de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

Delivering on its amusingly blunt title, Halloween Kills does exactly that; it kills, and quite brutally. Through all the previous eleven films in the franchise — ten, if you exclude Season of the Witch — we’ve witnessed Michael Myers dispose of human beings through a myriad of ways. Here, bodies are dismembered, disbarred, sliced-and-diced, etc. to no end. If I could give four stars to a film for it’s body count, you bet Halloween Kills aces that book. What’s so frustrating, however, is how confident director David Gordon Green is at giving you the bare essentials for a satisfying modern slasher, but completely whiff it in areas that would otherwise transcend the genre. What follows is essentially a cinematic equivalent of eating a savory burger with no bun.

Before returning to the moment where the previous film ended, with Michael Myers trapped inside Laurie Strode’s burning house, Halloween Kills opens with an extended flashback to the fateful night of October 31st, 1978. An interesting idea now that these films have erased the events of Halloween 2 and the proceeding sequels entirely, Green follows a young Officer Hawkins (Thomas Mann) responding to the call of a man wearing a white mask stalking babysitters. What’s unique about this opening, before it takes a turn for the worse, is how it expands the scope of Haddonfield and introduces new perspectives to events we’ve all been familiar with for ages. Before the cold open caps off with an ill-advised uncanny valley replica of Donald Pleasance that startles more than it does awe, Green effectively brings us back to the setting of the original classic.

Flash forward to the end of the 2018 Halloween, word of Michael’s rampage — and later, escape — hits the residents of Haddonfield. The townsfolk, led by Tommy Doyle — played by Anthony Michael Hall, take matters into their own hands and set out to find Michael Myers and kill him once and for all. Meanwhile, Laurie, Karen and Allyson are rushed to the hospital after their battle with The Shape as the town descends into chaos. While far from perfect, David Gordon Green’s Halloween succeeded in the areas most crucial in reigniting the essence of the original. Here, Green, along with returning co-writer/producer Danny McBride, and new co-writer Scott Teems, continue to excel in where they deliver most prominently, but suffer from yet another disjointed, tonally confused film that just can’t help but satisfy the cravings audiences so desire from this franchise.

As promised in the title, the kills in Halloween Kills are worth the admission price alone. With gnarly practical effects, not to mention some highly impressive stunt and effects work, Michael Myers is portrayed as more maniacal and sinister than ever before. If Rob Zombie’s Michael was a lumbering brute that hacked and butchered his victims into pieces as quickly as possible, Green’s Myers, of course taking the baton from John Carpenter, revels in the viciousness of his hunt, with occasionally shocking results. An early sequence where Michael absolutely desecrates a squad of firefighters is shot with a visceral brutality, but with an elegance Green so vividly captured in the 2018 film. If Green used his camera to capture Michael coming back to his hallowed grounds of Haddonfield with elements of awe and horror in the previous film, here he captures Michael as a true boogeyman; a shark that’s been battered and bruised, and is ready to slaughter anything in his path. There’s also one particularly grotesque homage to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch that’s among the films more inspired imagery.

The residents of Haddonfield are given a much bigger spotlight as they take the law into their own hands. While the commentary on vigilante justice and mob mentality is, on paper, a potentially intriguing idea given the built-up trauma Michael Myers has inflicted on the town, it simply isn’t a strong enough narrative thread to hang a large portion of the film on. Among the new assembly of supporting players are veteran character actor Robert Longstreet — see his terrific work in Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass — as Lonnie Elam, a local who was spared by Myers as a boy 40 years prior. Anthony Michael Hall does solid work as a grown-up Tommy Doyle, leading the mob against Michael. The role, unfortunately, is severely underwritten with thin motivations. Admittedly walking a thin line between nostalgic callback overload, Halloween Kills brings the return of multiple actors from Carpenter’s original. Playing a grown-up Lindsey Wallace, Kyle Richards — known to this generation as one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — returns to acting for the first time in years and fits right in. Charles Cyphers returns as Sheriff Leigh Brackett, now a security guard at the local hospital, as does Nancy Stephens as Marion, the nurse that accompanied Doctor Loomis the night Michael escaped from Smith’s Grove. With more and more characters introduced, that all means Jamie Lee Curtis is given a much larger backseat this time around. Even Andi Matichak’s breakthrough performance from the previous film is tossed aside for a perfunctory supporting role that plays second fiddle to most everyone around her.

Haddonfield is presented like its own character, which is undercut by a script that has very little depth. Whenever the film presents an opportunity to truly delve deep into the psyche of the residents of Haddonfield, the writing fumbles over itself with limp dialogue and rushed plotting. Continuing another major flaw from the previous film, the humor is hit-or-miss with the majority missing. David Gordon Green has no problem ratcheting up tension with precision-like skill, but the tone is yet again confused and unsure of itself. Thankfully, even in its worst moments, the score by John Carpenter, alongside Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies rips just as hard as the previous installment.

By the time Halloween Kills reaches its final act — if you can call it that — the flaws of the narrative become more apparent. While setting up the groundwork for a killer finale in next year’s Halloween Ends, this is clearly just one-half of an overall story. The climactic moments are well-earned and do end on a hell of a cliffhanger, it’s apparent this is more Mockingjay Part 1 than The Two Towers.

With two films now, director David Gordon Green has delivered two underwritten, maddeningly disjointed films that fail to truly ignite a storytelling spark, but ultimately deliver some wonderfully nasty thrills. Halloween Kills might play better as a double bill when Halloween Ends arrives next year, but on its own terms, it’s a narrative mess that has some of the best, most brutal kills of any modern slasher.