Halloween Kills (2021) clumsily slaughters any lingering enthusiasm for this storied slasher franchise.
One of the things I liked most about 2018’s HALLOWEEN was the satisfying, definitive sense of closure it seemed to give the characters and story, earning its desire to excise all previous sequels and take a direct line from Carpenter’s seminal 1979 slasher to the present day. That elation lasted all of thirty seconds after exiting the auditorium to the news that there would be not one, but two sequels. But then what else should we have expected Blumhouse, the McDonald’s of horror, to do but supersize it?
Picking up moments after Laurie Strode and her family have trapped Michael Myers in an inescapable inferno, HALLOWEEN KILLS shows how the unfeasibly rapid response of the Haddonfield Fire Department inadvertently allowed Michael Myers to emerge, like a Phoenix from the ashes, to be reborn as some kind of conceptual artist of death, cutting an arbitrary and bloody swathe through the town, taking time to rearrange his victims into dioramas of death, his avante-garde critique of Haddonfield society a particularly sharp and pointed one. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode recuperates in hospital as a rag-tag band of supporting characters from previous HALLOWEEN movies (including the ones consigned to the continuity dustbin) go batshit crazy and whip the townsfolk up into a murderous frenzy that threatens to be as dangerous as Myers himself.
It feels inconceivable that this film was created by the same team responsible for 2018’s unspectacular but serviceable requel. HALLOWEEN KILLS is, at best, a slapdash affair which lacks a central focus, preferring instead to string together some set-piece Michael Myers slice ‘n’ dice action with scenes of crowds shouting at each other and Anthony Michael Hall desperately trying to convince you he’s the hero of the film. Of course, he’s not and if you were in any doubt on the subject, the script itself is repeatedly at pains to emphasise that this is really all about Strode (sidelined in a hospital room for the entire movie) and Myers, reaching almost to create a dyad akin to the prophecy binding Harry Potter and Tom Riddle together: “Neither can live whilst the other survives”. That’s clearly where 2022’s HALLOWEEN ENDS is going and I’ll make my prediction now: Strode will sacrifice herself to destroy Myers once and for all – except there’ll be no jumping down from
Hagrid’s Officer Hawkins’ arms for one last twist this time.
Thematically, HALLOWEEN KILLS is as bankrupt as its raison d’être although it picks up, only to discard, a couple of ideas like a junkshop browser killing time while their Ritalin prescription is filled. There’s some interest in seeing the tertiary consequences of Myers’ killing spree as desperate parents crowd the hospital’s reception area trying to find out information, although it doesn’t really go anywhere and, in any event, rings hollow in this current post-consequence age. We’ve stopped expecting consequences to follow acts of mendacity in real life, so fiction is poorly placed to pick up that particular baton.
The other motif which is hard to overlook is the half-assed indictment of mob mentality and particularly the topical cruelty of everyday American folk whipped up by fear and paranoia into an unwieldy and uncontrollable horde. “Evil Dies Tonight” becomes Haddonfield’s “Make America Great Again” and Tommy Doyle may as well be wearing a red baseball cap.
The kills of the title are rote and mostly arbitrary, with Michael’s newfound interest in post-mortem tableau unexplained and therefore irrelevant. There are times when KILLS doesn’t even feel like a HALLOWEEN film – SCREAM gets a look-in and there are even a couple of moments which belong in a SCARY MOVIE, and even then not one of the good ones. The rest of HALLOWEEN KILLS is littered with atrocious writing, profoundly stupid character decisions and dialogue so bad it bests nearly every member of the cast, with the usually reliable Judy Greer particularly – but by no means uniquely – poor, even when she gets to use what can only be described as Chekhov’s pitchfork.
HALLOWEEN KILLS is an ugly, cynical, stupid movie and, as time may tell, an unnecessary and obviously padded out bridge between two bookend movies. Maybe they thought they were making HALLOWEEN’s version of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Instead, they’ve crafted something worse than HALLOWEEN’S ATTACK OF THE CLONES.