REVIEW: Halloween Kills (2021)

Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN KILLS — PHOTO: Universal Pictures.

Directed by David Gordon Green — Screenplay by Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green.

On October 31st, 2022, people all around the world will be celebrating Halloween, the favorite holiday for all horror fans, but if you choose to believe the marketing for the latest film in the franchise named after the aforementioned spooky holiday, Halloween ended last weekend when David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends (which I have yet to see), the last film in his Michael Myers-focused trilogy, was released. I certainly have my doubts about whether or not they’ll actually let the dust settle on John Carpenter’s stories horror franchise.

In my review of David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), I expressed that while his foray into the franchise was overall ‘okay’ (in spite of some awkward writing), it lacked that oomph that the franchise needed to feel fresh again. I was disappointed because I left the theater in 2018 thinking that it wasn’t much of an improvement on Steve Miner’s Halloween H20 from 1998. When I finally saw David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills, his 2021 sequel to his Halloween, I was so further disappointed by it that it didn’t feel like a good use of my time to write a review of it (also because the movie had been out for a while when I finally saw it).

However, with the recent release of Halloween Ends (and as I try to watch 31 horror films in 31 days in the month of October), it felt like a good time to revisit Halloween Kills and finally scribble down my thoughts on the sequel that really frustrated me. Having now seen it again, I remain severely disappointed by the film, but I do want to note that it is still better than Halloween: Resurrection, the hugely unnecessary sequel to H20 and arguably the worst film in the entire franchise. Still, Halloween Kills doesn’t work for me, and I’d like to explain why.

Although it also includes a recreated sequence flashback (it’s honestly pretty neat) to the time of the original Carpenter film, David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills picks up immediately after the events of Green’s Halloween (2018). Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the hospital where she will need emergency surgery, while firefighters are on their way to put out the fire that Strode tried to take Michael Myers down with. Meanwhile, a group of survivors from 1978 celebrates the anniversary at a local bar where they hear of the new attacks in Haddonfield. They now decide that they will try to take him down themselves and get revenge on Michael Myers. They insist that: “evil dies tonight!”

Of course, we know that that won’t happen since this is a trilogy. In spite of that tagline and mob/community catchphrase, the film really does treat the story as if it knows very well this isn’t the final film, as Laurie Strode is basically sidelined for the entirety of the film. Nothing major happens, to be honest, except for an incredibly contrived final kill in the film which defies human logic and is there seemingly just so that people can’t say no main characters bite the bullet. It’s an eye-roll-inducing end to the film that does away with a character that I desperately wanted more from going forward.

However, I will say that Halloween Kills does indeed live up to its title. It is Halloween and there are a great many kills. Several characters are introduced and reintroduced just to be cannon fodder, i.e. people for Michael Myers to kill so that the film actually has something going on. Some of these kill scenes are inventively shot or designed, but mostly I was just frustrated by how stupid these scenes were. There are scenes filled with awkward comedic dialogue and other scenes where it feels like Michael’s victims compete to have the dumbest death scene. Make no mistake, I enjoy slasher horror films, I enjoy comedic and satirical horror films, but David Gordon Green’s 2018 film set up this gritty and realistic confrontation between a PTSD-stricken woman and an old Michael Myers, so these kinds of kills feel counterproductive to what the trilogy claimed to go for initially.

Adding onto that, it frustrated me to no end that this film seems to lessen the importance of that one-on-one confrontation by further insisting that Michael Myers still isn’t looking for Laurie Strode, and it also basically ruins the stakes of that eventual rematch by turning Michael Myers back into this indestructible force. Characters injure him violently but he always gets up, so you would think that people would start to go for something decidedly more permanent. But no. And if superhuman and indestructible is what he is, then, honestly, what is the point? That’s the feeling and question that the film left me with, which is absolutely disastrous for the middle part of a trilogy. You can’t both make a realistic one-on-one confrontation between Strode and Myers and also turn him into this supernatural force. It has to be one or the other if you want people to buy into it, and this film seems to change what the first film in David Gordon Green’s trilogy promised.

One of the interesting new things that Green’s film does is that it tries to say something about how mob mentality can lead to blind rage and dangerous mob violence. While interesting enough, I’m not sure it feels at home in a Halloween movie, and I can definitely say that the way it is executed in this film is absolutely ridiculous. There are scenes where it honestly feels like this very film is satirizing its own mob mentality subplot, and the “evil dies tonight” phrase is used so often that it feels like you’re taking part in a drinking game.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills is a mess. It erases the stakes presented in the first film, it sidelines main characters because it knows it’ll need them for the next movie, it is tonally inconsistent and structurally confounding, and there is an overabundance of expositional dialogue and awkwardly comedic lines of dialogue. It just doesn’t work.

4 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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