By Reed Ripley
Horror/Thriller | PG-13 | 1 hr 45 min
In Theaters and Streaming on Peacock
Halloween Kills doesn’t hide the ball (or the knife); the main attraction is right there in the title, and it never gets much deeper than that.
The film picks up right where 2018’s Halloween left off: with Michael Myers trapped in a burning basement and three generations of Strode women riding into their own version of a sunset in the back of a pickup. However, surprise surprise, Michael escapes, tearing (literally) through a squad of first responders in the process. As Michael carves a path of terror and death toward his childhood home, Haddonfield residents, including survivors from Michael’s first rampage 40 years ago, decide enough is enough and try to fight back.
Frustratingly, Jamie Lee Curtis, the original Scream Queen and always an integral part of successful Halloween entries, is barely in this film. They explain it away by saying Michael Myers was never hunting down Laurie, as he was only trying to get back to his childhood home, you see, but it comes off as extremely unsatisfying. It’s an attempt to distance this sequel from the myriad others through the decades that cast Michael and Laurie as intertwined, even to the point of being actual siblings, but that could have been done without completely punting the relationship, especially if the result was shunting the brilliant Curtis to the side.
Curtis’s absence also made the remaining cast’s flaws all the more apparent. None of them are particularly good; most seem overly eager to deliver their lines, perhaps because they know Michael’s knife is right around the corner to cut them out of the story. That is, all but Kyle Richards’s Lindsay Wallace (reprising her role from the original), whose character arc seems like it was tailored to convince her to participate. This is all mainly a product of the script, which is seemingly designed only to either reference the original Halloween, introduce characters to populate the story with victims, or kill off those victims in incredibly gory and gruesome ways. It all reeks of 80s B-movie fare, and not in a fun, campy way.
The original Halloween worked so well in large part due to its use of light and camerawork to convince its audience Michael could be in any frame, in any corner, at any time. That, combined with incredible restraint (Michael doesn’t kill anyone present-day until the final third), engendered an ever present sense of dread and tension that created one of the best horror movies of all time. None of that is present in Halloween Kills. The audience pretty much always knows when Michael’s about to pop up, and the only suspense comes in guessing how Michael’s going to rip the soul from the next person’s body. The original’s style is not the only path to a good Halloween film, and nor should it; reinvention and originality are necessary to push the genre forward. But if you’re not going to copy the original formula, you’ve got to replace it with something interesting, and that’s simply not the case here.
I suppose this film is for big Halloween fans who want an hour and a half stuffed with callbacks to the original and over-the-top, ridiculous kills from Michael Myers. If you fall into that category, congratulations. For the rest of us, there are plenty other, better films to satisfy your horror fix this spooky season.