Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Scott Teems, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Will Patton
Classification R; 106 minutes
Opens in theatres Oct. 15
Something funny happened along the way to rebooting the boogeyman. Again.
Back in 2018, frequent collaborators David Gordon Green and Danny McBride pivoted from solid reputations in indie drama (All the Real Girls) and ribald comedy (HBO’s Eastbound and Down) to make their dream project: the ultimate Halloween sequel. Alright! The pair got John Carpenter’s blessing, and original music. And surprisingly enough, they scored, creating a lean and mean thriller that erased memories (and franchise continuity) of the many inferior sequels and reboots that followed Carpenter’s original 1978 sensation.
But just like unstoppable franchise villain Michael Myers, Gordon Green and McBride couldn’t just roll over and play dead after one mere outing. Which is how we’re back at the slaughterhouse this weekend with Halloween Kills, the second part of a new trilogy set to be capped off next fall with Halloween Ends. (Sure, “Ends,” whatever you guys say.)
I guess, though, that this is the fourth film to be marketed as the third instalment of the Halloween saga, after 1982′s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, then 1988′s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (which erased the continuity of Part 3), and finally 1998′s Halloween H20 (which scratched the events of Parts 3 through 6). And then there were those two Rob Zombie-directed Halloween movies that also tabula rasa’d things, too. Listen, I’m as confused as you. The point is: rebooting Michael Myers is not some sacrosanct act.
Nor is what Gordon Green and McBride attempt in Halloween Kills, which is to infuse the franchise with something resembling a political point of view, all while keeping the action as brutal as possible.
The idea of Halloween Kills is simple: we’re back in Haddonfield, Ill., immediately after the events of the 2018 film. Former babysitter/Myers survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is on route to the hospital, thinking that she finally ended Myers’ reign of terror. But, naturally, the masked psycho isn’t dead yet, and continues his killing spree anew, starting with a batch of firefighters who foolishly come to extinguish the blaze that Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) set at the end of the previous film. But this time around, the onus to destroy Myers is not on the Strode bloodline. Instead, Haddonfield’s citizens are fed up. Adopting the chant/hashtag “Evil Dies Tonight!”, a wave of mob justice takes hold across the community, with the promise of hunting Myers down once and for all too tempting for any rational neighbour to resist.
The big fat idea that Gordon Green and McBride, along with new co-writer Scott Teems, play around with here doesn’t ultimately work. Does fear make monsters of us all? Um, I guess so. It is rather hard to tell when the film constantly oscillates between pro- and anti-mob justice, and when contrasted against scenes of an absolute monster ripping people’s heads open. A recent Curtis interview, in which she sorta-kinda-maybe equates Halloween Kills’ themes to the Black Lives Matter movement, also proves that the film is too sloppy to make any coherent argument. And let’s not forget that the mob-justice idea was explored in previous Halloween sequels, too. Still, despite or maybe because of all that, there is an undeniably compelling energy to whatever is going on here.
Tally the idiosyncrasies in the film’s margins – soon-to-be Myers victims spending their Oct. 31 watching John Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moskowitz, a soundtrack cameo from The Barber of Seville – and you’ll come up with a slasher that has something to say. Even if it’s not quite sure what that might exactly be.
What’s more: Gordon Green shoots all the mayhem as if he were working on a direct-to-drive-in cheapie circa 1979, with deliberately dated aesthetics and an impatience for how long it takes for a character to be introduced before they can be slain. And those kills? Well, they are enjoyably ruthless, with a body count likely higher than all the 11 other Halloween films combined. Some may bristle at how the film affords Myers rock-star-level entrances over and over – we’re apparently done treating alpha-survivor Laurie as the real hero – but the decision only acknowledges that the killer has always been the franchise’s main attraction.
Sure, the film is brimming with odd decisions, especially sidelining Curtis in a hospital room for almost the entire run-time. And yes, the ending will anger audiences unaware that, when they bought a ticket for this film, they effectively signed on for Halloween Ends, too … at least if they want any sense of resolution. But there is something entertaining, or maybe just enjoyably puzzling, about what Gordon Green and McBride think a Michael Myers movie could or ought to be. If it ain’t dead, don’t kill it.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.