“Haddonfield…where nothing exciting ever happens.” At this point, anyone who has followed the events in this little town of Illinois knows that is not entirely true. OK, not exciting, but certainly far from sleepy. 40 years have passed from the original Haddonfield horror at the hands of Michael Myers (Nick Castle/James Jude Courtney) to 2018, where Michael has re-emerged to wreck havoc again on his hometown. More dead bodies littered his warpath on his track back to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who had been prepping for the day he’d descend again. This time, despite taking near fatal injuries, she, her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) have managed to cage Myers in their makeshift home basement trap, and burning the home literally to the ground. It’s over.
Of course it isn’t. Somehow, someway, with the help of not-so-bright firefighters, Michael escapes his near fatal demise with the relentless urge to continue killing. Haddonfield’s residents are not safe, and it is still Halloween night. Upon hearing the return of The Shape, old townfolk who barely survived brushes with Myers in the past like Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) are tired of being paralyzed by fear or forgetting about it. On this Halloween night, the town of Haddonfield will take down Michael, once and for all. Their rally cry? “Evil dies tonight!”
Evil dies tonight. That is the tagline for Halloween Kills, and it suggests some kind of finality for the franchise. Of course, we know this to be inaccurate, because the news came out shortly after the wildly successful rebooted sequel of Halloween 2018 that director David Gordon Green and his co-writing partner Danny McBride had greenlit plans to release at least two more follow-ups. With that knowledge, Halloween Kills is merely a placeholder into whatever is the supposed end to this branch of the mass murderer Michael Myers. Spurts of energy? Without a doubt. Competent storytelling? Not entirely.
As aforementioned, Gordon Green returns to write and direct along his friend and collaborator McBride. Both have appreciation for this character and the mythos created by John Carpenter in 1978, who is back once again to help out on the score alongside son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. The sound and tweaked/remixed theme of Halloween never gets old, and other tracks provide atmosphere that meld old school sonic vibes with new, industrial ones. Speaking of old school, Halloween Kills goes back to the past in some of its runtime to deepen backstory to characters of yesteryear, and these scenes are shot in such a way, style, and aesthetic that you could fool anyone into thinking they were lifted straight from the late 70’s and early 80’s. And lastly, this is a viscerally violent movie; not quite to the level of Rob Zombie’s interpretations, but not far off, either. It certainly skirts the line into exploitation in some kills, but look at the Myers propensity for over-the-top gory executions here as a character evolution after getting outwitted in the last movie. He’s enraged under the mask, and takes it out on anyone who is unfortunate enough to be in his gravitational orbit.
Save for a few editing moments, Halloween Kills is a pretty damn good presentation. It’s the stuff around it and decisions made within it that brings the film down. Kills is in possession of a couple of good ideas, such as what lingering fear does to normally rational people, and how a mob mentality amplifies anything and everything from one to one-hundred. Mine a little deeper, and you can even see a bit of social commentary on the declining trust today’s populace has in law enforcement—one character states in response to Sheriff Barker (Omar J. Dorsey) plea to calm down and let the authorities do their jobs that (paraphrasing)”…That’s been done and we’re tired of seeing you all fail this!”
These ideas are cool, but they depend on better dialogue, pacing, and on an elementary level, smarter characters to blossom. Horror films, particularly slashers, are wont to lean into tropes more and generally have their characters show lower levels of intelligence quotient. That’s fine, and it makes the subgenre kind of comfort food. But, there are dumb characters, and then there are moronic characters found in Halloween Kills. These are characters who either talk a big and smart game to only prove it to be a ruse, and/or make bizarre and puzzling decisions. McBride and Gordon Green do a commendable job at tying some loose ends and background characters audiences didn’t even think about into this sequel; however, many of the characters if not all of them follow the whims of the script, feeling like cartoons in some regards and simply kill count fodder for The Shape. Perhaps one of the biggest questions the film has difficulty in answering is whether its infamous killer is mere flesh and blood like the rest of us, or if he is truly not-of-this-world. Surely we’ll get some answer in the trilogy topper, though writing their way out of this one is going to be fascinating to witness.
Purely from a physical presence, rarely has The Shape/Michael Myers come off as impressive as he does in Kills, and that is partly attributed to Courtney, whose mannerisms and movements paired with old man vitality are chilling. He shines in the movie in ways others aren’t gifted the opportunity to. Halloween Kills is without a true protagonist. Sometimes it is Allyson, sometimes Karen, and sometimes even Tommy. As supporting characters, they buoy a feature fine. As central figures, they’re either uninteresting or annoying (Tommy very much falls in the latter). The Halloween franchise has always been best when Curtis is front and center, not in the background like she is here ruminating on a shared failed romantic past with Will Patton’s inept Officer Hawkins.
Halloween Kills is difficult to summarize final thoughts on. Objectively (of course), it is very hard to argue that it is good—the narrative bungles characters and dialogue, and this is firmly a holding point before the final act of a trilogy. And yet, Halloween Kills is probably going to be a movie I won’t mind throwing on every now and then—most likely around Halloween (shocker!) when the mood strikes right for a stylish, inane, and bloody slasher flick.
Photo credits go to impawards.com, screenrant.com, cbr.com, and vulture.com.
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