Halloween Kills reminds us why the franchise is so unkillable, with its bloodiest body count yet

The second film in a reinvigorated Halloween sequel trilogy, Halloween Kills is overly focused on the past and criminally sidelines Jamie Lee Curtis, writes Travis Johnson.

If it weren’t for ‘unnecessary’ sequels, the slasher genre would be rather more thinly populated.

2018’s Halloween by director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride seemed like a perfect climax to the saga of Michael Myers. Even though it ignored every addition to the franchise since John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 original, it felt like an apotheosis, the ultimate showdown between the blank-masked killer and the babysitter-turned-OAP-survivalist Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

But instead, we get a sequel—the first of two—that picks up immediately where Halloween ’18 left off. As Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) hare away from the burning house in which Myers has finally, fatally, been trapped, emergency services pass them—lights flashing, sirens blaring. A few dead firemen later, Michael Myers is back to menace Haddonfield, Illinois once again.

The most interesting thing Halloween Kills does is try to depict how Myers’ predations have had an effect on the town itself. With Laurie hospitalised, Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club) takes a prominent role as Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was looking after in the original film and the unofficial leader of a group of Halloween survivors, including OGs Lindsey Wallace (one of the babysat from ’78, played by original actor Kyle Richards), Marion Chambers (Dr. Loomis’s nurse, played by original actor Nancy Stephens), and Lonnie Elam (the older bully from the first film, with Robert Longstreet replacing original actor Brent Le Page).

Everyone’s carrying a surfeit of trauma, and as the bodies pile up—and boy, do they ever—Tommy galvanises the townsfolk into a vigilante mob to do what the cops seemingly can’t: stop Michael Myers.

The cops are most prominently represented by Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), who is grappling with his decision to arrest rather than kill Myers back in the day, and we also get a return from Charles Cyphers as former sheriff Leigh Brackett, on whose watch the original slaughter took place.

Halloween Kills goes to great lengths to sketch out the connective tissue between the current situation and the original film. Why is Hawkins so determined to stop Myers? What ever happened to Dr Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, played by Donald Pleasance? Frequent flashbacks (too frequent, really—the pacing suffers) take us back to ’78 again and again to answer these questions and more.

In the present day, however, we’re more focused on mass murder, and the body count in Halloween Kills is astronomical. The violence here has a tenor new to the franchise, to my eyes; Michael is a relentless butcher, but his cruelty is a result of that relentlessness. He’ll simply stab (or beat, or strangle, or…) a person until they stop moving, and if that takes one thrust or 20, well, it’s gonna happen. He’s a force of nature, as remorseless and impersonal as a storm. Green stages an impressive variety of murders for our entertainment, and anyone here for the splatter of the matter is not going to be disappointed.

Narratively, Halloween Kills suffers from middle movie syndrome, and when the end credits roll it doesn’t take long to realise that we’re not a great deal of distance from where we started, with only a woefully inaccurate population census to show for our troubles. Moreover, with Laurie and her family effectively sidelined by injury and circumstance for the bulk of the running time, we don’t get a lot of time with what should be our main characters. Halloween Kills feels more like a parallel story than a continuation.

Still, it’s a reasonably good time and if we’re going to grade on the curve (which the slasher genre, with all its endless sequels, demands), Halloween Kills is one of the better entries into the franchise. Having said that, we’re going to have to wait for Halloween Ends to see if Michael Myers gets the send off he deserves.