In 2018, my review of David Gordon Green’s Halloween likened the semi-reboot to a house refurbishment: taking a dilapidated mansion and working to restore it to its former glory. The original blueprints were whipped out, and all the garbage and needless accoutrements were stripped away as the production focused on further exploring the greatness in the foundation and original design. With smart, modern touches added, a hovel became a home – one perfectly built for Michael Myers to invade so that he can viciously murder all of the occupants.
To expand that metaphor, said home invasion (a.k.a. the natural continuation of the story) has now taken the form of Halloween Kills, and it’s a sequel that impresses both in its spectacular brutality and intelligent approach to continuing the saga of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode and the inhuman monster Michael Myers. Once again it finds fantastic ways to tie into the canon events that played out on Halloween in 1978, but does so without repeating itself, and while also splicing in some well implemented commentary that succeeds in heightening the story and the horror.
Halloween Kills challenges itself right off the bat by forgoing any kind of time jump, and instead picks up right where the last story left off – with Michael Myers trapped in the basement of a burning compound, and Laurie Strode bleeding from a knife wound in the gut while riding away in the back of a flatbed with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Without cheating or undermining the impact of its predecessor, the movie continues Halloween 2018, and finds the fight against evil continue as the heroes are joined by all of the other Haddonfield residents who have been haunted by memories for 40 years, and they rise up to try and end the nightmare once and for all.
While Laurie is taken to the local hospital for emergency surgery, word begins to spread around town that Michael has returned, and it’s when the message gets to a local bar that spark meets powder keg. At said watering hole are Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), survivors of the rampage in 1978 who have gathered on the anniversary to support one another as terrifying memories come to mind. Tired of being victims, Tommy and the others decide that it is time to start hunting – but as a terrifying mob mentality begins to form, the serial killer in the white mask becomes one of two deadly sources of fear on a blood filled night.
David Gordon Green illustrates a wonderful eye for detail, and it helps make Halloween Kills sing.
Despite not having an established background in horror, David Gordon Green firmly proved his Halloween fan bona fides with his 2018 movie – but with Halloween Kills he works with co-writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride to go even deeper into the weeds of the lore from John Carpenter’s original film, and it’s wonderful. Not only does the sequel bring back a whole host of notable characters in effective fashion (and not just in the name of fan service), but it also adds to the lore with intriguing new flashbacks to The Night He Came Home. All of it serves the effort of further illustrating the deep wound that has been created in the psyche of Haddonfield by the terror of Michael Myers, and that atmosphere then adds fantastic verisimilitude to the town reaching a roaring boil.
More than just reaching deeper into the 1978 film, the sequel also does a great job of deeply meshing with the previous chapter. While 2018’s Halloween leaves Dylan Arnold’s Cameron Elam at the costume party after destroying Allyson’s phone, for example, he surprises by making a big comeback in Halloween Kills and becomes a key part of the ensemble. You’re also still very much seeing the consequences of the horrible murderers earlier in the night, including an emotional moment with the mother of Drew Scheid’s Oscar, whom fans will remember as the teenager whose head was impaled on a metal fence.
Jamie Lee Curtis delivers another excellent turn as Laurie Strode.
Following her Sarah Connor-esque role in the last movie, Laurie Strode has a very different part of play in Halloween Kills (the decision is made for her NOT to have a miraculous post-surgery recovery), but it nonetheless provides a great platform for Jamie Lee Curtis and the character. There is a fantastic emotional switch set up early in the film as Laurie is kept under the impression that Michael has been slain – and thus we get to see her both revel in victory and then learn the devastating news that the boogeyman is still alive. These emotional highs and lows give the actor the opportunity to showcase terrific range, and she is phenomenal even while almost exclusively kept inside the walls of a hospital recovery room.
Michael Myers is in overkill mode, so prepare.
Not willing to settle with terror (or commentary, for that matter) eclipsing the horror, Halloween Kills is a film aptly titled, as Michael Myers is in rare form executing excruciating cruelty and showing the town of Haddonfield why they should be scared of him. Even the most pumped up genre fan may go a bit green as a woman has a fluorescent bulb jammed into her neck and her husband is turned into a pin cushion where the “pins” are “everything in the kitchen knife block.” David Gordon Green doesn’t pull any punches in his depiction of the violence, and it can be hard to watch – but it’s supposed to be, as the movie drives home the nature of the iconic villain and makes sure you recognize the path of pain that he is always leaving behind him. The stakes are constantly being raised, and it makes the drama that much greater.
As we learned back in July 2019, Halloween Kills is the middle chapter in a planned trilogy that will wrap with Halloween Ends next year, and while that is something that is going to put pressure on any production, it’s impressive how well the new film navigates those waters. This movie has its own narrative to execute and its things to say as a chapter in the series, but simultaneously does a fantastic job building on what we’ve seen, and setting up exciting things to come. It took more than 40 years, but the Halloween franchise has finally managed to release two legitimately great sequels in a row, and after this success it’s easy to imagine David Gordon Green and his collaborators completing a spectacular hat trick in 2022.