After a dozen movies — and a 13th on the horizon — the once-monstrous Michael Myers shuffles into theaters this weekend as exhausted as the 43-year-old franchise that indulges his blood lust. “Halloween Kills,” the middle film of a reboot trilogy started in 2018 by the director David Gordon Green, is an indolent, narratively impoverished mess that substitutes corpses for characters and slogans for dialogue.
What Green appears to be killing here is time. While his previous installment cannily reimagined Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the plucky babysitter who bested Myers in John Carpenter’s original film, as a trauma-toughened grandmother, this latest exhumation turns her into a virtual bystander. We find her, mere minutes after the ending of the last chapter, bleeding profusely in the back of a truck, barreling away from her burning home and believing her nemesis vanquished once and for all.
“Let it burn!” she screams at the firefighters, perhaps aware that the body count of emergency workers is about to soar. Thereafter, she will mostly languish in a hospital bed in the hapless burgh of Haddonfield, Ill., while her daughter and granddaughter (Judy Greer and Andi Matichak) are left to hold the bag — or, in this case, pitchfork — when Myers, inevitably, returns.
Plagued by idiotic pronouncements (“He is an apex predator!”) and moronic behavior (doors are left unlocked, an unloaded gun is brandished), “Halloween Kills” plays at times like an exceptionally gory comedy routine. (I dare you not to laugh out loud when one character bemoans the rising number of slayings by declaring, “This was a safe place and now it’s not anymore!”) And if Haddonfield seems significantly more diverse this time out, it’s to no apparent purpose other than to vary the appearances and sexual orientations of its victims. That’s a shame, because the only characters I missed when the picture was over were the gay partners planning a pleasant evening with Mary Jane and “Minnie and Moskowitz” (1971). I hope they already knew the ending.
Clumsy flashbacks to the original plot soothe the uninitiated, and characters we barely remember are reintroduced to take their chances among those being creatively killed off. Leading these is Anthony Michael Hall as a grown-up Tommy Doyle, the child Laurie was babysitting on Halloween, 1978, now running a support group for survivors of that night’s mayhem. In mere minutes, Tommy harangues his group into an angry posse, rounding up nondescript townspeople to hunt Myers down. As the mob congregates — mystifyingly — at the hospital, Laurie is prompted to stumble briefly out of bed, stab herself with a painkiller-filled syringe and yowl like a banshee. Contract fulfilled, Ms. Curtis!
As for possibly our most resurrected cinematic psycho (played once again by James Jude Courtney), he seems a little sadder behind his rapidly decomposing mask. The success of any “Halloween” retread depends fundamentally on its ability to telegraph the mad magnetism between Myers and Laurie — a tether that’s trampled by this picture’s amorphous gang of vigilantes, repeatedly yelling “Evil dies tonight!” In light of the coming attractions, I can reliably predict that it does not.
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