Now in theaters:
Halloween Kills--Well, it certainly seems to, at the box office, at least. The new installment in the slasher series slaughtered at the multiplexes this weekend, even though it was available to stream for free on video. This suggests that people may still want the communal experience of moviegoing, at least for certain kinds of movies, horror flicks being an obvious example. I find this a cheering thought.
Unfortunately, it's not very good. It's handsomely produced, with a look and a premise and some cast members that link it nostalgically to John Carpenter's 1978 original, and it has some good ideas. But it fumbles almost all of them, and fails to be deeply scary.
Despite being burned alive at the end of the previous sequel (2018) generic masked killer Michael Myers still is not quite dead, and he plods around Haddonfield racking up more victims. Jamie Leigh Curtis is back as Laurie, hospitalized with a wound and fretted over by her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). The focus this time, cleverly, is on the characters who were little kids in the '78 movie: Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy, Robert Longstreet as Lonnie, and Kyle Richards, who returns to the role of Lindsey which she played in the original (the fact that the little girl from Halloween is now in her fifties is scarier than anything onscreen). Tommy raises an angry mob of townies to kill Michael, just like the torch-and-pitchfork-bearing gang at the end of Universal's Frankenstein.
I was irked when I saw clips of these scenes in the trailer; this does not strike me as the most auspicious moment in our history to extoll the virtues of mob uprisings. I was pleased that screenwriters Scott Teems, Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green did not, at least, fall into this trap; indeed, mindless mass rage is repudiated by the film, and Michael is described as a personification of fear, and the reckless destruction that can arise from it. The reactionary subtext of Michael's hostilities is also hinted at; his targets this time include a middle-aged gay couple and a middle-aged interracial couple.
Something really interesting could have been done with all this, but the movie is muddled and slow and clumsily structured, and--very much unlike the original--it falls back on gore. Buckets more blood are spilled, but Halloween Kills never comes close to capturing that pervasive sense of archetypical dread that Carpenter's film had.
Certainly I'm a fan of the idea of flinty old Jamie Leigh Curtis, past her fear and ready to rise up and kick Michael's ass. The trouble is, they already made that movie, back in 1998. It was called Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and while it wasn't in the same league as the original, it wasn't a bad picture. It's where the series should have ended, but of course, the prospect of the kind of box office that Halloween Kills is having is the surest way to make a masked killer rise again.