HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)
With Michael Myers back on the prowl across Haddonfield after surviving a basement attack, the townsfolk come together to stop him.
After successfully redoing what Halloween: H20 (1998) did two decades earlier, only now also erasing Halloween II (1981) from continuity, David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018) was a sequel most fans of John Carpenter’s classic Halloween (1978) enjoyed. And it was a slasher movie that newcomers could jump into fresh, but then feel compelled to watch the original to learn more about the backstory to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) when she was a young babysitter who survived a home invasion by Michael Myers.
Presented as a one-off sequel (even franchise stalwart Curtis thought this was a one-and-done deal), Halloween’s critical and commercial success rejuvenated the original pitch of making a trilogy. Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends were quickly put into back-to-back production, slated for release in October 2020 and 2021, although the dates have slipped by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But at least the extra time in post-production has allowed Green and editor Tim Alverson to fine-tune Halloween Kills into a slick, crowd-pleasing suspense thriller… right?
Halloween Kills picks up immediately after the end of Halloween, with events continuing on the same night of 31 October 2018, although we quickly flashback to 1978 for a “missing climax” to the original that ties off any association to Halloween II. The scenes explain what happened when the once fresh-faced Deputy Sheriff Hawkins (Will Patton/Thomas Mann) encountered Michael Myers, and Green consulted original cinematographer Dean Cundy, as well as John Carpenter (who returns to compose the music), in order to ensure this sequence looks as close to Halloween ’78 as possible. A remarkably good digital Donald Pleasence even makes a welcome appearance, which will undoubtedly reignite debate about dead actors continuing to appear in franchises long after they’ve passed away. One can only hope Pleasence’s family received a big paycheque.
These flashbacks are fun ways to provide backstory to characters 40 years later, as Halloween Kills sets itself a difficult challenge. As the “bridge” between this trilogy’s beginning and end, there’s not much reason for it to exist. The blunt title is accurate, as the story is almost entirely about Michael stalking Haddonfield and slaughtering the townsfolk. It’s the last movie’s third act continuing and stretching to feature-length proportion, but without a satisfying conclusion because we must wait until Halloween Ends for proper resolution.
Green and his co-writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride do latch onto a good idea, in turning the spotlight away from Laurie Strode and onto many other Haddonfield residents. Halloween was about an elderly Laurie’s PTSD as the only adult survivor of Michael’s massacre, but Halloween Kills widens the scope to encompass others who were directly or indirectly involved affected on “The Night He Came Home”. Chief amongst them is Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), who’s now in his late-middle-age and still traumatised and angry about what Michael did — although the fact this continuity ignores Halloween II-VI makes it seem peculiar nobody has moved on.
Regardless, Halloween Kills has something new to say about a community losing faith in its police force (with good reason) and taking matters into their own hands by forming a mob. And along the way, fear and paranoia get the better of ordinary folk, who start going after the wrong people in an undisciplined attempt to kill Michael before the sun comes up. Although it doesn’t make sense that nobody knows what Michael really looks like — as he was in prison for 40 years, and a decade before his escape in ’78, so has nobody seen an image of him without his mask on? Maybe the idea is he’s aged a lot in four decades, so the cops were never updating everyone on what he looks like now?
The problem with Halloween Kills is that the idea of a mob going after Michael and taking the fight to him, which happened to a lesser extent in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), isn’t handled all that well. Michael is mostly able to avoid everyone who’s tracking him, as the story’s more interested in showcasing more violent and intense murders that rival Rob Zombie’s underrated and similarly brutal Halloween II (2009). Most of these kills were given away in the trailer, as feared, but horror fans should still enjoy seeing Michael make short work of a firefighter crew and when he pushes a broken fluorescent tube through a woman’s neck.
Alas, Halloween Kills doesn’t have a lot more to offer than savage deaths. The theme of vigilante justice and ordinary people turning into “monsters” in the pursuit of one is only mildly successful. The screenplay struggles to convince us these people have a personal grudge against Michael on par with Laurie, then unwisely keeps Laurie in the hospital recovering from her ordeal last time. It’s amusing how this sequel echoes Halloween II with a hospital location, and more so that Michael more plausibly avoids going there because it’s full of people and staff —unlike the puzzlingly empty wards of the 1981 movie. Jamie Lee Curtis must have been given a lot of money to return for this, or assurance she’ll again take centre stage for the last part, as Laurie is given nothing of interest to do and melts into insignificance.
Overall, this sequel is a disappointing downgrade from 2018’s Halloween. We didn’t need another instalment, but if one was inevitable from a business point of view then we definitely didn’t need a trilogy. It’s only resulted in a narratively thin, repetitive, emotionally distant middle chapter that focuses on carnage and forgets suspense or genuine scares. Too many of the characters are poorly written or keep doing preposterous things — like stay inside a house you know has an intruder inside, instead of leave and call the police. A few of these things are forgivable in a slasher film, and in some ways part of the fun, but it becomes exasperating seeing nobody behave as a normal person would. And once Michael seemingly becomes invulnerable because he’s “transcended”, well… it’s not as interesting when people are pumping bullets into a man who can inexplicably get up and dust himself off.
USA • UK | 2021 | 105 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
director: David Gordon Green.
writers: Scott Teems, Danny McBride & David Gordon Green (based on characters created by John Carpenter & Debra Hill).
starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann & Anthony Michael Hall.