‘Halloween Kills’ kills time in between two finales

The Halloween franchise loves nothing more than backpedaling on major plot points. So it was probably inevitable that its 2018 revival, presented as one final battle between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), would be extended into a trilogy after the fact. But when that last film functioned well as a conclusion to Laurie’s story, would the franchise really be able to satisfyingly fill two additional installments? 

Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends were both announced as back-to-back sequels after the success of 2018’s Halloween, and the former hit theaters and Peacock on Friday. Longtime fans should find it somewhat enjoyable, given it delivers a few tense setpieces and among the most gruesome deaths in the franchise, even though it certainly never matches the emotional weight of its predecessor. But the movie gets carried away with fan service and an overabundance of characters and plot points tying into the 1978 film, stealing crucial time from new protagonists who could have used further exploration. It also often feels like it’s killing time to avoid moving the plot forward significantly until part three.

After 2018’s Halloween, a direct sequel to 1978’s Halloween, ended with Laurie Strode seemingly killing Michael Myers for good by burning him alive, he’s — you guessed it — still alive in Halloween Kills, which sees the masked killer escape the house fire. But before this can happen, the film opens with a lengthy flashback taking us to the night of the original movie, following a young Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) as he confronts Myers. It’s an odd note to start on given Hawkins ends up not having too large a role in the plot, so while this may eventually pay off in Halloween Ends, here it comes across as somewhat an excuse to revisit the original classic for the heck of it. 

There’s a lot of that going around. Even though 2018’s Halloween already established some compelling new protagonists, the sequel brings back a number of side characters from John Carpenter’s original who weren’t present last time, and it gets weirdly overcomplicated as we try to keep track of where everyone was on that Halloween night 40 years ago. We have the children Laurie babysat — a grown-up Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) — Dr. Loomis’ assistant Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), former sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), and even Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), who bullied Tommy in the first film. With Michael again on the loose, Tommy takes matters into his own hands alongside his fellow Myers survivors by leading a mob to actively hunt him down. 

This idea that so many random townspeople would be quick to join the mission to go after a killer who Tommy himself admits is probably a supernatural force is undeniably silly. But there are few solid ideas about mob justice in there, and the movie hints at an interesting exploration of the scars Michael Myers has left on Haddonfield’s collective psyche beyond just the damage he’s caused Laurie Strode — though that idea does feel better suited to a movie where every prior sequel is canon, as opposed to this one, where Michael only attacked Haddonfield a single time 40 years ago and is just now returning.

The bigger problem, though, is that in balancing its various returning characters with the storyline about the Strode family introduced last time, Halloween Kills overextends itself and attempts to juggle too much. The plot involving Tommy’s mob reaches what should be a powerful climax near the end of act two, but the film barely has a moment to deal with its consequences before moving on to the next item on its agenda; one character gets a line that may as well read as, “Oh well. Anyway…” 

Besides, while the more narrowly focused 2018 Halloween featured multiple emotional scenes slowing down to reflect on Laurie Strode’s trauma, this one doesn’t give that same thoughtful treatment to characters like Tommy and Lindsey, the former of whom has tons of screen time but spends much of it saying perfunctory lines like, “I’m gonna get you, Michael!” Had the film fully committed to Tommy as its main character, perhaps it could have had more of a chance to delve into his mindset in a way that would make some third act turns more meaningful.

The main character this time definitely isn’t Laurie, though, and Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t have much to do besides give a few speeches about the nature of evil. Sidelining her does make some sense; presumably, Halloween Ends will position itself as yet another final confrontation between Laurie and Michael, and it would be strange for the franchise to pull that move three times in a row. But what about more of an emphasis on the Strode family, e.g. her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson? They’re both here, but tons of effort that could have been spent further exploring the last film’s engrossing narrative about generational trauma in their family instead goes toward pulling our nostalgia strings with the returning cast. That especially becomes an issue when the film shifts back to Karen and Allyson in a climax that isn’t properly built up to. It’s only when we reach these closing moments that the overall plot of this trilogy that’s theoretically about the Strode family meaningfully progresses, probably because the most significant beats are being saved for next time. 

Even though Halloween Kills is a letdown compared to the killer 2018 revival, there remains hope that Halloween Ends will give the trilogy a satisfying conclusion that makes this all feel more meaningful in retrospect. We’ll find out next year whether we just watched a messy middle chapter or the point when it became clear this trilogy peaked early.

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