Film Review: Halloween Kills

Is there any horror franchise with a more convoluted timeline than the Halloween series? John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) has a sequel in 1981’s Halloween 2. Its story is picked up in Halloween 4, Halloween 5 and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers before Halloween H20 shows up and acts as a sequel for the first two films only, writing the others out of continuity. Halloween H20 then spawned Halloween: Resurrection (possibly the nadir of the series) before Rob Zombie shows up with his divisive reboot of the franchise with, you guessed it, Halloween 1 and 2.

Michael Myers holding a teenage boy by the neck. Still from Halloween Kills.

And then, almost forty years after Carpenter’s original, comes the creatively titled…. Halloween. A sequel to Carpenter’s classic film that completely ignores everything that happened in any other film and re-focusses the story on Jamie Lee Curtis’ lone survivor from the original, Laurie Strode. David Gordon Green delivered a film that was a love-letter to Carpenter’s timeless vision and was generally well received, and successful enough to justify the return of Michael Myers for two more instalments, the first of which being the COVID-delayed Halloween Kills.

(What? What about Halloween 3(1982)? A film that seems to exist out-with the entirety of the Michael Myers films with its own batshit-crazy style and mythology encompassing scary masks, world domination, ROBOTS and Celtic witchcraft? Look, at some point you need to do your own research. Off you go, my head hurts.)

Picking up the tale mere moments after the end of Halloween (2018) (after a really cool flashback to the 1978 original), we find out just how Michael Myers escaped that burning, unescapable basement to continue cutting a bloody swathe through the sleepy suburbs of Haddonfield. While Laurie recovers from her near fatal encounter with Michael in hospital, we follow a posse of angry Haddonites as they form a lynch mob of sorts to hunt Michael down. Led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall, reprising his role from the original film), the town threatens to tear itself apart in a bid to destroy the bogeyman who haunts the very fabric of their community.

It goes about as well as you’d expect.

Laurie Strode and her daughter and a group behind themwith deep concern on their faces. Still from Halloween Kills.

Halloween Kills has its moments. Interested in looking at the inherent dangers in vigilante justice, the film makes some clever, if heavy-handed, points. The frequent call-backs to the original film are a lot of fun… at first. Anthony Michael Hall is excellent as the unhinged Tommy Doyle, too blinded by rage and hate to see the damage his rabble-rousing is doing, you can bet that if he existed in the real world he’d be organising anti-mask protests and telling you all about his own research into the COVID vaccine. And while it is fun to spend time with characters from Carpenter’s original film, someone really should have explained to David Gordon Green the notion of less being more.

The Michael Myers of this film is a very different beast to that of the 2018 and 1978 film. Whilst his relentless, unstoppable nature had been a feature in previous films, in Halloween Kills Michael Myers goes full Jason Vorhees by way of John Wick, embracing the original script description of him as merely ‘The Shape’. The supernatural elements that existed in the aborted timeline of earlier Halloween films (I can’t believe that is a real sentence) resurface here, with an ominous voiceover from Laurie Strode seeming to intone that with each kill Michael makes the less human and more invulnerable he becomes.

Michael slaughters all and sundry with some truly disturbing and largely practical effects that are incredibly crowd pleasing, with one of the stand-out kills being inflicted on one of the residents of his former home. (Side note; as the Halloween franchise is clearly willing to take some big risks, can I petition now for a prequel trilogy celebrating the adventures of the marvellously named Big John and Little John. Blumhouse, if you’re reading, call me.) The gore in the film is off the charts for a Halloween movie and personally I loved every single bloody kill.

There are, however, some missteps.

Michael Myers standing on a staircase with a knife in his hand. Still from Halloween Kills

Choosing to side-line your iconic character for the majority of the film seems like a really bad decision. Jamie Lee Curtis was tremendous in the previous film, with her damaged and dangerous return as Laurie one of the highlights of 2018. While from a logical stand-point her life threatening injuries mean that she is largely confined to a hospital bed, the film is robbed of some of its power by minimising her role. And while she will undoubtedly take centre stage again in Halloween Ends, that knowledge does not mitigate her loss to this film’s story.

In losing Laurie, the film never really settles on a main protagonist and instead splits its time across several. Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichack) are all given time to shine, but if it weren’t for the character work done in 2018’s Halloween it is unlikely any would make any kind of impact on the story.

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Also, while the direction is tight and the film never stops for breath, a little more time could have been devoted to polishing up what is undeniably a clunky script. Characters seems to blandly spout catchphrases and clunky exposition, while the pretentious dialogue given to Laurie at times comes from nowhere and seem like an odd leap of logic for the character. And also, while ‘Evil Dies Tonight’ makes for a great tagline, it is not something that anyone in their right mind would say, scream or rather bizarrely, chant. And, unless you are a WWE commentator, it is rare that you will describe any individual as an ‘Apex Predator’.

Halloween Kills never flirts with being scary, and instead settles at being a fun ride filled with violence and gore that is more likely to raise a smile than cause a scream. Carpenter’s original film is a terrifying ordeal not because of a massive body-count (including his sisters pre-credit murder, Myers kills only five people in his first spree) but because of the lurking presence of the living embodiment of the bogeyman, haunting the frame with his eerie silence. Donald Pleasance’s Doctor Loomis does more to cause an air of fear and menace about Michael with a five-minute monologue than Gordon Green has managed throughout the entirety of two films so far.

Michael Myers mask on the ground by his feet. Still from Halloween Kills.

The last fifteen minutes of the film really ramp up the supernatural elements hinted at earlier in the story, and your mileage for enjoyment may rest largely on whether or not you are willing to just go with the unusual choices the writers have opted for.

Halloween Kills is a crowd-pleasing film that pours buckets of blood onto some deeply unpleasant gore. Filled with eye-popping violence and over the top murder scenes, there is more than enough in the film to satisfy fans of the series. But be warned; those looking for the slow creeping dread and otherworldly terror that made the 1978 film the classic that it has become will be left disappointed.

John Carpenter’s Michael Myers may be dead. Long live The Shape.

By: Hugh McStay

Halloween Kills is in cinemas now.