Halloween Kills

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The franchise as unkillable as Michael Myers himself returns with Halloween Kills, a direct continuation of 2018’s franchise reboot, Halloween. For those who don’t remember, it finally saw the masked psychopath consigned to an early grave, having been trapped by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) in a burning cellar from which there was no escape.

Except obviously there was, because here we are with Myers again on a killing spree, and there’s one more film before the curtain comes down (again, but who knows for how long) with 2022’s Halloween Ends.

Which makes Halloween Kills the middle film of three, and it feels like one, since it can neither strike out in a new direction nor bring things to a close. Instead, to add something to the mix, it’s decided to revisit characters from the first film, all the way back in 1978. They’re now knocking on a bit, of course, but Charles Cyphers (as Leigh Brackett), Kyle Richards (as Lindsey) and Nancy Stephens (Marion) will be geekbait for the lore fanatics, who can explain how come Marion is in this at all, since she was killed by Michael Myers in Halloween H2O. And while they’re at it they can weigh in on the merits of returning characters Tommy Doyle and Lonnie Elam as played by new actors Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Longstreet.

Both get a fair bit to do, most obviously Hall, who as the belligerent Tommy (a Myers victim who wears his survivor status with pride) is a focus for one chunk of the film. More generally, the action is divided into “out there” and “in here” realms. Out there is Michael and his territory, where a familiar rhythm soon establishes itself. Innocent person or persons (maybe black, maybe gay – hey, it’s the 21st century). It’s dark. There’s a noise. Was that a… oh shit it’s Michael Myers… screams, blood, death (several ingenious, some just a standard running-through with a blade). And it’s on to the next one. This soon gets predictable.

Michael Myers
Heeeeeere’s Michael!

Meanwhile, at the hospital where Laurie has been taken after being wounded at the end of the last film, ugliness is afoot. Largely led by a baseball-bat-wielding Tommy Doyle, a packlike crowd deaf to entreaties by law enforcement officers decide to take justice into the own hands. “Evil dies tonight” they chant, to the rhythm of “four more years” or “lock her up”. And as the mob gains momentum, the scenes at the Capitol in January 2021 rise unbidden into the mind (which must be confirmation bias because the entirety of this film was in the digital can by November 2019).

Some things remain effective, like Jamie Lee Curtis, increasingly looking like a sepia photo of a proud but doomed Cherokee chief, playing Laurie like some avenging banshee determined to meet the seemingly unkillable Michael with an unquenchable determination to do him in once and for all (one more film to wait for this, obvs). Hall is punchy as belligerent Tommy Doyle, Longstreet likeable as old stoner Lonnie. But above all it’s the vestigial reminders of the atmosphere of the original that continue to impress, bolstered by the fact that John Carpenter’s original soundtrack has been plundered – here a doomy synth, there a sequencing leitmotif suggesting a fast heartbeat.

If it’s never frightening, it does at least feel like a film that’s been made by a man who likes to pull the wings off insects. How did David Gordon Green, arthouse auteur of George Washington and All the Real Girls, end up here, in franchise extension territory? He’s doing a remake of The Exorcist next. Be afraid. Or perhaps don’t.

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

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