Old rubber face is back, and Bentonville is on fire in director David Gordon Green’s second franchise instalment

Halloween Kills

Source: Universal Pictures

‘Halloween Kills’

Dir: David Gordon Green. US. 2021. 105 mins

The key to defeating lumbering death machine Michael Myers, explains one man, a veteran of the earlier stages of old rubber-face’s reign of terror, is to play him at his own game, to weaponise the element of surprise. It’s advice that director David Gordon Green, who returns to the franchise after his warmly-received sequel/reboot Halloween (2018), would have done well to listen to. Whatever else could be said about this competent and generally pretty entertaining latest addition to the series, surprising it is not. The law of diminishing sequel returns applies here, not least for the fact that another film, Halloween Ends, is slated for release in October 2022, rather taking an axe to any hopes of closure in this instalment.

Will stand in good stead with horror audiences, even if it hardly sets the genre alight

In common with Green’s previous Halloween picture, this one is tuned to the same frequency as the very earliest film, acknowledging and incorporating the voice of John Carpenter. This, together the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role as Laurie Strode for the sixth time, will stand the film in good stead with horror audiences, even if the picture is hardly going to set the genre alight (or indeed Michael Myers, despite Laurie’s best attempts at the end of the previous picture). The film should connect with genre audiences but is unlikely to bring new fans to the franchise.

Stylistically, there’s a kinship with the film’s earliest incarnation, in everything from the font of the title sequence to the score, which was co-written by Carpenter in all his ominous synthy glory. And there are flashbacks to the events of 1978 which provide backstory for key supporting characters, notably Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet) and Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton). The main body of the film, however, takes place directly after the events at the close of the previous picture. Laurie is in hospital with a stab wound to the stomach, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) at her side. But her triumph at having defeated Myers (by effectively turning her entire basement into a gas-fired human barbecue) is short lived, obviously.

Meanwhile Tommy Doyle holds the audience at a dive bar talent show rapt with his retelling of the now legendary story of the Haddonfield Boogeyman. And across town, the Boogeyman himself has managed to escape the inferno and is busily despatching a team of emergency responders with their own fire axes and circular saws.

So far, so generic. But what’s interesting is the idea that Myers’ evil is too big to be contained by just one man, even one as relentless and formidable as Michael. It seeps out into the broader community, manifesting itself in the fear and fury which shapes the town’s response. The most exciting element of this film is the vigilante mob, stirred by the chanted slogan ’’Evil Dies Tonight”, which tears through a hospital in pursuit of Myers. There are moments during this sequence which almost match the animalistic frenzy of the Indian buffalo rampage movie, Jallikattu. Green puts the brakes back on pretty quickly but there’s something genuinely disconcerting about it – the dehumanising effect of blood lust and the desire for retribution. It’s perhaps here that the real horror is to be found.

Production company: Blumhouse, Trancas International Films, Miramax

International distribution: Universal julien.noble@nbcuni.com

Producers: Jason Blum, Malek Akkad, Bill Block

Screenplay: David Gordon-Green, Danny McBride, Scott Teems

Cinematography: Michael Simmonds

Editor: Tim Alverson

Production Designer: Richard A. Wright

Music: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies

Main cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall