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Halloween Kills came out in the United States on October 15, but Australia’s release was just short of two weeks after that, thanks mostly to cinemas closures in NSW and Victoria, which Western Australia and other COVID-free states were still punished with. Even then, my excitement for this movie was dampened by its mixed-to-negative reception in the States.
As well as being a massive horror fan, I’m a lover of Halloween. John Carpenter’s original 1978 film is one of the true defining masterworks of the genre right along with Nosferatu, The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The franchise that followed is a confusing mess of timelines, reboots, spin-offs and remakes. There are THREE films in the franchise called Halloween, which is ridiculous.
Some totally absurd and laughable twists like Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode and the Shape himself Michael Myers being related, or Michael Myers really being an immortal soldier for the demonic Cult of Thorn were all completely ignored in the 2018 reboot, acting as a direct sequel to the 1978 original.
Okay, nice and simple, back to basics. Michael Myers escapes, kills a bunch of people, Laurie Strode and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) work to stop him, trap him in a fiery cage and let him burn alive. While the 2018 reboot-sequel had a some pacing and dialogue issues, it delivered enough simple slasher thrills and a comparable style to work in the end. The ending, with Michael seemingly doomed to finally die at the hands of his most powerful victim and her family, was fantastic, left with enough ambiguity to suggest The Shape’s evil cannot be killed.
Halloween Kills, very much in the style of both movies called Halloween II (from 1981 and Rob Zombie’s 2009 remake), picks up right after the events of the previous film, taking place mostly in a hospital as our characters experience the chaotic aftermath of evil’s rampage on the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael Myers survives his inferno prison and is set on a warpath against anyone standing in his way. When word gets out to the rest of the town of Michael’s return, several remaining survivors of The Shape’s last attack 40 years ago, led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), band together and lead the charge of the townspeople to hunt Michael down and end his evil. These actions split the Strode women apart, leading to what could be a true final confrontation.
Spoiler: it isn’t. There’s already another sequel announced to be released in 2022 so it’s obvious Michael won’t actually die in the end. As if he ever could.
About halfway through watching Halloween Kills, I found myself stuck with the question “why is this movie trying to do the Halloween II thing again?” What is the actual purpose of having this sequel be in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 movie and not, say, set a year or so afterwards like what is reported to happen with Halloween Ends in 2022. Michael, instead of being shown here in exact and rather annoying detail his escape from the burning cage where escape seemed impossible, appears from out of nowhere after hiding away in the shadows. Our main characters could be left even more traumatised, the entire town prepared for his return on the next Halloween night, and yet it is still not enough to stop Michael and Laurie having their final showdown.
That is not the movie we get. Halloween Kills is a fan-fiction-feeling mess of a slasher movie that almost completely eradicates the goodwill that director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride had built with their 2018 film. Instead of delivering striking tension and a style comparable to that of the horror maestro John Carpenter, Halloween Kills assaults you with excessive gore, dodgy editing, flat performances, and a script so unbelievable you wouldn’t be wrong to think you were watching one of the bad Friday the 13th movies, just with a slicker paintjob.
This is coming from a fan of the Friday the 13thfranchise and indeed slasher films in general: this film is idiotic. Some may argue that slasher movies are always stupid and they’re never supposed to make sense or be smart. That opinion is wrong. Slasher movies, like the Friday the 13th films or most of the sequels to Halloween, Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw, are dumb when the people involved don’t care about quality. No one who made Jason Takes Manhattan or Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare were really trying to out do any classics of the horror genre. Those silly slasher movies mostly cater to simple audiences who want nothing more than a couple of cheesy one-liners, some neat gore effects, and as little substance as possible.
Halloween, from the very beginning, was more than that. It had style, grace, an elegance that was baked into its very formula. John Carpenter and producer & co-writer Debra Hill drew influence from ghost stories, haunted house movies and the films of Howard Hawks to craft realistic characters and horror sequences that chill you 40+ years later with how reserved they are. Halloween Kills is loud, brash, over-the-top, hollow, both transparent and opaque, and is no better than Rob Zombie’s unpleasant remakes from the 2000s. It is a twisted and incorrect entry in a franchise that shouldn’t exist.
Characters shout “evil dies tonight” so many times that the phrase and emotion behind it loses all meaning. Potential around the only survivors of Michael Myers’ 1978 babysitter murders banding together to take revenge on Myers while also feeding into a dangerous culture of vigilantism and self-importance, prescient themes to today’s America, is lost on filmmakers who scratched out “subtlety” from their brains. You can throw in another magnificent John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies score, some references to the masks from Halloween III, a few perfect-looking 1978 flashbacks, and some strikingly accurate Donald Pleasance makeup all you want, it’s not enough to make up for paper-thin storytelling.
Jamie Lee Curtis never leaves the hospital, a shame considering her kickass action skills were a delight in the last movie. Judy Greer is positioned to be a new protagonist, which ultimately doesn’t mean much seeing as she kind of already had her big triumphant moment before and her fate is effectively sealed. Andi Matichak just wanders from scene to scene, the writers wasting her potential in this sequel after her excellent scream queen breakthrough before. Our main characters are almost completely sidelined in favour of new idiots who all get killed in some unintentionally hilarious sequences, so what is the point?
The 2018 Halloween was pointedly about trauma (something Curtis repeated in every interview). Halloween Kills just rehashes those ideas without adding anything new, and its own twists and turns are just half-baked attempts at addressing other twists that the 2018 movie was supposed to completely ignore. Is Michael Myers immortal? At this point, I don’t care. Let Halloween end once and for all. I’ve just about had enough.
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Scott Teems, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
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