Like the recent Candyman, 2018’s Halloween didn’t just revive an old IP. It was a direct follow-up to the first, cancelling the many, many rote sequels that came after. It tried to summon the bold craft of the John Carpenter original. Could its own sequel (the first of two) keep that going? The first reviews say: maybe, possibly not.
Halloween Kills bowed at the Venice Film Festival, but the reviews, even the good ones, did not treat it as some cinematic work of art. Returning director David Gordon Green, writes The Hollywood Reporter, has made exactly the kind of witless, worthless sequel that bled the franchise dry in the 1980s and ’90s”:
“Evil dies tonight,” shout the inflamed townsfolk of Haddonfield, Illinois, more times than you can count in Halloween Kills. Or maybe it’s “A franchise dies tonight?” I might have misheard. Either way, this latest installment is like a latex ghoul mask so stretched and shapeless it no longer fits.
The sequel picks up where its predecessor — like the original, also called simply Halloween — left off, with Michael Myers (of course) not quite dead in that climactic house fire, and quick to take out the arriving first responders. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, a bundle of PTSD in the last one, is “basically sidelined in post-surgery recovery,” THR says.
The attention instead shifts to the populace of Haddonsfield, including the now-grown kids being babysat in the 1978 original, including Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Longstreet. Learning that Myers is back in action, they take to the streets, turning into vigilantes demanding his hide. But, Deadline argues, that doesn’t make for a thoughtful horror pic:
Never was there a film truer to its name. They’re sliced up with kitchen knives, hollowed out with a fluorescent strip light, bisected with a chain saw and impaled on banisters. The body count is phenomenal. We love this stuff. You know we do.
IndieWire was even less enthused:
And if this bloody entr’acte, whose title addition works as both noun and verb, has little to offer but a jacked up body count on a bed of fan service, it serves both with panache, charging forward as an almost elemental slasher outing unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. To paraphrase Ian Holm in that other late ’70s touchstone that spawned an unkillable franchise, you do have to admire its purity.
As was Variety:
Halloween night may be Michael Myers’ masterpiece, but “Halloween Kills” is no masterpiece. It’s a mess — a slasher movie that‘s almost never scary, slathered with “topical” pablum and with too many parallel plot strands that don’t go anywhere. Green, as clever a job as he did on the first film, wastes no time cutting back to where the “Halloween” series ultimately landed: in a swamp of luridly repetitive and empty sequels, with Michael turned into such an omnipresent icon that his image gets drained of any nightmare quality. He’s more like someone who belongs on a lunchbox. Curtis, so good in the last one, is mostly wasted this time (you can feel the film trying to think up things for her to do), as Laurie’s daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) do most of the heavy lifting.
Ditto The Playlist:
What tension can there be when there’s a killer who is virtually unkillable and absolutely ubiquitous? It’s genuinely striking how few fake-outs or red herrings or surprises there are. Whenever someone hears a floorboard creak, Michael’s in the house. No matter which car they get into, Michael’s in the back seat. The shadow at the window? That’ll be Michael. Every back door that’s mysteriously ajar? Why, hey there, Michael. Green’s tactic in 2018 was to make a sequel to the 1978 film that simply ignored the fact that nine other “Halloween” films happened in the meantime. This was the best choice he, along with co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, could have made because all of those films are, to use the correct critical term, shite. But out with the bathwater, this time has gone the baby; in an effort to remake and refresh the mythology of the franchise, the writers (this time minus Fradley and plus Scott Teems) have strayed dangerously close to getting rid of it altogether, virtually destroying the one relationship of any substance at all, and the only one we really give a damn about: that semi-mystical, weirdly symbiotic link between Laurie Strode and her eternal faceless nemesis. Of all the things “Halloween Kills” had to kill, why that?
Not everyone left disappointed. /Film argued that it took a genuinely novel turn:
But as far as franchise installments go, Green and co-writers Danny McBride & Scott Teems show far less interest in checking off familiar signifiers for fan service. After proving they could relaunch “Halloween,” they depart a bit from the formula to exciting and energizing effect. It’s a worthy series entry that manages that tricky balance of providing enough of what long-time fans expect while also bringing a unique reflection and perspective to the well-known property.
The Wrap even found it deep.
But “Halloween Kills” is no mere gore-fest — it’s about the generational trauma bestowed upon Haddonfield. The action sequences are more than just action sequences; in Green’s social allegory, they are a way for citizens to confront their trauma, their rage, their oppression, and to reclaim their power and agency through revenge. We see Haddonfield not just as a victim of a masked assailant, but also a victim of larger forces who will stop at nothing to dehumanize their community.
The Guardian‘s Jonathan Romney, however, seems to think it’s just fine, writing “ in contrast with George Romero’s zombie films, where political allegory is the whole point – we’re really here for the slaughter, and the reliable repetition.” He even sees fatigue taking over its longtime baddie, whose “featureless mask has now taken on a slightly rueful expression, as if he knows he’s likely to be on carving duty for a very long haul yet.”
Halloween Kills hits theaters October 15.