What to Watch Verdict
'Halloween Kills' is an onslaught of malice and murder that is one of the most primal 'Halloween' sequels thus far.
🔪 Those kills
🔪 Haddonfield revolts
🔪 Michael is as ferocious as ever
🔪 Fan servicing sometimes gets in the way
🔪 Narrative is a bit sloppy
🔪 Feels like a midway pit stop
David Gordon Green's Halloween Kills honors its title with every slit throat, spewing artery and punctured armpit. Special effects make-up department head Christopher Allen Nelson puts on a punishing showcase as his team slaughters Haddonfield residents like a buffet of brutality as Halloween Kills blazes through its body count.
Green uses this midway point in his Blumhouse trilogy to push Haddonfield past its brink by shifting the focal lens onto its rioting residents versus the intimate, closet-concealed terrors of babysitter killers. Alongside co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems, Green makes Haddonfield’s inhabitants more personalized. The cursed Illinois town feels impressively large — so why has Michael never felt smaller?
Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) Strode think they’ve defeated “The Shape” (Nick Castle), but Michael Myers’ escape from Laurie’s flaming survivalist's estate proves he couldn’t possibly be mortal. On Halloween, Haddonfield is again in danger as Michael slashes through residents, presumably heading towards a post-operation Laurie in Haddonfield Hospital. It’s another killing spree like Haddonfield’s faced before, except this time — to quote Dee Snider — they’re not gonna take it. Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and other survivors of Michael’s attacks wrangle Haddonfield residents for some good old mob justice because this community’s been plagued by fear long enough.
Halloween Kills is the deluxe package of fan servicing, starting with Thomas Mann playing a young Deputy Frank Hawkins in flashbacks to 1978’s altercation involving Hawkins, Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis (an ode to Donald Pleasence). It’s the primer for a cavalcade of franchise callbacks, be they Silver Shamrock costume masks or full-on character revivals such as fan-favorite Kyle Richards playing all-grown-up Lindsey Wallace. Green reaches into Haddonfield’s richly traumatic past from children who watched Michael slaughter their sitters to nurses who fend off Michael’s perilous stalks, and that comes with loads of exposition delivered via callback after callback of rewound footage. It can become overwhelming as the narrative brings into question if these extensive lengths to reintroduce supporting Halloween characters to new audiences are necessary — do newbies require this much spoon-feeding?
Better yet, each nostalgic treat is going to hit Halloween’s frothing fanbase the hardest — why continually replay moments that are seared into devoted minds?
It’s within the community focus that Halloween Kills will either captivate or catapult audiences, as Tommy Doyle mobilizes an entire population with the war slogan “Evil dies tonight!” It’s a welcome essence of Universal monster classics like Frankenstein, or early townsfolk hero flicks like The Blob. To vanquish evil, Haddonfield must come together, and yet Green is smart enough to play both sides of the coin when activating the stark-raving mass of frothing-mad Haddonfieldians who instigate the same fear that is Michael's sustenance. Outrage becomes the ultimate metaphor as Tommy, Lonnie and countless other reintroduced parties neuter Sheriff Barker (Omar J. Dorsey) and take matters into their own hands — a sloppy handoff between bookends that have and will undoubtedly find more terror in Michael Myers’ spectral nature.
I’d argue Halloween Kills better succeeds in personifying Michael’s newest victims, as a handful of comedians step into doomed roles. Lenny Clarke slyly tries to distract his character's wife from flying her drone with wine and frisky promises; Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald are Big John and Little John, the gay couple who resides in the current day Myers residence (who just want to eat their charcuterie board in marijuana-hazy peace). Green and McBride realize these unwitting lambs to Michael’s slaughter in a way that other horror franchises do not — I genuinely adore Big and Little John as ride-along targets — but it’s an odd juxtaposition because of how higher-ranking ensemble members are treated.
There’s no other way to say Halloween Kills is a monstrous sequel that wants to burn Haddonfield to the ground, and no one is safe, which feels like an overload as the film comes to an aggressively boiled conclusion that doesn’t quite land the unstoppable Myers epiphany.
Halloween Kills chops Haddonfield’s lineage to pieces in an editing bay and with Michael Myers’ knife, complicating a rather cutthroat and diabolically straightforward premise. Michael acts on primitive instincts where kills are taken farther than required, like a lion in a William Shatner mask who toys with its food. The camera lingers on Michael as he plucks knives from a wooden block one by one, turning a victim into a pincushion well beyond last breaths. Countless scenes are spent tracing older versions of characters to their younger selves, yet most recollections after credits scroll (over a dope new Ghost track) are of Michael’s savagery. Squeezed eyeballs that ooze chunky juices, kitchen blades plunged into brains — Green attempts to emotionally humanize Michael’s malevolence through characters like Karen and Tommy, but physically dehumanize the icon in a now melted, toasted mask. The mix of both dramatic comedy and butcher’s block mutilation can seem at odds, although Green still delivers more highs than lows in terms of standalone slasher cinema.
Everything this review touches on and what it leaves unsaid is intentional. Halloween Kills is a tale about Haddonfield gone sour, Laurie’s reflection from afar in a hospital recovery room and Michael Myers as the superior boogeyman. There are deaths that’ll have audiences squirming as crimson liquids spill onto Michael’s charred signature jumpsuit, and outcries that inspire calls to action with inherent “enough is enough” empathy. The buildup is better than the culmination through my eyes, but diehard Halloween fans may disagree (same goes for the Team Carpenter score, which is fine by comparative standards). Halloween Kills ramps action-horror spectacles and scores a few quintessential shots of Michael standing in the distance, embodying “The Shape” in all its unforgivable terror — and yet with so many characters fighting for focus, it never presents itself as more than a blood-slick stepping stone more about the past and future than what’s happening on screen.
Halloween Kills releases on Oct. 15 both in theaters and streaming exclusively on Peacock.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.