Halloween Kills

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For a movie that twists itself into a pretzel trying to tie in to the original, Halloween Kills feels miles apart from John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic. The 2018 Halloween reboot, to which this is a sequel, scrapped all the other entries in the franchise, positioning itself as the true follow-up. It worked, as there was little need to follow any of the by-this-point-obliterated continuity of the series. Halloween Kills goes the opposite direction, endlessly dragging things out of the past.

Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode who, at the end of the previous movie, believed she'd killed Michael Myers. Nope! He survived and is continuing his violent rampage through Haddonfield. In a bad choice of epic proportions, it takes almost a full hour before Laurie becomes a prominent figure in the story. Instead, Halloween Kills focuses on other characters, including the same-sex couple who live in Michael's old house, and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), the boy Laurie babysat and protected in the original. He organizes the town's residents into a lynch mob, with the killer as their target.

Part of the pleasure of the 2018 Halloween was that it was Laurie's story. Michael was the antagonist, but the thrust of the plot was her coming face-to-face with the person who significantly traumatized her decades before. Keeping her sidelined in favor of other characters with whom we have no emotional connection immediately saps this picture of suspense. We don't care about the other people, we care about her.

Aside from too much time spent away from Laurie, Halloween Kills has an abundance of flashback scenes and self-referential bits. Again and again, it turns the plot into a string of easter eggs, so the audience will have jolts of recognition. The late Donald Pleasance is digitally inserted in order for his Dr. Loomis character to make a cameo. Two other minor players from the '78 Halloween – Tommy's friend Lindsey and Dr. Loomis' assistant Marion – are here too, working alongside Tommy. A subplot takes us back to show the cop, Hawkins, who arrested Michael after his initial murder spree. Devoting that much time to previous events in the overall story keeps momentum from building. The movie almost feels like it's playing in reverse.

Michael remains a compelling horror villain, although he's a little too nasty this time. Violence is part and parcel of the franchise, of course, yet the killing here is especially mean-spirited. For instance, an unlucky woman gets a shattered fluorescent light bulb jammed through her neck, and that's one of the nicer murders. Director David Gordon Green lingers on the gory mayhem to the point that it becomes more stomach-churning than scary. When you look back at Carpenter's picture, the violence is fairly restrained. Here, it's constantly in your face.

Curtis is good in her limited capacity, as is Judy Greer as her daughter Karen. Halloween Kills does not give Laurie and Michael any scenes together, though, and that's indicative of the overall problem. The focus is all out of whack. Halloween Kills is the second part of a planned trilogy. Halloween set it up, the forthcoming Halloween Ends will conclude it. That leaves Halloween Kills struggling to find something to do in order to fill out that middle section. As such, it's a 105-minute placeholder, delaying the Laurie/Michael showdown we want to see and biding time so that three new movies can be squeezed out of the series.

Is this the worst Michael Myers entry? No, that would be either Rob Zombie's 2009 Halloween 2 or 2002's Halloween: Resurrection. Nevertheless, Halloween Kills is definitely down in the basement with them.

out of four

Halloween Kills is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.