In Halloween Kills, the citizens of Haddonfield are fed up with the bogeyman. No matter how much time has passed by, the Illinois town can’t seem to break free from the traumatic events of 40 years ago when Michael Myers went on his infamous killing spree. (In the needlessly confusing timeline of the Halloween franchise, the 2018 Halloween and Halloween Kills are direct sequels to the original movie, effectively decanonizing the rest of the series.) But now that Myers is once again on the loose—albeit for, technically, only the second time—the townsfolk are ready to fight back. Led by Tommy Doyle, the little boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original Halloween who now looks like the heavy in a gangster movie, the people of Haddonfield let out their rallying cry: “Evil dies tonight!” Except that—[narrator voice]—evil does not die tonight.
That’s not exactly spoiler material, considering that Halloween Kills will be followed by an already greenlighted sequel, Halloween Ends, due out next year. (Maybe evil will die in 2022, though expecting Michael Myers to be vanquished for good is like a wrestler turning their back on the Undertaker when they think he’s down for the count.) Halloween Kills foregrounds the larger Haddonfield community almost by necessity—since the sequel picks up right where the previous movie left off, Laurie Strode is busy recovering in the hospital from her second face-off with Myers. But sidelining a horror icon like Jamie Lee Curtis in the spirit of narrative consistency puts the film in an unenviable position, one that is further hampered by director and cowriter David Gordon Green’s desire to inject high-minded ideas into a movie whose selling point is watching a masked psychopath come up with creative new ways to murder people.
While the 2018 Halloween was celebrated as a return to form for the franchise, one of the biggest takeaways from the film was how it grappled with Laurie Strode’s trauma. By painting a sympathetic portrait of Laurie’s PTSD and how it negatively affected her relationship with her family, Halloween explored the heavy emotional toll of being conditioned to expect monsters lurking around every corner—and, eventually, the catharsis of a survivor getting revenge against the perpetrator of their nightmares. Though not explicitly written with the #MeToo movement in mind, the fact that Halloween arrived in the middle of this societal reckoning certainly gave the film added weight. Anchored by Curtis’s terrific lead performance, Halloween was very much Laurie’s movie, and with the final image of Myers surrounded by flames in her booby-trapped basement, it appeared that evil was truly extinguished.
Of course, Halloween’s impressive box-office haul all but guaranteed a follow-up, and so just as quickly as Laurie’s house is burning down does the local fire department arrive on the scene to undo all her hard work. (Despite being rescued, Myers isn’t in a thankful mood.) With Myers back on the loose, the rest of Haddonfield is finally brought up to speed—incredibly, the events of these two movies are happening over one very long and violent Halloween evening. And by pitting a glorified neighborhood watch against the legendary horror villain, Halloween Kills delivers an absurd recipe for racking up a body count with a bunch of expendable characters.
That part of the movie pretty much sells itself: a slasher flick whose idea of a new challenge is imagining how Myers might kill someone with a light fixture. (Spoiler alert: It’s pretty gnarly.) But like its predecessor, Halloween Kills also aspires to Say Something About Modern Society, with much more diminishing returns. When Myers escaped in 2018’s Halloween, he was aboard a bus with other patients from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium that crashed in the middle of the woods. While some of the patients were detained, others are still on the loose in Haddonfield. And because nobody knows what Myers actually looks like, a person wearing one of the asylum’s uniforms becomes the target for an angry mob—complete with someone holding a literal pitchfork.
The half-hearted stab at social commentary about the dangers of becoming consumed by hatred and hysteria gives the impression that Green wants to bridge the gap between so-called “elevated horror” and the baser thrills of the slasher subgenre. (In an interview with Uproxx, Green said that Halloween Ends will incorporate the “worldwide pandemic and peculiar politics” into its story, as if anyone is clamoring for punch lines about Michael Myers and mask mandates.) But what’s so wrong about going all in on being a lowbrow slasher movie in the first place?
When Halloween Kills stops trying to compare Haddonfield’s mob mentality to the world we living in, the film still knows how to have good, stupid, gory fun. There’s a moment where a woman points a gun at Myers, who kicks a car door so that when she pulls the trigger her arm is contorted to aim directly at her face—the kind of finishing move that even John Wick would tip his hat to. Characters are so devoid of simple logic or any sense of self-preservation that the couple living in Myers’s childhood home (!) decide to investigate an upstairs intruder by arming themselves with a tiny charcuterie board knife (??!?!!) instead of, you know, running away or calling the police. Other townsfolk, meanwhile, preach the importance of strength in numbers before deciding to split up for their inevitable death scenes. It’s ridiculous, it’s perfect, and it’s everything you’d want out of the twelfth installment of a long-running horror franchise that, much like its killer, refuses to die.
To paraphrase another iconic slasher franchise, the fundamental appeal of Halloween is as simple as Michael Myers: There’s something really scary about a guy with a knife who just … snaps. That kind of back-to-basics approach, along with a renewed focus on Laurie Strode, is all Green’s trilogy needs to go out on a high note. Otherwise, we might want to hold Halloween Ends to its promise.