Halloween Kills is a horror sequel that very much plays to the template of a franchise follow-on – at least for most of its running time.
After the phenomenal success of 2019’s Halloween movie, that took us back to the roots of the enduring franchise and moved Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode right back into the spotlight, two further films in the series were quickly greenlit. This is the first of them, a direct follow-on to its immediate predecessor, that comes bundled with the necessary explaining for those who aren’t up to date with it all.
A lot of explaining, in fact. We get elements of the original film explained, chunks of the last movie, and characters who wrapped into 1970s era of the series are (re)introduced to us. On the plus side, it means you can go in with no foreknowledge. On the minus side, it’s a bit of an information dump, albeit liberally spread out.
The guts – chortle – are still the same. Michael Myers wears a mask, and kills people. People try to stop him, and – spoiler – are invariably unsuccessful. The one person who continually tends to be left standing, even though she’s carted off to hospital at the start of this one, is Strode.
Penned by David Gordon Green, Scott Teems and Danny McBride, the bulk of Halloween Kills plays very much to a traditional horror sequel playbook. It’s more of the same, in this case barely nudging the story forward an inch across its hour-and-three-quarters running time. There’s an element of rinse and repeat about this. Green also directs, and he stages a series of scenes where we’re introduced to people, usually with a nice shot of their shoes. Then at some point Michael Myers is dropped in. He walks around like a Terminator, and for much of the film people struggle to lay a glove on him. We instead get a growing collection of gruesome, sometimes imaginative kills. Then in come some more characters and it stars again.
It feels like someone having a play if anything, and that in itself is no bad thing. Green is absolutely at home in staging his horror sequences, and tied to the never-less-than-excellent score from Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter and Daniel A Davies, it’s solidly entertaining shlock.
But there are only occasional flashes of ambition, and that’s really a pity that they don’t hang around long. There’s a sequence as the film progresses where an angry mob starts to come together, along with an angry mob hive mind. This felt interesting, and quickly built, but the gaze of the film is less on ideas such as that, and more on getting us to the next kill. I’d also suggest that giving top billing to Jamie Lee Curtis here is disingenuous: if anything, I felt her screentime in Halloween Kills amounts to a generous cameo, and she’s very much missed.
On the plus side, this does give a bit more space to the wonderful Judy Greer, and her splendid Christmas jumper. Furthermore, I though a sequence up front setting the scene from back in the 1970s was terrific. There are numerous positives in a horror film very keen to entertain you.
Yet the film is nonetheless undercut too by the fact that it’s pretty well known that there’s another movie a year down the line. That it can’t do anything that won’t leave the main characters on the bench for that one. As such, it gets to the point where it feels as if you could douse Michael Myers with acid, stab him with a trident, shoot him 15 times in the brain and lock him in a room with Boris Johnson, and he’d still walk out unaltered. That robs the film of genuine peril, and what you get from it is down to how much you enjoy an old-fashioned slasher movie.
I quite like them, and was never bored during this. But I never shook the feeling that it takes for granted more of the goodwill than it earns.
Halloween Kills arrives in cinemas on October 15th.
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