‘Halloween Kills’ Review – An Ambitious, If Otherwise Messy Slasher Sequel

It could have ended with the 2018 Halloween movie. There, I said it. That’s not to say David Gordon Green’s follow-up is unnecessary—just that it comes at tremendous cost. Halloween Kills is everything that its predecessor and originator aren’t: gory, blunt, LOUD. Make no mistake, this is a Halloween movie. Any self-respecting fan will recognize the callbacks to John Carpenter’s original. Halloween Kills, too, wants to throw it back to other slasher sequels that had characters rallying together to take on the boogeyman. Its reach exceeds its grasp, but Halloween Kills makes the cut as a dumb, brutal, and nonetheless ambitious entry in the legacyquel trilogy.

Halloween Kills picks up right where Halloween 2018 left off. Laurie, her daughter Karen, and granddaughter Allyson in the back of a pickup, sirens blaring in the opposite direction. Michael Myers survives the fire after all and he’s PISSED. (Or I assume he is; he never says anything). It’s his resurrection by fire. He lays waste to first responders and proceeds to paint the town of Haddonfield red. You thought the night ended? Kills says it’s far from over. Michael’s spree on this night makes his 1978 streak look like amateur hour.

Green’s script, co-written with Danny McBride and Scott Teems, is ambitious by bringing in other survivors of that fateful night 40 years ago. Laurie Strode was the one who got away, but there were others who saw The Shape that night and lived to tell about it. The most vocal among them is Tommy Doyle, the very kid Laurie babysat, now a fully grown adult with a grudge to settle against Michael Myers. Anthony Michael Hall replaces a role formerly played by Paul Rudd, and honestly, it’s a welcome change.

In the right glow, Hall’s face has the madness and obsession. He looks like someone who spent his whole life checking under the bed for the boogeyman. The fear traumatized him, but also hardened him same as Laurie.

Kills brings Lonnie into the story, played by the spectacular Robert Longstreet. (Between Kills and Midnight Mass, I just love seeing this dude’s face in any horror fable.) Lonnie is the frightful kid briefly seen in the 1978 film, who was dared to go into the derelict Myer home. Some clever retconning (or reframing?) is at work. Turns out Lonnie had a more up-close encounter with the boogeyman that night. Decades later, he just might complete the dare after all.

The film also resurrects Officer Hawkins, assumed dead in the 2018 movie. (I mean, he got run over; that seemed pretty final to me.) I can hardly complain since Will Patton a.k.a. Coach Yoast is a sublime actor who I’ll watch in anything. It seems he has a bigger role to play in the saga. Kills goes on to clarify the part he played in 1978 as the first responder on the scene, and is in search of redemption while everyone else seeks revenge.

Kills expands on the story of three generations of Laurie Strodes and opens its canvas for all of Haddonfield – a town no longer symbolic in a select few, but represented by a growing mob. It’s a nod to Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which saw characters finding strength in numbers to stand up to Freddy Krueger. Tommy believes this strategy will ensure their victory. It’s wishful thinking; what if you could take on the boogeyman? It’s certainly the most crowd-pleasing solution. Don’t we all wish we can get things done simply by coming together and agreeing on something?

Laurie had to become her own monster to take on Michael Myers in Halloween 2018. It’s what Haddonfield must do, too. They can’t appeal to Michael’s empathy with pleas of “love lives today.” Instead, citizens of Haddonfield chant, “Fear dies tonight!” Everybody believes they can uproot evil with brute force and bare hands… until they remember they’re going up against the boogeyman. Haddonfield – as the proverb goes – fucks around and finds out.

If Halloween 2018 mythologized Laurie as the Final Girl turned Western antihero, then Kills remythologizes Michael Myers as the elemental big bad. 2018 ended with a newfound sense of hope for the Strode family. Kills, then, is Michael Myers Strikes Back.

This, unfortunately, is where the script starts to get messy as a spiritual ode of sorts to Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. Halloween 2018 did away with all the other reboots and sequels that made Michael Myers a droning servant of a supernatural cult. Green brought Michael Myers back to John Carpenter’s original intention – the ambiguity of “is he a man or is he more?” A gunshot, or getting hit by a car would immobilize Michael Myers momentarily before he got back up again. He may be pure evil, but there were reminders that he’s human.

Here, Michael Myers appears to be back in zombie mode, withstanding full clips and rounds of beatdowns. Now he can survive fire so… what the fuck can anybody do? The script wants to crown him the “essence of evil.” And he is; he’s The Shape. The problem is that by literally trying to transcend Michael Myers, it becomes a clear answer in and of itself. The shadows of ambiguity start to disappear as Michael Myers gets further away from a flesh and blood human being.

Perhaps this is the script balancing the equation. If he was closer to a man in Halloween 2018, now a force of nature in Kills, then it remains to be seen how Halloween Ends will resolve this. If killing Michael Myers makes him stronger, will Halloween ever end???

The kills, admittedly, are brutal and awesome. But it also gets away from the tact that Carpenter established. His 1978 Halloween is a bloodless movie by comparison. Two teens are strangled, one gets stabbed with hardly any blood shown, and the other kills are left to the imagination. Green led with Carpenter’s tact and that’s what made him such a worthy successor. As much as I enjoy seeing a gory kill with a rowdy crowd, Kills starts to feel less like Halloween and more like Friday the 13th, particularly Part VI: Jason Lives – the one that granted Jason Voorhees superstrength as a result of his resurrection.

A mob might stop a man in his tracks, but a mob can’t kill evil, so I’m not sure what the script wants to say about mobs in general. Mob mentality to fight Michael Myers – GOOD. Mob mentality leading to scapegoating – BAD. Is all of Haddonfield evil? Is Michael Myers a byproduct of Haddonfield? Sure, Tommy Doyle shouting “evil dies tonight” like a hashtag is cheesy as hell, but at least it’s cheesy fun. I have no idea if the script’s messaging is part of the fun, or meant to be taken seriously given what happens in the bloodbath.

And yet, my biggest thorn is that the movie sidelines Laurie Strode. She’s bottlenecked in the hospital for the entire runtime. Halloween 2018 transformed her from victim to hero by way of a Western gunslinger. Here, she’s bedridden, almost tangential to the story. The tradeoff is that Karen and Allyson join the fight this time. The movie wants to turn everyone else into Laurie Strode. Families and bloodlines will be forever changed after this bloody night. Everyone gets a taste of the fear, the evil, The Shape. But everybody can’t be the hero.

My gripe with the story, ultimately, is that it continues. Kills essentially undoes the triumph that Halloween 2018 ended with. If Laurie spent the last 40 years in mad preparation for Michael Myers, building her fortress like one giant trap for the boogeyman, then Kills renders it all for nothing—with a shocker of an ending that’s on the one hand true to the nihilism of Carpenter’s original conceit. On the other hand, it just really bums me out.

Not all of the script’s big swings land, but at least Carpenter’s score comes through. Green tries to evolve Michael Myers, to mixed results. Sonically, Carpenter achieves this with insane replay value. (Hell yeah I bought the soundtrack, what about it?) He takes the iconic theme and goes HAM with razor-sharp guitars and moody as hell synth keys – a nightmarish horror vibe that is at once retro yet refreshingly modern. The series’ original score is like classical music. Carpenter’s new and revamped score is industrial metal, and straight up epic in the theater. Say what you will about the movie; you can’t say anything bad about the score.

Halloween Kills is ambitious and I admire that. I respect that shit. The worst thing you can do in a long-running franchise – whether you toss away the canon or not – is play it safe. Kills takes plenty of risks, some shocking, others groaning. Perhaps in time we’ll come to appreciate the choices made. In that regard, Halloween Ends has a lot to live up to as the supposed finale. But if you ask me, the story already had its perfect ending.

Three blood-soaked kitchen knives out of five 🔪 🔪 🔪

2 thoughts on “‘Halloween Kills’ Review – An Ambitious, If Otherwise Messy Slasher Sequel

    • Adrian Manuel says:

      Yeah… I really thought the 2018 film was perfect, and I don’t use that word lightly. As soon as they announced it was the start of a whole legacyquel trilogy, I knew it was never gonna end. Even after Halloween “Ends,” they’ll reboot it again smh

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