Blood-caked, lumbering, seemingly unstoppable: Halloween is the franchise that refuses to die. Forty-three years and 12 movies on – with a thirteenth to come in Halloween Ends – the latest instalment is a bland slog of a reboot sequel with the same old gore but no new moves. If it doesn’t bleed out soon, it may outlive us all.
Back again to haunt the small town of Haddonfield is stabby masked maniac Michael Myers. He’s survived the fiery denouement of director David Gordon Green’s first contribution to the Halloween Industrial Complex, 2018’s briskly effective Halloween, and now Myers is picking up where he left off on the same night.
Right off the bat, that set-up has a problem: the film’s putative headliner is original final girl, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, but she’s been stabbed and, in a Halloween II retread, is laid-up in a hospital bed. It leaves her daughter (a game Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) to join Haddonfield’s rabble-rousing Myers expert (Anthony Michael Hall) in a disorganised manhunt. As Myers’s grisly killings play out in the darkened suburbs, angry locals congregate at the hospital.
Why, is a valid question. Curtis eventually limps from her bed to try to inject life into all this, first jabbing morphine into her leg with a seriously OTT howl of pain that gives the movie its biggest – maybe, only – laugh. But she’s soon back in bed, defeated by the chaos unfolding in the wards outside, and the plot.
There’s some passing suggestion that all this is Myers’s plan all along, a devilish scheme to have an angry mob with improvised weapons clogging up orthopedics. There’s a hint, too, in the stetson worn by the town’s ineffectual sheriff that Gordon Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems have westerns in mind as the lawless mob takes over. ‘The system’s broken’, growls Strode in the spirit of the Duke. The idea vanishes just as quickly.
The trio of writers do strain to give Haddonfield a sense of diversity. A gay couple now live in Myers’s old family home, while the slaughter is evenly dolled out to Black and white residents alike. But there’s no racial commentary here – Get Out, it isn’t. Myers is just an equal-opportunities killer.
Slabs of electro co-composed by John Carpenter make sure Halloween Kills sounds like the 1978 original, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The body count is high but the scares barely register and it all moves with the mechanical rigidity of its villain, right from an opening that finds itself torn between catering equally for the uninitiated and Halloween devotees. Inelegant dashes back to the first film and that night in 1963 when Michael Myers took his first step to psycho-dom are inserted to get everyone up to speed.
So many half-formed characters from the early Halloween films are introduced, albeit with different actors – look, it’s the guy from ten movies back! It’s her from that other sequel! – and then offed in gory but perfunctory fashion. There’s barely a reason to get attached to any of them.
Oh, and if you find people doing stupid stuff in the face of a masked maniac annoying, serious tooth-grinding awaits. No script has called for characters to split up with such predictably painful consequences since Kramer vs Kramer.
It all feels so rote and old-school, especially during such an exciting era for the genre (thanks to Jennifer Kent, Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, Rose Glass and co). Never mind the fact its once-sturdy beats have been spoofed, homaged and riffed a thousand times. In the era of Netflix’s Fear Street and The Haunting of Hill House, big-screen horror surely has to work harder than this. ‘We got a goddamn massacre on our hands,’ says the hapless sheriff, and he’s right on so many levels.
Halloween Kills premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Out in US and UK cinemas Oct 15.