It’s October and that means Spooky Season is in full swing. That means ghosts, ghouls and horror movies abound as days get shorter and temperatures drop. Perhaps one of the most anticipated horror films of this year released over the weekend and I was among the many who decided to see it. Halloween Kills, the twelfth installment in the Halloween franchise, had a lot of promise. Unfortunately I, and many others, who walked in expecting traditional horror movie flare were left disappointed. So, where do we start deconstructing the issues? I suppose at the beginning.
The original Halloween film, released in 1978, from the minds of John Carpenter and Debra Hill was genius. It is uniquely terrifying and one of the very first slasher films in history. The iconic score (also created by John Carpenter) has sent shivers down many a spine for over 40 years. The audience watches in tense anticipation as we work towards the final showdown between Michael Meyers, Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis. Michael is a huge, slow-moving shape who uses brute strength to kill quickly. And yet, despite this film being one of the original slasher films, the body count is rather low. Only five people die and that’s because Michael Meyers has never been a killer obsessed with numbers. He has a focus and he works towards making that focus a reality at every opportunity.
Halloween, the 2018 reboot of the original, follows in those large footsteps. And it succeeds at something other Halloween films let fall by the wayside: Every death in Halloween (2018) matters. The audience had time to become attached to the characters and so, when they are slaughtered, it feels almost personal. Halloween Kills is almost the exact opposite of this. As most Halloween films are, Halloween Kills is an immediate sequel. It picks up right after the events of the film it follows. Original final girl Laurie (horror icon Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and grandaugher Allyson (Andi Matichak; Orange is the New Black) rush to the hospital after burning down Laurie’s compound-with Michael still inside of it.
They arrive at the hospital, bloodied but alive, filled with a mix of jubilation and grief…and this is where the film starts to go down hill. Laurie Stode, the ultimate survivor and main character of the films, spends the whole film trapped in the hospital. In fact, she spends most of the film laying in her hospital bed. I suppose she needs time to heal from the giant stab wound in her gut as we work our way up to the final showdown in Halloween Ends.
Unable to rely on Laurie to be the main focus of the film, Halloween Kills reintroduces us to some other Michael survivors, chief among them Tommy Doyle. Now an adult, Tommy does bizzare open mic performances at the local bar, where he kills the jovial mood of the talent show. Unlike other, newer residents of the town, Tommy knows that Michael’s rather large shadow will always loom over them.
He doesn’t know how right he is. Firefighters rush to squash the blaze at Laurie’s home and inadvertently rescue Michael who is less than grateful. Eleven dead firefighters later, “The Shape” is back on the streets of Haddonfield searching for his sister. This time, however, the town has advance warning thanks to a news broadcast about escpaed convicts. None of them are going down without a fight this year.. While Karen wants her mother and daughter safe in the hospital, Allyson is ready to fight back. Luckily, she’s not alone.
It seems like everyone in Haddonfield wants a piece of Michael Myers and with chants of “Evil Dies Tonight!” ringing loudly, a mob quickly forms. It’s an ugly sight, perhaps because its far too realistic, but more it doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Halloween film. Many horror films have done this recently. Interjecting some form of social message into movies that are typically surface level has become common. This is in large part due to the influence of Jordan Peele, an expert at weaving social commentary into his films.
Where Peele excels, however, many fail. Halloween Kills attempt at addressing mob rule and the dangers it poses (perhaps a backhanded way to bring forth conversation about the January 6th Capitol Insurrection) doesn’t mesh in a movie about an unstoppable killer. A group of frightened, crazed individuals working together to bring community justice to a man who has terrorized them for 40 years doesn’t work when compared to your typical mob violence.
This is perhaps because, despite his amazing proficiency at reimagining the iconic horror film in Halloween (2018), director David Gordan Green isn’t as adept at telling stories that feature out of control chaos. He’s excellent at showcasing humanity and intimacy (both reasons why Halloween (2018) was a standout film), but those human traits are missing in this film and it hurts. When they do appear, the film almost seems like it could be an echo of it’s predecessor’s greatness.
There’s a scene where a mother who has been searching for her son, sees his body in the morgue amongst the chaos of the mob and her emotions are intense and real. Those moments are almost non existent. The gratuitous kills, however, which seem almost designed to make the audience laugh, are plentiful. The audience I shared this film with laughed at almost every murder, the gravity of Michael as “The Shape” ruined by the comical nature in which he killed.
Halloween Kills is a middle child in the latest trilogy for the franchise and it feels like it. Halloween Ends is set for a 2022 release, but the Halloween Kills ending might have ruined some of the suspense. How can Halloween end if Michael Myers can survive being assaulted by the entire town (shot, stabbed, beaten with a baseball bat) and get back up as if he just needed a short nap? I have no doubt that Green will have the opportunity to finish his trilogy and perhaps the ending will have the same qualities that made his first steps into the franchise excellent. A bad sequel has never stopped a horror franchise from continuing and the Halloween franchise is a guaranteed moneymaker. I can only hope that Halloween Ends is far more satisifying than Halloween Kills.
For more from Aprille’, check out her reivew of Lucifer Season Six here.