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Dir: David Gordon Green. Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall. Cert 18, 105 mins
Michael Myers has a brand new look. Having emerged from the fiery trap set upon him in 2018’s Halloween (both a direct sequel and soft reboot of the 1978 classic), his inverse William Shatner mask now looks a little burnt and drooping on one side. It lends that inert face an entirely new expression in Halloween Kills – a little sad, almost noble. After all this violence, has it finally come time for Michael to reflect on his crimes? Could there be the flicker of a soul in there? Somewhere?
But don’t hope for any answers in Halloween Kills. This lurching, directionless corpse of a film relies far too much on the knowledge that it has one more instalment – next year’s Halloween Ends – in which to figure out what the whole blasted trilogy should be about. A continuation of the 2018 film almost to the very second, the sequel picks up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) as they ride away from Michael and the raging inferno that was once their home. Laurie was stabbed in the previous film, so spends much of Halloween Kills unconscious, in surgery, or high on pain medication in a hospital bed. It’s odd in itself not to keep her at the centre of the film. The 2018 movie, after all, used Laurie’s story as a grand thesis on trauma – how it captured her soul and damned her to remain Michael’s victim for life, along with how it’s seeped into the blood of her progeny.
Here, director David Gordon Green, alongside co-writers ââScott Teems and Danny McBride (of Eastbound & Down fame), pull back to look at the wider, radiating trauma inflicted on Laurie’s hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. We’re reunited with two of the children Laurie was babysitting on that fateful night in 1978: Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall, taking over the role from Brian Andrews) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), alongside Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), the former assistant to Michael’s psychiatrist. When it becomes clear that the killer has no intention of dying anytime soon, the people of Haddonfield all rally under Tommy’s leadership.
That’s when things begin to fall apart. There’s a crucial line where Curtis, formidable as ever as Laurie, growls into the camera that “well, the system failed”. But as soon as Halloween Kills starts to inch towards a socially conscious tale about community organisation overcoming failures of the police state, it changes tack. It becomes a story about the dangers of vigilantism and a society driven by fear, while never quite settling on whether Michael is himself a victim of trauma or simply a walking, stabbing metaphor. He was always the latter in John Carpenter’s original: the pure bogeyman, every suburban anxiety condensed into one. It doesn’t mean that Green shouldn’t challenge that legacy. But it would require greater confidence than we ever see on screen.
It’s a waste because, as a director, he clearly understands how a Halloween film should look, sound, and move. The gore is impressive, the interweaving of Carpenter’s original theme never feels excessive, while the nimble camerawork recreates that intense feeling of paranoia that ran through the horror films of the Seventies and Eighties. But these touches were already present in its far superior predecessor. As a thoroughly modern, self-reflective revival of one of the most famous horror films of all time, 2018’s Halloween felt like a small miracle. Its sequel suggests that Green shouldn’t have pushed his luck.