Halloween Kills Michael Myers

Halloween Kills is a scrappier, weirder installment in an unkillable franchise

The curse of trilogy middles hits the second chapter in David Gordon Green’s Halloween reboot.

There are parallels to be drawn between the current incarnation of the Halloween series and the newest trilogy of Star Wars movies. Both came with outsized expectations by fans who hold the original trilogy in the highest regard; both chose to cull some elements of the continuity (in Halloween’s case, it was every Halloween movie besides Carpenter’s original) in order to better focus their approach. Like The Force Awakens, David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween can be faulted for adhering too closely to the blueprint established by the original. Though it’s presented as a direct sequel, it has enough homages within it to almost count as a covert remake at the same time. In keeping with this metaphor, Halloween Kills is therefore the franchise’s The Last Jedi — a deliberate recalibration of the series’ direction that throws everything at the wall in an attempt to avoid just paying straight homage to the 1978 original once again. 

Halloween Kills is therefore a surprisingly busy sequel teeming with ideas — so many ideas, in fact, that it sometimes becomes bogged down in exploring them all. In that sense, Halloween Kills doesn’t have a ton in common with the original, which is one of the most straight-forward and crystalline slasher movies ever made. Halloween Kills is much scrappier, weirder and — crucially — much more part of a whole than a standalone success.

Halloween Kills begins right as the 2018 film ends, with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) convinced that they have killed Michael Myers by burning their house down with him in it. With a serious knife injury forcing her to the hospital, Laurie barely has time to recuperate when she (and the rest of Haddonfield) learns that Myers has survived the fire and continued his reign of terror. A bunch of survivors gathered in a local bar led by Tommy Doyle (the kid Laurie was babysitting in the 1978 original, now played by Anthony Michael Hall) decide to take matters into their own hands as Myers continues to terrorize the small town.

Halloween Kills Judy Greer Jamie Lee Curtis Andi Matichak
Judy Greer, Jamie Lee Curtis and Andi Matichak in Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills therefore positions itself somewhere between a zombie movie and the mob mentality of Frankenstein. In the first of many audacious decisions by Green and his co-writers, the film’s main characters spend most of the film waylaid in a hospital, unable to step up to the heroic plate we’ve grown so accustomed to. Green doesn’t just decentralize the story, he takes it in all types of directions, laying into the Grand Guignol aspect of slasher films with elaborate slapstick kills, but also going back to 1978 in a prologue that fleshes out the backstory of Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton), who also spends much of the movie in a hospital bed. Green relishes the tonal whiplash inherent to the genre, juxtaposing funny kills with scenes of characters being torn apart by grief. The influence of co-writer Danny McBride is felt more deeply this time around — it’s almost as if the first film was done so straight-forward in order to buy some freedom for this one.

The attempts to deepen the events of the two previous films fell mostly flat for me. While I have to admit that there is really no way around adding lore and backstory to any franchise that goes on for three episodes, Halloween Kills’ attempts at retconning the events of the first film via a prologue starring Thomas Mann and Thunder Road’s Jim Cummings feel mostly like a waste of time. What becomes increasingly clear as the film continually brings up new ideas and new avenues within its reasonable 100-minute runtime is that Kills has the extremely unenviable task of being in-between two movies. It’s the curse of most trilogy middles — they’re beholden to what comes before and after, but the after doesn’t exist yet, which inevitably makes it feel incomplete. I don’t know how much of that is true as it pertains to Halloween Kills, but there’s really only one way to know, and that’s to wait it out.

Frankly, I remain skeptical whether or not a third chapter is really going to smooth out the various incongruences and flights of fancy within Halloween Kills. On one hand, I find it to be rather daring for a movie that could easily have gone through the expected beats and taken absolutely no flack for it; on the other hand, it’s as awkward and shambolic as it is satisfying in many ways. Its best ideas (the trauma of the original massacre as a still-festering wound for everyone involved, Myers’ slow transformation from killer to supernatural, almost God-like figure) are often cut down by its less accomplished ones. Taken as it comes now, Halloween Kills is somewhat unsatisfying, though I suspect it may benefit greatly from being part of a whole a few years down the line. ■

Halloween Kills opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Oct 15.

Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green

For more film and TV coverage, please visit the Film & TV section.