With Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode counted out of this instalment - thanks to injuries suffered during the previous episode - the hysteria that drives Halloween Kills is that of Anthony Michael Hall's buffoonish Tommy Doyle, the child Ms Strode spent her evening looking after in John Carpenter's original film. Having grown into a drearily solemn raconteur, Doyle seizes on the opportunity presented by a new spate of murders, clumsily attempting to make himself the solution to the recurring problem of Michael Myers and win some form of approval from his slumbering former babysitter in the process. Doyle is self-important and not short on confidence; a red-faced eye-bulger who hurries from incident to incident, vomiting up a leadership routine that barely extends beyond a tumultuous chanting. He's a farcical figure. A one-note fantasist gumming up the works of a slasher film that is already disinclined to generating pity.
David Gordon Green's second Halloween sequel, co-written with Scott Teems and Danny McBride, is structured to spend long stretches of time in the company of unlikable, middle-aged, cretins. The film is assembled in a style much closer to that of a comedy, with its various pieces working towards blunt, graceless, murder as if it carried the same dramatic inevitability, or entertainment, as a punchline. Halloween Kills is the horror film as a litany of quick, unsatisfying, releases rather than any sustained attempt to sculpt tension. The audience always knows more than the film's mindless throng too, so no sense of trepidation is never allowed to creep into our minds. A brief sequence in which a hospital, packed with the bereaved and panicking, suddenly goes into meltdown at the suggestion that Myers has begun to attack the building could work if the viewer was left in some doubt as to what was actually happening. We're always two or three steps ahead though. We know it isn't Myers, so we're just watching headless chickens piling on and over each other.
As with Green's previous effort, Myers is calibrated to be an engine of violence, mechanically brutalising any body he come across. This lack of methodology - Myers seemingly killing people to pass the time on his way back to his childhood home - isn't helped by his constantly stressed invincibility or a cast of characters who, largely, fail to deviate from Green and McBride's well documented gift for ugly (but crucially not absurd in this instance) caricature. There's no sincerity or empathy in how Kills handles its victims. No consistent, creative level, decisions that indicate that the filmmakers have any interest in the brew they are concocting beyond wheel spinning. The film's better moments then are either happy accidents - a video stream briefly sputtering during a rare gooey kill in such a way that it recalls the blurring censorship visited on the animated Fist of the North Star movie - or strange little orphans in search of purchase. A closing segment built around Laurie's daughter Karen - played by the indefatigable Judy Greer - catching a glimpse of a child's image seared into a window pane elicits a strange supernatural sadness but, by then, it's too little too late.