Screenplay by Danny McBride, Scott Teems, David Gordon Green
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Judy Greer, Nick Castle, Anthony Michael Hall, Andi Matichak
One of the many great things about John Carpenter’s 1978 Horror masterpiece “Halloween” was how he didn’t need to go for the gore. The filmmaker was out to scare us through atmospheric and creative filmmaking.
It was the 1981 sequel, “Halloween II”, that brought more blood and the rest of the films in the series got even bloodier. Sadly, they did so at the expense of good storytelling.
The smart thing about “Halloween II” was how it still had a good enough story. While not perfect (and completely erased by 2018’s “Halloween”), the film increased the gore without ruining the mystique of Michael Myers.
“Halloween Kills” is a direct sequel to the 2018 film and takes place on the same night, picking up minutes after the first film ends, as firefighters race to save Laurie Strode’s burning home. As you remember, Michael Myers is trapped inside. Laurie and her daughter and granddaughter think he will burn to death in the fire. The Boogeyman is finally dead. Yeah, right.
As the film begins, Michael lays waste to a team of firefighters. In a stunning shot, the firefighters stand in shock as Michael comes walking out of the fire like a demon emerging from the depths of fiery Hell. It is a great moment and an exciting way to get the ball rolling. If only the rest of the film could have measured up.
The film’s biggest sin is in its relegating Laurie to a side character with nothing to do. She talks a big game but is in too much pain (she was stabbed in the gut) to walk it like she talks it. Although Jamie Lee Curtis gives another dedicated performance as the character that made her a star, the screenplay does not know what to do with her.
Written by Danny McBride, Scott Teems, and David Gordon Green and directed by Green, “Halloween Kills” is fun until it is sloppy, and it is sloppy for most of the film.
Green plays too loose with the events of Carpenter’s original. We find out that a certain character had a hand in capturing Michael on that fateful Halloween night in 1978. The character also holds a deep regret for making a mistake that he feels led to Michael’s return in present day. Spoilers prevent me from saying who I am speaking of or the event itself, but it is this addition to the backstory that doesn’t work. Connecting these new plot lines to what we already know from the original film feels clumsy.
Since the film sidelines Laurie, the main antagonists are the “we survived the 1978 original” club. Lonnie (Robert Longstreet), Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens, reprising her role), Lindsey (Kyle Richards, another actor returning from Carpenter’s original), and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall). The four have apparently created lasting friendships over the last 40 years. Even though it is a stretch that Marion Chambers would even know these people, as she was the nurse who was driving Loomis the night Michael escaped, it was fun to see the characters who faced Michael and lived it all together. Unfortunately, what the film does with them blows that fun and damn quickly.
Tommy Doyle is reduced to a one-note revenge-driven character who works the town up into a frenzy of mob justice, as half the town goes after Michael as if they were villagers going after Frankenstein’s monster. Anthony Michael Hall has some of the goofiest lines in the film. He continually lets everyone know how they can be tough and survive. He is constantly talking about how he will beat Michael this time, armed with only a baseball bat. And if I hear the phrase “Evil dies tonight!” one more time, I am going to put on a mask and go on my own rampage! Tommy Doyle spews that phrase every ten minutes to the point where I was giggling at his parrot like repetitiveness. When the angry mob starts chanting it as well, I was laughing out loud at its utter stupidity.
The screenplay stumbles badly in the back and forth of how Michael Myers is portrayed as either The Boogeyman or just a poor kid who “snapped his cap” when he was young and killed his sister. Some characters state that he is pure evil while others wax poetic about the sad little boy they remember from their childhood growing up in the town of Haddonfield. The screenwriting team had no idea how to get a hold on the character who had already been so well established that they didn’t need to explain anything about him at all.
The absolute worst segment (which unfortunately takes up a good portion of the film’s run time) is in the hospital as the angry horde of townsfolk led Tommy D. turn into a bunch of maniacs, knocking down people and destroying property while they chase a man (another escaped mental patient) through the hospital, thinking he is Myers.
This sequence is handled so badly that, as a fan of “Halloween” and the 2018 direct sequel, I became angry. The filmmakers did so well in crafting the 2018 film and here they were, completely undoing the good work they did before. It is a ridiculous sequence that becomes almost parody.
The cast does not have much to work with. It is a bit goofy to see everyone standing up to Michael. Laurie Strode we understand, but every passerby who is willing to listen to Tommy Doyle’s mad ramblings seems to suit up for a chance to kill The Boogeyman.
Judy Greer returns as Laurie’s daughter Karen, as does Andi Matichak as Allison, Karen’s daughter. They too seem to get over their fear quickly and are eager to go “Rambo” on Myers. Both do and say silly things. Every character does and says dumb things in this film. Much of the dialogue is pure camp.
What does work? The opening is great. It truly is something to see how Michael escapes the inferno and slaughters the team of firefighters.
For this film, Michael is on a bigger and bloodier rampage than ever before. For fans of practical gore FX, this film is old school, and the kill scenes are brutal, creative, and exciting. It is in having Michael Myers increase the viciousness of his kills where Green’s film finds its fire. Watching the many creative kills somewhat makes up for the absence of real tension, the main ingredient to any good Horror film.
Tim Alverson’s editing helps to unleash the power of Michael’s murderous spree as he does not quick cut (so the fashion these days). He holds on scenes of blood and body parts being slashed and mangled. Alverson gives us no reprieve from The Boogeyman and Michael Simmonds’ camera style is fluid as it moves through the eerie dark canvas, almost side by side with Myers.
John Carpenter (along with son Cody and Daniel Davies) gifted us another excellent score. The composer plays with familiar queues while creating new sounds that have a hint of the Italian group Goblin. The score is pure John Carpenter, and it is the one perfect piece of the film.
Green and his screenwriters missed the boat on this one. They blew the screenplay almost completely through stupid ideas and ridiculous callbacks (did we really need a reference to “The Fugitive”?). Many moments become a muddled mess, assuring the film has no structure.
“Halloween Kills” does not seem to remember what made Carpenter’s original so great. Director Green robs this film of any power. It is not scary, it has no coherent flow, it’s “commentary” on mob justice falls flat, and the brilliant linking of Laurie and Michael is disregarded.
All is not completely lost, as the kills are great, the opening is great, and Carpenter’s score is great. We can almost let them carry us through. Almost.
Next year we get the “final” chapter in the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode story, “Halloween Ends”.
The screenwriters announced they finished the script and have turned it in to John Carpenter, as he must sign off with his approval. Let us hope that he will take a closer look this time.
It is mind boggling how the filmmaker gave his blessing to the screenplay for “Halloween Kills”. Perhaps he just read the kill scenes. If that is all he looked at, it must have seemed liked the best slasher film ever made.
Next time, read the fine print John.
R, 106 Minutes, Universal Pictures, Blumehouse Productions