The Halloween series continuity is the kind of beautiful mess that reminds us what horror fans will not only tolerate, but embrace. We’re here for Evil Dead 2 functioning as a “requel,” we’ll follow a map to decipher Texas Chainsaw media, and we’ve strolled the many paths of Laurie Strode. To tell the story of Haddonfield in 2018, 40 years after Michael Myers first terrorized those babysitters, Blumhouse employed David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley to create a fresh sequel in a brand-new continuity picking up where John Carpenter’s original installment left off. Second in this new trilogy, which promises a fresh take on the franchise that explores the trauma of the Strode family, comes Halloween Kills, a movie that immediately sidelines the Strode women in order to rehash elements of the original films.
After a cold open that takes us back to 1978, Halloween Kills picks up right where Halloween (the 2018 version; I didn’t name these, don’t look at me) left off. Much like the original first and second installments, this movie takes place immediately after the events of the Halloween (2018) with the three Strode women peeling off from the scene of the attempted massacre, screaming at emergency services not to save Michael and begging them to let him die. They don’t seem too fussed by it, though, since once they get to the hospital, they are content and confident Myers is dead. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has suffered wounds from her battle with The Shape and is thus immediately relegated to a hospital room and left on the bench for the remainder of the movie. She only pops up to contribute some incomprehensible monologues about Michael’s power that will remind you how incredible Donald Pleasance was at delivering the ramblings of Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978).
As for the remaining two Strode women, Karen (Judy Greer) spends her time trying to calmly tame a hospital mob and Allyson (Andi Matichak) joins a different mob bent on executing Myers. In some flimsy comment on “mob mentality,” and taking the law into your own hands, the younger Strode women become spectators in a story about original series side characters losing all self control and choosing violence. It’s not a narrative that’s just flimsy and half-baked, it’s also about as meaty as it was when the exact same thing happened in the last 15 minutes or so of Halloween 4. As a result, it ends up functioning as a “meanwhile” cutaway wraparound to a kill-compilation anthology. The remainder of the runtime is spent with vignettes of Myers brutally massacring Haddonfield residents. For gore hounds looking to see the clean Michael of 1978 abandoned in favor of a more Jason Voorhees type brutal killer, these titular kills are effective and pretty scary! Unfortunately, they mostly happen to characters we’ve no stake in, and the kills spared for the main cast are a lot less thrilling.
Throughout the tale of the escaped mental patient once again terrorizing this new-continuity Haddonfield, there are Easter eggs and nods that just can’t seem to let go of the original series. There’s the exciting return of Kyle Richards as Lindsey, Anthony Michael Hall as yet another take on Tommy Doyle, Nancy Stephens as Marion, and Robert Longstreet as Lonnie, all from Halloween(1978). The legacy characters don’t get much to do save for leading some chants and pointing at maps while coughing out unneeded exposition about the Haddonfield Boogeyman that implies he has some sort of regular pattern. Then there are the Halloween 2 references, a movie not in this continuity, like the razor blade in the candy, Ben Tramer (RIP Ben Tramer), and even a flashback to footage of Brackett’s daughter on a stretcher. This, combined with clunky attempts at resolving Halloween (2018) continuity errors, and new scenes that recontextualize the finale of Halloween(1978), this movie spends more time trying to explain things about other franchise installments than doing anything new. It’s messy and choppy and completely confused about what it’s trying to accomplish.
For all the fan-service missteps, there are some stellar carryovers that will make regulars squeal. The score, which brings back John Carpenter joined by Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, is a standout, and takes you back to that original Haddonfield in a magical way. The new mask is still cool, and the recreation of the 1978 mask by FX makeup designer, Christopher Nelson, is intricate and amazing and will make you shed any skepticism about the audacity of revisiting 1978 in favor of shouting about Nick Castle back in costume. Though the rehashing of old canon is tired, these are the successful beats that make this a Halloween movie, and guarantee we’ll line up for it, no matter how much the rest of it fails.
Halloween Kills isn’t about the Strode women, it’s about the trauma of the entire town of Haddonfield, and how that pushes residents to descend into a violent mob, shedding reason in favor of quick execution. Though it might have been a compelling tale of the lingering effects of the babysitter murders, the film instead comes together as a thin comment that spends more time saying out-of-canon character names than anything about paranoia as the true villain. Unmasking Myers; having Karen, once again, mutter “Gotcha”; and getting someone to bumble an old line about “one good scare” — are all cheap tricks that are nothing more than a cheap hardware store mask laid atop a grotesque feature.
Halloween Kills is available in theaters and on Peacock as of October 15, 2021.
A previous version of this review misstated which streaming service Halloween Kills is available on. It is available on Peacock, not Paramount+.
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Header Image Source: Universal Pictures