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Review: 'Halloween Kills' a gruesome waste of Jamie Lee Curtis' time and yours

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

O Haddonfield! My Haddonfield! Why, in the name of fictitious Illinois towns, have you resorted to hapless mob violence, like the pitchfork crowd in “Frankenstein” or the January Sixers that came along after “Halloween Kills” was filmed?

And why is “Halloween Kills” such a drag, as well as a clear step down from director and co-writer David Gordon Green’s 2018 “Halloween” reboot?

Three years ago, that reboot made for a pretty good, hugely profitable reminder that Jamie Lee Curtis can open a movie, and serial killer Michael Meyers can still clog up a small town’s drainage system with the blood of his victims. The new movie picks up right after teenage babysitter-turned-crazed-survivalist grandmother Laurie Strode (Curtis); her daughter Karen (Judy Greer); and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) stabbed, burned and dispatched Haddonfield’s masked nemesis for good/whoops/not dead yet. The movie served as a solid showcase for Curtis, and it delivered in its climax, even if wobbled some en route.

The new film’s a comparative mess — jaded, structurally awkward and overpacked. Myers lives, of course, being the very quintessence of evil. The “Halloween Kills” script from Green, Danny McBride and Scott Teems stops dead periodically for gabby, mistimed speeches about how Myers has transformed Haddonfield’s residents into a frightened, roving pack of animals. Anthony Michael Hall plays Tommy Doyle, a survivor of the Myers Class of ‘78, all grown up, glowering (his closeups are the scariest thing in the picture) and ready for vengeance.

“Halloween Kills” links back to flashbacks (newly created) to the events of Halloween, 1963, as well as the 1978 events of the John Carpenter original, in addition to somewhat awkward “previously in Haddonfield” snippets from the 2018 outing. This thing has more characters than “Nashville” and “Short Cuts” put together; by design, it’s a fresco of splatter, with various couples and characters barely sketched just before they’re stabbed, gouged, neck-snapped, throat-rammed with fluorescent tubes and so on. Those who came out of the “Candyman” reboot frustrated by all the middle-distance, methodically composed camerawork and the absence of splurch will get their gristle’s worth here.

Much of the film takes place in the world’s most poorly supervised hospital, where seriously injured Laurie and Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) share some old, bad memories of what happened that night in ‘78. I found most of the humor in “Halloween Kills” lame to the point of lousy, and the suspense setups (many confined to the old Myers home, now occupied by a gay couple played by Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald) settle for countless visual cheats. No one’s there! No, wait! He’s there! Stab-stab-stabbity-stab. Fake blood hosing from dying person’s neck, and ... cut. The editing doesn’t maximize the dread, it just cuts out a second or two of visual information so that Myers becomes the Roy Kent of Haddonfield. He’s everywhere!

The women have to fight this time for a decent share of the narrative in this one. If there’s a guiding notion to the script, it points to larger societal fears running rampant and pitting neighbor against neighbor, law and order vs. well-armed vigilantes. ”Evil dies tonight!” chants the mob out for justice, thoughtlessly ignoring the sequels to come. Green has made so many interesting movies, from “George Washington” to “Snow Angels” to the best bits in “Pineapple Express” and more recent genre exercises. “Halloween Kills” settles for the reductive, distressingly anonymous hackwork of its title.

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'HALLOWEEN KILLS'

1.5 stars (out of 4)

MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language, and some drug use)

Running time: 1:46

Where to watch: In theaters and streaming on Peacock Friday.

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