Halloween Kills (Review)

Michael Myers is back again, again… Again. It’s the premise that launched countless Halloween sequels, you know that guy we defeated in the last movie, well, what if it turned out we didn’t? So, The Shape, The Boogeyman, evil incarnate, the occasional brother to Laurie Strode and sometimes subject of the Thorn Rune (bring back that plot point from Halloween 6, I say!), he’s back! And he’s going to kill a lot of people. That is the breadth of the initial premise this time and, for a slasher, the pure drive to kill isn’t a bad pitch. The problem is, what else do you put in the film and how do you make it stand out from the pack?

Halloween Kills is at its best when it focuses on, well, kills (though, the new Carpenter score is maybe the real highlight). As with the 2018 reboot, the actual slashing is excellent. While the earlier Halloween films (the original continuity) always cut away from violence, focusing on the power of suggestion, David Gordon Green’s film always cuts to the violence. When a bladed weapon is swung, we are going to see the impact. It is not torturous or lingering, but there’s heft and weight to what is done here. The most obvious contemporary would be the Rob Zombie Halloween films, where the brutality and physicality of Myers was escalated. This isn’t the only worthwhile comparison for Halloween Kills, though. In fact, Halloween Kills is prone to some of the issues of Rob Zombie’s own Halloween 2 (and the very original Halloween 2, I guess it’s a 2 thing). These films all amp up the violence a bit, having Myers go on speedier killing sprees, but then do not really know what to do outside of this, all dabbling with plot directions that are, shall we say, choices. Halloween Kills doesn’t tie itself in narrative knots, per se, nor does it quite get lost in plotting. The problem is that it never really finds a film to be.

Myers is back. He is going to slash up this town. For a lot of the film, he does this. There is even some visual wit to these sequences, just the right amount of gallows humour to keep audiences entertained. Sadly, they don’t escalate interestingly, as the film is pulled in a different direction. We instead get a film that focuses on a mob gathering at a hospital who are determined to grab their pitchforks and to hunt down Michael Myers. There is a disconnect here: we know he is unkillable, they mostly don’t. This focus on hunting him rather than him being the hunter spoils the equation somewhat; Myers as prey isn’t hugely engaging when you know he will just get back up again. We also waste a lot of time at what boil down to rowdy town planning meetings, when the only thing on the agenda is ‘Evil Dies Tonight’ (and, well, I guess it’s a fun allegory for what politicians promise and what they achieve). It really wants to sell to you that Myers is evil incarnate, but it does this better by letting him Myers it up (doing his ‘Halloween shit’, as is memorably said in Halloween 4, a line that is still the verbal apex of the series). When it is Myers grabbing light fixtures and murdering people, the film has a palpable sense of threat and danger. But it does not escalate from here, instead we just wait for Myers to turn up while the film does the other things it is fixated on doing.

One of these things is repeatedly returning to 1978 to reinsert new details into the timeline. It is moderate stuff but it disrupts the flow of the film, and the things it proves are ultimately a bit pointless. This is where Jamie Lee Curtis’ storyline starts to connect, as she is in hospital after having been brutally attacked in the last film. She feels guilt for unleashing Michael, for not finishing him off, and we have flashback sequences of some entertainingly awful cops to add some context to this (to give the story outside of her story, so she can react to it). But this isn’t Curtis’ film. Laurie Strode is hardly in this; after making her return such an event, and her being the highlight of the 2018 reboot, her absence is a shame. It is another sign of the film picking the wrong direction and just spending too much time on little of interest (it feels very odd to establish all these new characters to only then make a film that ignores character all together). When the film does end, it ends far too abruptly. There is actually a lot of fun on the way but when you realise the destination, it sours things. The whole thing feels a bit pointless: a sequel for the sake of making a sequel; a clear middle chapter that necessitates its own existence and nothing more.

Because, while the slashing is good here, the structure around the slashing works against it. This film, much like the first fifteen minutes of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, is a really promising no-holds-barred Myers murder spree. But then it decides that’s not enough. But it would be enough. Sure, without the characters and the contextualising, it wouldn’t be a classic. It doesn’t have a theme to hang its narrative on like the reboot (which is no masterpiece, but was a really efficient instalment), but as a cathartic continuation, it could have worked. Ultimately, it just doesn’t quite. And while I like a lot of it, I can’t deny how underwhelmed I ultimately was. I can’t deny how the film doesn’t escalate quite like you think it is going to, and how the focus gets pulled away from a really promising core. Still worth watching; still better than most of the Halloween movies; but, still disappointing.

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