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'Halloween Kills' review: More than just the usual scares

(from left) Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie Strode (Jamie

(from left) Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) in "Halloween Kills." Credit: Universal Pictures/Ryan Green

PLOT Michael Myers stalks the town of Haddonfield on Halloween night 2018 as its residents band together to fight back.

CAST Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Anthony Michael Hall, Andi Matichak, Will Patton

RATED R (strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language and some drug use)

LENGTH 1:45

WHERE In theaters Friday and streaming on Peacock

BOTTOM LINE This "Halloween" movie has more on its mind than just the usual scares.

"Halloween Kills" stands as the twelfth movie in the franchise chronicling the murderous exploits of Michael Myers.

So the onus for justifying yet another trip around the old block, even in the wake of the megapopular 2018 sequel and its global box office haul of more than $255 million, lies squarely on the shoulders of returning filmmaker David Gordon Green.

There has to be a compelling reason to go back once again to the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, to reunite once more with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her signature role) and company as they fight back against the relentless masked killer.

The "Halloween Kills" experience can be frustrating: this is a bridge to the final chapter of Green's trilogy, "Halloween Ends," which is due next year. It comes with all the usual caveats of a middle installment.

But the director, who also co-wrote the movie with Danny McBride and Scott Teems, finds the rationale he needs for it by playing up the idea of Michael Myers as a supernatural force infecting the hearts and minds of everyday Haddonfield citizens. In Green's hands, he's an evil contagion more than a flesh-and-blood monster.

That notion is crystallized in the most powerful scene in the movie, one that transcends the familiar requirements of the "Halloween" formula, and doesn't involve Michael at all.

As the supervillain once again stalks the town — this time on Halloween night 2018, exactly 40 years after the terror depicted in the John Carpenter-directed original — a large percentage of the local population has descended upon the hospital.

Events have picked up directly after the previous movie: Laurie has been brought to the emergency room with a serious stab wound, sustained in her climactic battle with Michael. The mob at the hospital has been driven into a frenzy by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), a character from the original movie brought back here as a crusader for vengeance along with other once-traumatized children.

They're convinced Michael is coming to the hospital. When they mistake another man for him, the filmmaker crafts a harrowing depiction of mob justice, the crush of a stampede and the futility of trying to inject rational thinking into the situation.

It's more unsettling than the predictable scares in the movie. And if it captures something broader and more substantial about the American national mood at this fraught moment in time, that's no accident.

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