David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills arrives this Friday, and two of its most important characters have a couple of big things in common: they’ve both spent most of their lives haunted by Michael Myers, and they’ve both had just about enough of it. But the similarities mostly end there for Karen (Judy Greer), the daughter of original Halloween heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), who was one of the kids Laurie was babysitting that fateful Halloween night back in 1978. io9 spoke to Halloween Kills’ Greer and Hall to find out more.
Though we haven’t seen Tommy since 1978—in this continuity, anyway, but we’ll get to that in a bit—Hall (whose credits include 1980s classics like The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, as well as the Dead Zone TV series and The Dark Knight) told us over video chat he didn’t spend too much time thinking about what the character has been up to over the past 40 years. Instead, he credits “a really great script [where] that was really all kind of embedded and woven into the fabric of the story. That’s really kudos to David and [Green’s co-writers] Danny [McBride] and Scott Teems, because they were able to thread all the characters from the original film through 21018, and the whole universe kind of opens up more. That’s no small feat, and they do it very effortlessly.”
Though Hall wasn’t part of John Carpenter’s original Halloween cast or in the 2018 series reboot, he felt comfortable coming into the role, in part because the film was almost shot in sequence at the beginning of production. “About a week into the movie we shot the scene at the bar, and I think there’s a very powerful turn worth noting—everybody goes from commiserating about being sort of victims and survivors to making a turn and kind of summoning something else within them all, which is this idea of unifying and combating this evil—we’re not victims anymore. Let’s fight, you know?,” he said. “It was very cool to do that early in the film and to get to know Nancy [Stephens] and Kyle [Richards] and some of the actors that were there from the beginning. And I had a great time working with others that were new to it like myself, like Robert Longstreet and others. You’re not always afforded that luxury of kind of shooting in sequence and getting your bearings, and with this, we were able to, which was fun.”
Greer’s character, on the other hand, played a big role in the previous Halloween film. When we first met Karen, she was estranged from Laurie; she definitely didn’t understand or sympathize with her mother’s obsession with Michael Myers. That’s changed, obviously, after what she went through in the 2018 movie, and the Karen we see in Halloween Kills—still reeling from the vicious nightmare she’s just endured, including the death of her husband—is very different. Greer told us over the phone, “I feel like she immediately is on her mom’s side. I mean, that starts toward the end of Halloween, but she really picks up where her mom left off. She believes her mom [now] and she’s ready to fight.”
Seemingly all of Haddonfield is ready to fight in Halloween Kills, as it turns out, with Tommy leading the charge. The film’s growing tension explodes in a hospital scene in which a group of townspeople—furiously fearful that a killing machine has returned to menace their streets once again—believes they’ve spotted Michael Myers roaming the hallway. Though the film was shot in late 2019, the riot and the mood it conveys both feel oddly timely.
“All of those things kind of unfurl what’s happened in our society and across the world with the pandemic and just the sort of divisiveness, a lot of the stuff that we’ve seen as human beings,” Hall said. “It was a strange occurrence how that kind of mirrored the film, because as I know Jamie and David have spoken to, we could not have anticipated that the world got even crazier and kind of reflected and mirrored some of those themes in the film. It was really a very poignant and shocking surprise for all of us. I think it gives even more relevancy to the film in an interesting way. [The choice to resort to violence is] kind of the central conflict, I feel, of the first act—because as you know, there’s that big misdirect where we follow that and it leads us down a dark path, unfortunately, in pursuit of Myers.”
While Tommy jumps into the fray without hesitation, and even though she’s just as traumatized and angry as he is, Karen doesn’t join in. Instead, she tries to calm people down. “She’s a trained psychologist—her background is in therapy and working with people who have issues, helping kids. I think they cut that scene out of the first movie, [but she’s able to] see through the emotion and understands, maybe clinically, about mob mentality. But I think she is just a very measured, careful human being,” Greer said. She also noted that she hopes people do make connections between the movie and current events, especially regarding that scene. “It’s always great when you’re making a genre film and it becomes sort of grounded in reality—when you keep people really human and you keep situations like that, [which] could actually happen, at the forefront of a story.”
Both Tommy and Karen have close ties to Michael Myers, an enigmatic character whose lore has changed throughout the Halloween series but remains fairly stripped-down in Green’s films. “One of the things that I heard David talk about, which was really interesting to me, was that there’s actually a very limited mythology about Myers. We don’t really know what makes him tick,” Hall said. “Just his presence, I think, inspires a lot and people love to see him terrorize. That’s something fascinating, that [horror movie audiences] all have that desire to be scared or to be shocked. Maybe it’s some sort of unconscious way of dealing with death through the darkness or whatever. But that is fascinating to me: unlike other sort of dark characters, there’s a lot that’s not explained about Myers.”
Halloween Kills takes place entirely in Haddonfield and emphasizes repeatedly that one of Michael’s driving forces is his desire to return to his childhood home. “I found myself weirdly sympathizing a little with Michael Myers when I watched this movie and I didn’t like that I felt that way. But there was something more human about him,” Greer said. “And it’s like, what is it that turns a child into a monster? And is that in you already, or do you become that? I don’t know. I think the symbolism of going home is interesting, but I don’t have a major point of view, I guess, about why Michael does [what he does] because I’m still so curious about him.” And not knowing, she said, makes the movie even more frightening. “I think that nothing is scarier [than not knowing]. Everything is scarier. You don’t know what [he’s] hiding. I mean, how can you fight with an unseen enemy or even defend yourself?”
We could not let our chat with Hall end without asking if he’s seen the previous portrayal of Tommy Doyle as an adult—by Paul Rudd in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the sixth film in the franchise. While the movie wasn’t all that well-received when it was released, it’s since become something of a cult favorite among horror fans. “I did see it recently—I was glad I waited till after I was done because it was a very interesting take,” Hall said. “I liked that version, too. You know, [Tommy’s] very kind of professorial in it in a way, very interesting—a different take than I had. I was more of a bare-knuckle approach, I guess.”
Halloween Kills opens in theaters and streams on Peacock starting October 15.