I remember back in the mists of time when I first saw the trailer to the notoriously wonky Halloween 5, I was excited by a seemingly throwaway line uttered in the gravelly tones of the voice over man. “MICHAEL MYERS LIVES!” rumbled the old pro, “BUT THIS TIME THEY’RE READY!” – cue the image of our resident Mister Myers trying to bust through a door while a hail of bullets pepper the surrounding area.
It captured my imagination at the time because I thought the idea for a beleaguered town finally standing up for itself as one after years of terror and death was an incredibly original concept for a slasher sequel. Of course Halloween 5 ultimately did not go down that route and instead chose to be the raging dumpster fire that still winds me up today; however, what goes around in the town of Haddonfield, most definitely comes around and this exact premise is what fuels the plot of David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills.
After three generations of Strode women managed to finally beat down and trap serial killer Michael Myers in a house rigged to roast him like a dead-eyed thanksgiving turkey, matriarch Laurie, her daughter Karen and her granddaughter Allyson race to get to the local hospital in order to get their gaping wounds tended to. However, a bunch of fire fighters who have arrived to put out the raging inferno inadvertently sets Michael free who proceeds to show his gratitude by violently granting them all one way tickets to the afterlife and before you know it, Myers continues his rampage, striking as brutally and randomly as he ever has before.
However, the townsfolk of Haddonfield have had enough of living in fear and have decided to pool their resources in an attempt to smoke out the shadowy slasher and put him in the ground once and for all, so ring leader and former victim Tommy Doyle enlists a group made up of fellow survivors and well meaning citizens and heads out onto the night in order to be the best damn lynch mob they can be.
Predictably, Michael doesn’t give the slightest of fucks about any of this and continues on with a blood bath that seems to be cutting a literal path back to his old family home while taking the odd time out to eviscerate any vigilante who feels emboldened enough to fuck around and find out thanks to the nifty “Evil Dies Tonight” slogan that Tommy has everyone chanting.
But everyone seems to be pulling in different directions – Laurie has been allowed to think her efforts actually succeeded while Karen is convinced Michael will be coming back to the hospital to finish her mother off and while all this is going on, the townspeople’s rage is steadily growing to a dangerously unfocused crescendo. Who else will Halloween kill?
So to address the first, major point of Halloween Kills: director David Gordon Green has managed to turn out, for better or worse, the single most largest and sprawling slasher movie ever conceived. It encompasses an entire town, has a huge speaking cast, contains massive, knife-based set pieces and even contains that usual Blumhouse habit for obvious politics (the deliberately irritating Evil Dies Tonight plays like it’s a damn MAGA campaign slogan) and thus doesn’t feel like your average neo-slasher – but then you get the idea that that’s been Gordon Green’s plan all along; to make the kind of Halloween movie that’s never been allowed to exist before.
Fittingly, it’s somewhat of a double edged blade as the director’s plan to expand the genre may push it into some interesting new areas, but it also exposes quite a few things the humble slasher isn’t quite so great at and the main one seems to be the incredibly varied selection of IQs we have on show here which stretch from people endless theorizing about what seems to drive Michael (all usually made up on the spot by a character who has no idea what they’re talking about) to a selection of townsfolk who seem to have all the survival skills of a terminally depressed lemming who choose the rather novel plan of virtually hurling themselves onto Myers’ razor sharp weapons the first opportunity they get. This is the main thing that might make you clench the seat of your cinema seat (or couch) in annoyance the most and even though the appearance of multiple, idiotic dumbasses is hardly a shocker for a slasher film, a later scene involving an entire hospital collapsing into chaos comes too close to ridiculousness for comfort as it seems to be trying to land a stinging jab by riffing on Trump followers infamously storming the nation’s capital.
Yet, despite all the things that simply don’t work thanks to it’s enlarged canvas, when Halloween Kills gets something right it almost feels transcendent; while some rightly may balk at The Shape suddenly going from an opportunistic assassin to someone who racks up impressive melee kills like Kane from the WWE violently spasming on LSD, the scenes where Big Mike mops up a group of luckless fire fighters are legitimately impressive and his murders in general are spectacularly grim – in fact the film, at times, even manages to make Rob Zombie’s couple of efforts seem reasonable in comparison, something I didn’t think was even possible.
Also scoring high with the general, epic nature of Halloween Kills intimidating misery is John Carpenter’s score, which underpins the futility of going face to face with The Shape with a booming sense of oppression that far exceeds anything the legendary composer/director/producer has attempted before and it goes far beyond simply just putting more base under horrors most famous theme…
In comparison, a lot of the performances are fairly uneven. Curtis still gives great Strode even though she spends all of the movie convalescing and doesn’t spend a single scene with her nemesis, while Judy Greer finally has a bit more to do as her daughter; but Anthony Michael Hall spends most of the movie looking like a pumpkin with angry brows as he “heroically” marches his outraged neighbours into the path of a raging serial killer.
David Gordon Green should be applauded for trying so hard to put out a sequel that isn’t just a carbon copy of his 2018 predecessor and when he gets things right he knocks it out of the part (the tonally perfect flashbacks that take us back to 1978 are stunning), but it’s almost as if the very nature of the slasher genre can’t handle the demands he’s asking of it. Still, as the middle film of this “legacy trilogy”, Halloween Kills manages to leave things in an interesting place for the climatic Halloween Ends and thus acquires itself nicely by the end credits despite all the vigilantes who can’t shoot and a heroine who can’t fight.
It ain’t perfect and Halloween Kills’ desire to do something different frequently causes noticable missteps, but it’s sheer ambition means that even after all this time, Michael Myers still hasn’t lost his ponderous, ominous step.