Director David Gordon Green squanders a lot of the good will he earned from his inventive 2018 reboot/sequel/reinvention of John Carpenter’s Halloween with this windy, deadeningly violent middle entry into the planned trilogy. (Halloween Ends will presumably wrap things up this time next year.)
Green, who co-scripted with Danny McBride and Scott Teems, bumps up the kill count to ludicrous levels, fashioning a Haddonfield Götterdämmerung that runs counter to Carpenter’s comparatively restrained 1978 original, in which just four people were killed onscreen by the end credits.
Green’s Halloween, which jettisoned the timeline of all previous Halloween movies except the first, was set decades later in the sleepy burg of Haddonfield where the original’s final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was found living like a mad survivalist in anticipation of a reckoning with imprisoned killer Michael Myers. When Michael does indeed escape the sanitarium, Laurie’s skeptical daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her sympathetic granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) become believers, and all pitch in when they finally succeed in trapping Michael in the basement of Laurie’s burning home.
Of course, it takes more than flame — and multiple head shots — to bring Michael down, as we learn when the grievously wounded Laurie is taken to the hospital while Michael makes his escape from the inferno with some unintended help from the Haddonfield Fire Department.
With Laurie and her multi-generational brood effectively sidelined, the film lands in a local bar, where we ultimately catch up with Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), whom you may remember as the kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the original Halloween. When news of Michael’s return reaches the bar, Tommy whips up the crowd to take a little vigilante action, even as Michael makes his deadly way through the town, killing the citizenry with efficient, ritualistic savagery.
Joining the mob are Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson and her errant boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold), all committed to the gang’s pie-in-the-sky rallying cry: “Evil dies tonight!”
But back at the hospital, Laurie starts doubting that’s possible. In adjacent hospital beds with the wounded Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) the two discuss the notion that Michael’s homicidal madness is not so much an injury but an infection, destined to devastate the whole town.
And true to form, Haddonfield starts to go a little nuts with vigilante fervour. The filmmakers are intent on making a point that fear leads to violence that doesn’t discriminate between good and bad. One can infer a political message behind this that speaks to our troubled times.
Green doesn’t stick the landing when it comes to that. Characters burble at length about evil, but nothing much is actually said. (The movie made me wistfully recall Rod Serling’s celebrated Twilight Zone episode The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, a much more elegant takedown of fear and paranoia employed as a tool against small-town America.)
There is an abundance of gory violence, the raison d’être for a seasonal horror release like this, but even that is handled with as little finesse as Michael exhibits when he repeatedly plunges sharp implements into people. It just gets tiresome after a while, wasting the otherwise decent performances of the cast, especially the endlessly durable Jamie Lee Curtis.