The second chapter of the David Gordon Green trilogy will likely experience Middle Child Syndrome as it begins where 2018’s “Halloween” ends. The trick, or in this case treat, to enjoying the film is to grasp its objective. “Halloween Kills” is neither the cornerstone nor the capstone of the series. Its purpose is to lay the foundation for the final chapter “Halloween Ends,” which will reputedly close out the Michael Meyers saga. Carpenter returns to score the film, old characters are reintroduced, Meyers kills with reckless abandon, Haddonfield is whipped into a frenzy, and then it all comes to a grinding halt. Perhaps a “To Be Continued” would have softened the blow.

If “Halloween Kills” was a video game, the Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton) characters would be in respawn mode while antagonist Michael Meyers aka The Shape (James Jude Courtney) continues scoring points with each new kill. The player, or in this case, viewer, feels frustrated waiting for both characters to get back in the game.

Meanwhile, a bunch of Easter eggs are unlocked as Nancy Stephens returns to the franchise to reprise her role as Marion Chambers, the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium nurse and assistant to Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) featured in the 1978 film. Plus, the two kids Laurie was babysitting “the night he came home” are back as well, now all grown up. Kyle Richards reprises her role as Lindsey Wallace while Anthony Michael Hall takes on Tommy Doyle, and from the acclaimed Netflix series “Midnight Mass,” actor Robert Longstreet jumps into the role of Lonnie Elam, the sixth-grader who bullied Tommy back in ’78.

The most surprising and welcomed comeback honors go to veteran character actor Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett from the first two “Halloween” films. His daughter Annie succumbed to Meyers in the original classic so he’s on a personal vendetta. There is a lot to love about “Halloween Kills” including franchise creator John Carpenter back behind the synthesizers with help from son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, to score Green’s sophomore film. Still, there’s also a lot of downtime for everyone especially Jamie Lee Curtis who remains in a hospital bed for most of the film.

Usually, this is the part of the review where I would go over the plot but there isn’t one to talk about. “Halloween Kills” is filler between the first and final film. It’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Michael Simmonds, very entertaining with all the references to the 1978 film, and there’s also the flashback sequence (one of the film’s highlights) as Dr. Loomis returns — not in CGI form but in the flesh as Donald Pleasence lookalike Tom Jones Jr fills in for the cameo — along with Thomas Mann as a young version of Will Patton’s Deputy Hawkins, and a surprising appearance by Jim Cummings as Officer McCabe, who encounters Meyers at his childhood home. There’s a bit of Cummings’ Officer Marshall from “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” in his McCabe character which means that once again his intensity is turned up to 11.

Green’s 2018 reboot perfectly reset the franchise. It became the official sequel to the 1978 classic, disregarding all previous sequels and Rob Zombie’s interpretation plus it cleverly took the Laurie Strode is Michael Meyers’s sister out of the equation. The storyline soared pitting The Shape against three generations of Strode women, Laurie joined by her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) who return for “Halloween Kills”, yet they also have little to do (respawn mode?) as Meyers dominates the film.

There are a few awkward moments that are out of place including a Haddonfield mob scene inside the hospital as the crowd chants “Evil dies tonight” while chasing a frightened guy in a hospital gown who they mistake for Michael Meyers (even though he resembles Ron Jeremy), and while I like the actors (Michael McDonald and Scott MacArthur) that play a gay couple now living in the Meyers house, they seem wasted as just two more potential victims for The Shape to stalk.

“Halloween Kills” should have been titled “Michael Meyers Kills” as the film gives the iconic villain full reign. Fans of blood and gore will be satisfied. The lack of plot rules out the film’s ability to survive as a standalone feature, yet there is much to love for fans of the franchise. Apart from a couple of small revelations, nothing new is added to the Meyers mystique. It coasts along building up steam while preparing for 2022’s final chapter “Halloween Ends” which begins four years after this film ends.

(3 stars)

Now showing in theaters and streaming on Peacock

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Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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