There seems to be a rule that every time the Halloween franchise strikes off in a different direction, something as much of a dog’s breakfast as either version of Halloween II comes along and drags the whole franchise into disrepute again. David Gordon Green’s follow-up to his 2018 Halloween is just as much of an ungodly mess as the one with Busta Rhymes – it isn’t quite down there with Rob Zombie’s duo, though it shares their fundamental meanness of spirit, but it does feel more like an offshoot of the Hatchet franchise than a follow-up to John Carpenter’s original – despite bringing in a clutch of supporting players (Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens), a Donald Pleasence lookalike Loomis and one significant recast major character (Anthony Michael Hall is Tommy Doyle) to support held-over Jamie Lee Curtis, who yet again spends most of a sequel drugged in hospital while the Shape racks up a Rambo-sized bodycount around Haddonfield.
Green here tries to raise some issues, with Tommy leading a mob who adopt a too-easy slogan (‘Evil Dies Tonight’) and go on an unhelpful rampage – before the film more or less gives up on critiquing lynch law to endorse it as yet another liberal character finds they have to stab someone, not that this turns out to be in any way helpful as a downer ending is plainly just here to set up a third part of the trilogy. Green and a large, impressive cast have a knack for sketching in sympathetic characters before Michael shows up and guts them – here, the motiveless, passionless killer seems to have a vague right wing agenda in that he slaughters an interracial couple, a black couple and a gay couple … and he wipes out the whole Haddonfield fire department too.
A few individual stalk-and-splat sequences are suspensefully handled, but there are too many of them for any individual horror to have much impact – a couple of the deaths are staged as jokes (one’s a lift from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) but in this context nothing much is amusing. It was great in Green’s Halloween that Judy Greer and Will Patton, perennially undervalued performers, got substantial roles – well, they’re wasted (in different ways) here and Andi Matichak, third generation of Strode final girls, barely registers. The previous film cleared out a lot of the deadwood accrued by the series, starting with taking back the dead end twist that Laurie and Michael were siblings – this tips in a bunch of flashbacks to 1978 that add a whole new bunch of unneeded plot threads and explanations, hinging on little Michael’s habit of staring out of the window of his real sister’s room. Now, it all has something to do with the Myers house, and I suppose we’ll have to wait till the next movie to find out what. Even Carpenter’s score – usually reliably chilling – sounds wrong notes.