Halloween Kills, the second entry of the planned trilogy from David Gordon Green — Pineapple Express (2008), Joe (2013), Stronger (2017) —, is something approximating hot and bloody garbage made with studio money and genre formula and not much else. It is packed with brutal kill scenes, perplexing survival instincts, and empty dialogue. It is unbelievably fast-paced and full of action. Also unbelievably stupid.
Think of it as a 105-minute highlight reel of Michael Myers kill scenes held together (barely) by some words from the English language and objects and lighting and angry townspeople chanting “evil dies tonight!”
The story flirts with a critique of the dangers of mob mentality, in a superficial and half-hearted way, like a "theme" serving as filler to the trilogy filler that is this movie. That covers the thematic content.
It’s good that Michael doesn't speak, because it means all they have to get right is the look and mannerisms of the character not to fuck up that part — and they don't. The burnt mask looks good, and he moves in the right way while slicing and dicing his way through a ramshackle plot.
However, they forgot to surround him with elements that could combine with the iconic autumnal bogeyman to make a horror movie worth remembering. Jamie Lee Curtis is there, yes, but she doesn't have much of a part.
What does this middle chapter have to offer? An alarm clock reminder that Halloween movies are being made. The studio put millions of dollars into it, and that's what you see on the screen. The credits look very slick and professional. All the parts do. You can see they spent a reasonable amount of money.
And on some level the movie can be enjoyed. It has a Slasher-tastic feel, like formulaic early 2000s horror movies of the I Know What You Did Last Summer variety, which you don't see too often these days. It has some sense of fun, and a wink-wink element (actually I'm not so sure it's winking, but I'd like to think so).
Half an hour in we're in bloodbath territory, and the kill scenes are cut from a pretty classical slasher mould. The bar scenes are kind of fun. There are carefree, simple, popcorn-munching vibes. It allows you to watch a new Halloween film for Halloween this year (after waiting a year for it!).
It never asks you to think — and don't try, because you'll confuse yourself trying to make sense out of what the people on screen are saying and doing. Really, it is better to turn your brain off completely and zone out for a while. Get the largest of the large sizes of popcorn. One each.
So it's garbage… but it's also one level above godawful. There is room to fall below this, we must remember. It will find an audience, and that's the point. It's a cynical and safe horror movie.
When the credits roll there is a feeling of relief that they got the professional-looking titles on the screen before they fucked things up more than they did.
Halloween Kills will turn off a lot of people from the idea of coming back to watch the third film, but not completely. There is still some hope, after the opening entry being pretty decent, that the final entry, free to resolve the story any way it likes, could do something worth talking about.
James Lanternman writes movie reviews, fiction, essays, and moonlit thoughts. Reach him at [email protected].
Previously… The French Dispatch (2021): A Movie Review