Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann. Directed by David Gordon Green.
David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel Halloween might have been a loving homage to John Carpenter’s genre-defining classic, but it feels like a cool customer when compared to the nostalgia overload on display here.
Following directly on from the last film, Halloween Kills sees Laurie in hospital following her run-in with Michael Myers, as the news of the rampage spreads through the town, survivors of the original 78 spree come together to stop Michael and reclaim their lives.
Starting with an extended flashback set in 1978, Green lays out his table fairly quickly. Moreso than before, this is a film that is steeped in the history of not only the first film but also of the series as a whole. We see Will Patton’s Hawkins as a young man facing off against Michael in a move that would haunt him for the rest of his life. It’s a strong opening that offers Green the chance to ape the style of Carpenter’s directing down to the film grain and the manner in which it was edited and shot.
Following this Green, along with co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems opt for a strange choice to sideline Laurie and to focus on the wider community. It feels strange given that Jamie Lee Curtis is still such a magnetic screen presence and filled the last film with a burning desire to tell a story about the horrors inflicted on women.
What made Halloween 2018 so strong was the way it showed the trauma that Michael has visited on Laurie had affected her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak). This time the focus is much more on the community at large. People from the original film – Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards and Nancy Stephens – as well as characters from the original now recast – Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle and Robert Longstreet as Lonnie Elam – come in to remind us of the original.
The film still tackles the idea of trauma, but this time what happens to a community when a traumatic event happens. What happened to Laurie on Halloween night 1978 didn’t happen in a vacuum, the entire town of Haddonfield was affected, those who survived were forced to do so knowing no one can ever understand their pain.
One telling moment sees Hall’s Tommy look Laurie in the face and stoically tell her “forty years ago you protected me, tonight I’m going to protect you”. The idea of a community uniting to stop Michael is an interesting one, and one that also does so to move away from the Laurie v Michael idea, though that is still the most compelling aspect.
The film, while a shade under two hours, feels breakneck in it’s pace. After the moody opening flashback, we’re thrown headfirst like a Michael Myers death into the story. This is a film more into killing than building tension or character. Michael hacks away at everyone he comes into contact with – boasting what might be the biggest kill count per slasher film. Some are cool – lightbulb in the face, door kick gunshot – some are stupid. But the film is so frantic to get to it’s big finale it never fully stops to see if it’s kills are landing or what the effect is.
When the film is on Laurie and Hawkins, it’s a compelling meditation on grief and trauma, when it goes to the mob it’s much less interesting. The film’s slavish desire to be in with Carpenter’s original is undone by a callous disregard for any of the legacy characters – including Michael. An interesting scene of Michael confronted and without mask is done in the most obvious way when it could have explored who Michael actually is.
That said, the film does leave some promise for the third (fourth) film Halloween Ends, but certain character choices will alienate audiences and the fact that this is not another showcase for Curtis is sorely felt.