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Halloween Kills (2021)

SPOILERS INCLUDING THE ENDING

Beginning moments after the end of 2018’s surprisingly effective rebootquel, Halloween Kills starts off with Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney usually) escaping from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) fiery trap and laying waste to a bunch of firefighters, one of which hilariously uses a weak pressure hose as his weapon of choice against Michael. From there he cuts a path of carnage through Haddonfield for no real reason other than he can. Laurie spends much of the movie sidelined in the hospital recovering from a stab wound to the gut, so her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) lead the charge to find and stop Michael and bring this hellish night to an end.

Complicating the story, and execution of the movie, is the re-introduction of several characters from the 1978 movie including Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall in this iteration), Lindsay Wallace (Kyle Richards), Marion (Nancy Stephens) [the nurse attacked in the car with Dr. Loomis], and even Lonnie (Robert Longstreet) [the barely seen bully from the 1978 movie]. These four survivors of the massacre apparently have formed some sort of survivors club and hang out in a karaoke bar on the anniversary of the babysitter murders from 40 years before.

Ultimately what they are doing in the movie is irrelevant. The problem is that they are here at all which is one of the many, many reasons Halloween Kills is, I’m sorry to say, a bad movie. The 2018 movie took great pains to show Laurie Strode as a survivalist kook obsessed with Michael Myers escaping and prepared her entire life for that eventuality. It ruined her relationship with her daughter which estranged her from her granddaughter. She even ruins a dinner with her family and Allyson’s new boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold) with her drunk ravings and everyone is embarrassed.

Jump to Halloween Kills and not only is a large swath of the town apparently obsessed with the murders from forty years before, we learn that Lonnie is Cameron’s father. Rather than seeing Laurie as a curiosity, Cameron most likely knew her through his father and their support group which makes that scene in Halloween 2018 make less sense. One subplot has Tommy inciting a mob to chase through the hospital one of the inmates that escaped along with Michael in the bus crash, on the assumption that it is Michael. Despite the guy being five foot tall and obviously scared out of his mind, the mob is very much into it. Tommy leads them in chanting “Evil dies tonight!” which astute moviegoers will note is the tagline for the movie. It is also a lie which makes it a strange choice for the movie tagline.

Halloween Kills is filled with pointless retcons tying characters back to the 1978 movie. We are shown that not only was Hawkins (Will Patton) somewhat responsible for Michael not dying in 1978, but Lonnie had his own run-in with the killer that night. For a trilogy that was supposed to simplify things by stripping the story to only Halloween 1978 as canon, it has instead made the same mistakes like all of the original sequels. Too much backstory, too many characters, and inconsistency in how Michael acts from scene to scene.

To be fair, this isn’t a problem limited to Halloween Kills. From the first movie, Michael Myers is erratic in his actions. Sometimes he toys with victims, sometimes he just appears and stabs them, sometimes he is sadistic, sometimes he is efficient. Sometimes he arranges victims and does some arts & craftwork, other times he just leaves them lying where they fall. There is an argument that his erratic behavior is just part of the character, that you never really know what he is going to do and this inscrutable behavior sets him apart from his slasher contemporaries like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. In Halloween Kills he takes this to another level.

For example, after killing a victim, Michael proceeds to remove knives one after the other from a cutting board and stab them into the poor guy. He does this rather calmly and for no purpose other than I guess he was bored. More inscrutable is why the movie spent a few minutes showing us this. It’s not scary, it’s just odd. Another problem is Michael is supposed to be a real man. Not a supervillain, not a demon, just a man. Sure he’s been shot and stabbed and survived but these tend to be one-off injuries that as a viewer you can kind of handwave away. Here though it goes past ludicrous to land on boring.

This incarnation of Michael is more of a tank-like Jason than the sleek shark the character is usually presented as. By the end of Halloween Kills Michael has been shot repeatedly, bludgeoned with baseball bats, and stabbed repeatedly, including through the back of the neck, yet after getting knocked down he, much like Chumbawumba tells us, gets back up again. It’s dumb. There is no subtlety here and other than Laurie randomly postulating with no reference that brute force cannot destroy evil and that Michael is getting stronger with every kill, no explanation.

Which is fine, giving horror an explanation removes it power. But that doesn’t work when you are telling a grounded story which is what Halloween 2018 presented to us. This is not supposed to be redux of the Cult of Thorn convoluted lunacy that tried to explain Michael in the original series and instead dragged it down into incomprehensible gibberish. It was supposed to be a more realistic take on the character and the original story. Laurie speaking of Michael “transcending” and becoming more than human appears to be laying the ground for something I don’t think anyone wants. We are going right back down a similar road that ended with the awful The Curse of Michael Myers.

The movie at least looks great but is not nearly as atmospheric as Halloween 2018. The structure of introducing victims – kill victims – repeat keeps the movie moving and it’s always entertaining. It’s not good, but it isn’t boring for most of the runtime. Some of the kills are truly sadistic and there is a lot of bloody brutality. One carry-over this movie has from the previous installment is no one dies easy and some of these murders are truly hard to watch. Another returning element is the score composers John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, and it is a standout score. The trio has again changed up the classic theme, this time incorporating ethereal electronic choral elements that will remind John Carpenter fans of his score for Prince of Darkness, and it is a treat to listen to.

The cast is solid, although the three Strode women are mostly wasted, and the movie unfortunately has a lot of fan service. The veteran actor Charles Cyphers returns for a cameo as the retired Sheriff Bracket which is fun to see. Less fun to see is that his entire purpose is apparently a setup so he can tell Michael “everyone’s entitled to one good scare.” which is the same thing he told Laurie when he startled her in the 1978 movie. This is one of those callbacks that exists only for the audience to recognize, not the characters. It makes no sense he said it to Michael, it makes no sense he would even remember saying it to Laurie, but that’s about how all these characters are used. At other times characters refer to Michael interchangeably as Michael, Michael Myers, the boogeyman, and [sigh] the Shape. People refer to the murders from 1978 as the babysitter murders (the original title for Halloween) in yet another on-the-nose reference. It’s all just forced nostalgia and callbacks that only serve to remind viewers that Halloween 1978 is a horror classic and Halloween Kills…isn’t.

FINAL SPOILER WARNING FOR THE ENDING (Below trailer)

At the end of Halloween Kills Michael survives a lynching and most of the characters are dead, including Tommy, Lonnie, Cameron, Maureen, and Karen. We cut to credits with Michael standing at his old bedroom window in a house that somehow is not crawling with cops and paramedics despite several of them being outside staring at his own reflection. Adding to the narrative confusion, Karen went back into the house after seeing Michael as a young boy in 1963, in his clown costume, looking down at the scene from the window above. So now we have to add in ghosts too it would seem. Since Michael is also apparently capable of teleportations which is the only thing that explains how he got into the house and up the stairs without anyone seeing him despite everyone standing 2 feet from the stairs, I say sure why not? Just another reason the goodwill David Gordon Green and his screenwriting partners Danny McBride and Scott Teems built up after the excellent Halloween 2018 is pretty much gone after this woeful installment.

In interviews with Green he has said that Halloween Ends will jump forward four years for the finale. Presumably, the survivors will return (and probably fall one by one) before the final confrontation hopefully kills Michael once and for all. I was surprised by the time jump revelation but that is because I assumed all three of these movies would take place in one night. Instead, Halloween Ends will serve as another reset with even more people consumed with rage and fear from the events of Halloween in 2018. Maybe with hindsight Halloween Kills will make more sense in the finished story but I doubt it. As it stands it is a chaotic, confused, and ultimately pointless exercise in carnage that fails to move the Halloween story forward in any meaningful way.

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