Among many other things, it's possible "Halloween Kills" thinks it's a comedy.
That idea could pop into your head early on, when a woman tells a reporter, "This was a safe place and now it's not anymore." Um, once Michael Myers was born, when was the serial killer capital of Illinois ever safe?
Myers' four-decade reign of slaughter continues in "Kills." Unlike the original "Halloween" and most of the best sequels (depending on how you count, there are 10), this one is less about suspense than gore. Myers racks up three dozen victims in "Kills," which toggles back and forth between 1978 and 2018, when he has busted out of prison.
That tone-deaf "safe place" line seems like a sign "Kills" wants to say something about our current state of civil unrest, as does a police officer who questions the way he fulfills his duties. But those themes aren't explored enough to pay off and neither is the feminism that emerged in the last movie, one of three simply called "Halloween."
One of the most thoughtful of the series, it featured original babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) taking a stand for victimized women while also reckoning with the realization that her life has been so consumed with vanquishing the killer who has stalked her for 40 years that she has barely lived it.
Laurie is unconscious for half of "Kills," sidelining the excellent Curtis. So Laurie cedes the vengeance to her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and a neighbor (Anthony Michael Hall) who, too, survived an encounter with masked Myers. The neighbor accumulates a team of bloodthirsty vigilantes who are bent on stopping Myers for good, suggesting that "Kills" also wishes it had something to say about about what revenge does to those who seek it.
Actually, there's no "suggesting" about it. A character says, "Now, he's turning us into monsters." Oh, OK.
Many of the people who made the last "Halloween," including director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride, worked on "Kills" but they appear to have spent all their ideas on the previous movie (the new one picks up right where its predecessor left off, so you'll need to watch it first).
Instead, they pile on gore, some of which is well-staged, and encourage us to chuckle at victims who make such stupid choices — "I think I'll hide behind this tree," "Let's split up and look for Myers individually" — that we're supposed to think they deserve to be skewered on fence posts.
Toward the end, "Kills" hints at a new path. Once she's conscious, Laurie has surprising things to say about why it's so hard to kill Myers and even hints that she may need him as much as he needs her. Let's hope their next dance eases up on the body count so it can explore that notion.
Either that, or maybe Laurie should think about moving to a safer small town?
** out of four stars
Rated R for gory violence and strong language
Wide release and streaming on Peacock.