Michael Myers is back with a vengeance. Again. Just like the last time… and the one before that. Halloween Kills takes us back to the ill-fated town of Haddonfield, Illinois. But this time, the townsfolk are prepared.

Laurie Strode, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis, has finally left the past behind her. At least, that’s what she thinks. Halloween Kills follows on directly from Halloween, the 2018 sequel. But as we all guessed from the heavy-breathed post-credits stinger, Michael Myers isn’t really dead! Shock horror! Instead, the legendary masked serial killer is back to wreak havoc. And what I really mean, is murder people. A lot of them.

Halloween Kills amps up Michael’s kill count to maximum gory effect, but there’s only so far this can go without becoming a bit laughable. The kills are brutal, visceral and often poetic, but is this really enough to sustain the saga? Thankfully, there’s a twist – the people of Haddonfield have, after 40 years, had enough of being brutally murdered when they least expect it. Now, it’s time to fight back. Tommy, the now grown-up child (played by Anthony Michael Hall) who Laurie was babysitting during the original Halloween, has stirred up one hell of a resistance. “Evil dies tonight!” chants the townsfolk on the hunt for Myers.

But can they really put an end to his 40-year reign of terror?

Fans of the Halloween saga are going to love Halloween Kills. It ticks all the boxes – brutal, bloody deaths, and embattled Laurie Strode, and the trudging, persistent threat of Michael Myers, played again by Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney. This time around, we even delve into the iconic killer’s psyche, too. “He’s a six-year-old boy with the strength of a man and the mind of an animal,” says one Haddonfield police officer as they wax lyrical about everyone’s favourite cold-blooded murderer. There’s also an interesting sub-plot which posits some uncharacteristic social commentary – as the town of Haddonfield collectively hunts for Michael, have they become the real monsters? It’s an interesting thought that sadly isn’t explored in too much depth. Halloween Kills does away with any real examination of the town’s fractured psyche in favour of cartoonishly characterised mob antics.

Thankfully, the real plot is back with Laurie Strode and her family. That said, Jamie Lee Curtis is severely under-utilised after Laurie picked up a stab wound in Halloween. But I can’t help thinking this is by design – passing the baton to the next generation of teen scream queens, perhaps. Laurie’s daughter, played by Judy Greer, is once again a clueless delight, while her granddaughter, played by Andi Matichak, is the one who puts up a real fight this time.

And fight she does – the fight scenes in Halloween Kills really shine as ‘The Shape’ slugs it out with a combination of brutal efficiency and supernatural strength. Unfortunately, much of the acting elsewhere is far less convincing as minor characters chew their way through most of the scenery. However, there are some neat jokes as Michael’s victim reach for an increasingly pathetic arsenal of weapons to defend themselves. One of them even literally jumps at their own reflection.

Director David Gordon Green returns after having deftly assembled a great sequel in the 2018 Halloween. But while you have to applaud him for trying something new in Halloween Kills, it just doesn’t work quite as well as his previous offering. The ridiculousness of some of the film’s deaths works against itself – yes, it adds a moment of levity to an otherwise brutal story, but it also knocks the wind out of its sails at the most inopportune moments. There are, however, some gleefully gory moments that will please die-hard fans. Watching Michael Myers literally rise up from the ashes while simultaneously beginning another killing spree is a joy to behold. Even if Halloween Kills does get a bit silly later on.

Nevertheless, Halloween Kills is a sincere and faithful love letter to the Halloween saga. It’s a delightful romp through the series’ past and present, and it’s always a spine-tingling delight to hear that iconic theme tune once again. Most importantly, Halloween Kills sets the stage for even more bloody thrills. The torch has been passed to the next generation of wide-eyed babysitters, and it looks as though Michael Myers will prowl in the shadows once more. “Evil dies tonight?” Not likely.

Rating: ★★★