"Let it burn!" These are the words Laurie Strode, the babysitter who battled Michael Myers back in 1978, screams at passing firetrucks. Laurie, who waited 40 years for Myers to return to Haddonfield, trapped Michael inside the basement of her compound and set the whole place on fire, saving her daughter and granddaughter in the process.
David Gordon Green's sequel, Halloween Kills, takes a different route than the rebooted first film. Taking the emphasis away from the character study of the resilient and traumatized Laurie Strode, played with ferocity by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first film, and refocusing on the genre's slasher intentions. Green eliminates suspense in favor of brutality, which is violent, bloody, and gory, and shifts the perspective from Laurie's plan for closure against Michael Myers onto other survivors from that fateful Halloween night in 1978. Specifically, an angry mob, led by Tommy Doyle, a commanding Anthony Michael Hall, are planning a frenzied hunting party searching for the Boogeyman who still haunts their beloved Haddonfield.
When Halloween Kills opens, it's still Halloween night, and Michael Myers has survived, brutally slaying the group of firemen who freed him from the blazing trap set by Laurie, who is now recovering in the local hospital after her encounter. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are also worse for wear.
At the same time, the surviving members of Michael's carnage in 1978 meet at a local dive bar. Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), the kids Laurie babysat as a teenager, meet with former nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) and grown-up bully Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet). Phones begin to chime, and a television news alert interrupts the Halloween festivities as word breaks that Michael Myers has escaped and returned to continue his hometown rampage in Haddonfield. Tommy, a baseball bat in hand, organizes a gang of locals to hunt the Boogeyman down once and for all, fiercely proclaiming "evil dies tonight."
Director David Gordon Green aggressively shifts tone, substituting the suspenseful scares and menace of the first film for a more brutal and horrific approach. While there is nothing wrong with manipulating genre expectations, especially with a franchise that has existed for more than 40 years, Green also diverts from the core emotional character of the Halloween myth, Laurie Strode. For much of Halloween Kills, Laurie is sidelined to the confines of a hospital bed. And when she finally regains consciousness, the character is left with a one-note emotion of guilt that isn't explored.
In place of Laurie, the film focuses much of its time on Tommy Doyle and the crowd of traumatized townsfolk who grow more aggressive with every dimwitted decision they make. There are hints of commentary surrounding mob mentality and the impact one strong voice can make in a crowd of scared individuals; one scene involving another escaped inmate brings these themes closest to a complete emotion. However, the narrative rarely offers the time between kills to examine these pieces.
What is very clear about Halloween Kills is the composition of Michael Myers. The near superhuman monster has one purpose, destruction. For the survivors of Michael's past mayhem, who are traumatized, scared, and angry, their connection with The Shape is personal and affecting. For Michael, he barely registers any relationship to his past victims; this is shown through the sudden, forceful, and vicious acts of violence committed against anyone who gets in Michael's way. These gory special effects-driven scenes are sure to have the horror fans "oohing" and "aahing" with glee.
It is well known that Halloween Kills is not the finale for this franchise, which belongs to the forthcoming and aptly titled Halloween Ends. David Gordon Green attempts to do something different with this sequel; while the heightened special effects viscera and nostalgic community of characters bring chaos to the drama, the absence of Laurie Strode for much of the film turns Michael Myers into an unstoppable machine and ultimately makes this film feel like a placeholder, a side story of Michael's night of terror until Laurie meets him face to face one final time.
Movie Score: 2.5/5