem, in theaters everywhere and streaming on Peacock Premium now.