A blood-soaked yet predictable sequel


movie review

Running time: 105 min. Rated: R (brutal violence, profanity). In theaters and streaming on Peacock

“Halloween Kills” knows what you’re here for. It’s right there in the title! On that score, the new movie does not disappoint: Serial killer Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), a k a the Shape, carves a gory, twisted trail of murders through poor old Haddonfield, Illinois, in this grim sequel to 2018’s “Halloween.”

That’s a movie you ought to see first, because director David Gordon Green picks up where its events left off: Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) compound aflame and Myers trapped in the basement. What could go wrong?

“Halloween Kills” flashes between the very first movie, in 1978, and the current plot, set in 2018. Their connective tissue is the handful of Haddonfield residents who survived the initial encounter with the Shape, including Laurie and Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton, and Thomas Mann in flashbacks), and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), who as a boy was one of Laurie’s babysitting charges. Hall’s Tommy is a red-faced powder keg under a thin veneer of good ol’ boy charm. Galvanizing the town residents into a mob to take down Myers, he starts a refrain of “Evil dies tonight!” and leads a rampage through the halls of the local hospital — which bears a curious resemblance to footage of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Judy Greer (from left), Jamie Lee Curtis and Andi Matichak play three generations of women stalked by Michael Myers.
©Universal/Courtesy Everett Col

If Green is going for cultural commentary, he drops that thread pretty quickly — along with his interest in Laurie. Curtis gave a Linda Hamilton-reminiscent performance in the last installment, her tough and twitchy character redeemed as the killer resurfaced. Here, she spends much of the movie in a hospital bed or writhing on the ground. Her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) do more of the heavy lifting — and shrieking. At least Curtis gets the film’s lone note of levity, as Laurie stoically jabs an injectable painkiller into her own butt cheek.

Close-up of Michael Meyers
James Jude Courtney plays the psychopath behind the mask.
©Universal/Courtesy Everett Col

Meanwhile, Michael Myers — once a demented little boy in the body of a hulking man — has morphed into a supervillain. He’s all but unkillable, his rubber mask so much a part of him that it seems to register subtle emotions. Being a murder machine kinda takes the tension out of victim-stalking, doesn’t it? Once Michael’s soulless eyes lock onto a target, the next few minutes are a foregone conclusion.

Green doubles down on stomach-churning violence as the Shape slices and impales and eye-gouges his way around town. He’s an equal opportunity killer, with victims ranging from teens to old folks. As usual, he heads back home, where a gay couple (Michael McDonald and Scott MacArthur) have spruced up the place, and relish living in the long-ago crime scene where young Myers stabbed his sister to death.

Second films in trilogies are often the toughest to pull off. Maybe Green’s final chapter, “Halloween Ends,” will redeem what he’s done here, which ultimately feels like very little progress at all.

Spare a thought for the original “Halloween,” whose iconic scares were nearly bloodless, fueled by John Carpenter’s brilliant soundtrack and what we thought we spotted lurking in the shadows. Perhaps gore spatter is inevitable this late in the franchise, but I’ll still burn a candle for the old school, when throats didn’t have to be ripped out at surgically close levels to get us to feel something.