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Michael Myers impales a firefighter in the air while a fire rages on behind them in Halloween Kills Photo: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures

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Halloween Kills became nonstop mayhem when a two-movie plan expanded to a trilogy

Director David Gordon Green explains how he kept The Shape in Michael Myers

Halloween Kills, the sequel to 2018’s Halloween, has been compared to Avengers: Infinity War due to its position as an open setup to 2022’s planned trilogy-capper, Halloween Ends. But watching the horror unfold reminded me a bit more of Mad Max: Fury Road. What director George Miller did for car chases, filmmaker David Gordon Green does for artful slaughter. Hot off a confrontation with a greying Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween, Michael Myers emerges from a burning building with a vengeance. I thought I knew what a slasher rampage looked like — the 2018 movie is grisly! — but Halloween Kills is nonstop murder. In fairness, Green put it right there in the title.

The middle chapter, a dream ballet of head-smashing, was not always part of Green’s plan. When he and cowriter Danny McBride signed on to sequelize John Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween with a continuation of Laurie’s story, and the introduction of her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak), the pair imagined a two-parter, shot back to back.

“We talked about doing two at once,” Green tells Polygon. “I got too scared because I thought if everybody hated the first movie, then I was gonna to have to sit around feeling gross for a year before the second one came out!”

Michael Myers in a dirty mask holds up his bloody knife in Halloween Kills Photo: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures

Working with writer Jeff Fradley (Vice Principals), Green and McBride essentially plotted out an arc for two films, Halloween and wherever Halloween Ends goes. “But then, when we decided to focus on one movie, we pushed a lot of [the ideas] to the side and concentrated on our 2018 episode, reintroducing some of the characters and concepts from John Carpenter and Deborah Hill’s 1978 film, bringing some new signature moves to it. Once that was successful, and we felt like we could justify to the fanbase that we had more story to tell, we engineered two more films. We were able to complete what I think is a cool way to to conclude, and to resolve the situation that began in 1978.”

The Halloween franchise is littered with sequels that became more and more convoluted as Michael became less and less of “The Shape,” as Carpenter originally defined him, and more of a damaged but three-dimensional person. The film series includes direct continuations of Carpenter’s original timeline, two movies in the revamped “H20” timeline, and then Rob Zombie’s separate reboot universe. Green and McBride washed that all away when they picked back up with Laurie, with their Halloween positioned as the “first” true sequel to the 1978 film. But in making Halloween Kills, they faced pressure to avoid the pitfalls of the past, even while giving Michael more of the spotlight.

“Michael is at the heart of the movie, and that’s one of the obstacles and opportunities as a writer,” Green says. “But we refuse to delve into a psychology. We refuse to know more.”

The director compares Michael to the shark in Jaws — not that he wanted to make Jaws 2. In Spielberg’s seminal horror film, the first appearance of the killer fish signals to the audience that death for the protagonists could be anywhere, even if they can’t see it coming. Green wanted The Shape to function in the same way, with viewers feeling an anxiety around where he might pop up? “And so it’s a different kind of horror movie, where it’s not the traditional justification of character, and the character arc of a supervillain. It’s a nothing, an essence of evil. It’s an expressionless, emotionless creature of killing.”

Laurie catches her breath in the back of a truck in Halloween Kills Photo: Universal Pictures

Green felt it was key to keep Laurie as “the heart and soul of our film,” even while creating a more violent and percussive rhythm to Michael’s mayhem. In Halloween Kills, when the other citizens of Haddonfield catch wind of Michael Myers’ return (on the same night as the events of the 2018 film), Green says he wanted to “navigate through how [Laurie] deals with Michael and introduces him to the community. Then all hell breaks loose.”

Avoiding characterization and going for broke in the splatter department makes Halloween Kills truly unique when compared to other half-hearted horror sequels. The decision also took its toll on Green. Described as “a very aggressive movie to make,” the production consisted of seven weeks of night shoots, and few sequences where the cast and crew could catch their breath.

“We laugh about it now, but it was very stressful at the time. There was not any scene with two people in a room talking. It’s all madness or logistics, or stunts or murder or screaming. You go to bed stressed out at 8:30 in the morning every day. But at the same time, we have a group of collaborators and co-stars, and everybody involved in is there for the right reasons, injecting so much enthusiasm and fun. It was a sick adventure that feels like a daydream.”

Halloween Kills opens in theaters and streams on Peacock Premium on Oct. 15