A film review by Craig J. Koban December 3, 2021

HALLOWEEN KILLS j

2021, R, 106 mins.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode  / Judy Greer as Karen Nelson  /  Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson  /  Will Patton as Frank Hawkins  /  Thomas Mann as Young Hawkins  /  Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle  /  Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace  /  Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers  /  Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett  /  Nick Castle as The Shape  /  James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers

Directed by David Gordon Green  /  Written by Green, Danny McBride, and Scott Teems

HALLOWEEN KILLS is a most strange cinematic beast.  

It's the direct sequel to 2018's HALLOWEEN, which was, in turn, a direct sequel and soft reboot to John Carpenter's pioneering slasher effort of the exact same name from 1978 (it should be noted that David Gordon Green's film all but threw up the finger wag of shame to all of the HALLOWEEN sequels that we've received over the last several decades and  ignored them...continuity be damned!).  

It's impossible to understate how important the very first seventies era HALLOWEEN was for the genre and its future moving forward, which single handedly created the whole "slasher" craze that - for better or worse - has permeated the movie landscape and market ever since.  I enjoyed Green's HALLOWEEN follow-up in terms of wiping the slate clean from all of those intermittently forgettable and awful sequels, even though I'll quickly concede that it lacked conceptual innovation and strayed too close to tired and overused genre conventions for its own good. 

Oh, back to HALLOWEEN KILLS.  

Is this the very first direct sequel to a rebootquel?  In pure HALLOWEEN series fashion, HALLOWEEN KILLS takes a queue from HALLOWEEN II (remember, that film has been ignored by these films...still with me) by beginning its story directly and within minutes of HALLOWEEN (the 2018 rebootquel, not Carpenter's 1978 original...you still with me?) as we see the mentally and physically scarred Laurie Strode (franchise mainstay Jamie Lee Curtis, who has never looked rougher in one of these films) being rushed to the hospital with her daughter and granddaughter in tow after a violent (and she hopes final) altercation with the unstoppable serial killer machine "Shape" himself, Michael Meyers, who was last seen burned alive (or...was he?).  When it comes to HALLOWEEN KILLS, this is a rebootquel sequel (still still with me?) that's made with considerable flair and polish from a highly skilled and assured director.  Having said that, this sequel is both simultaneously and frequently appallingly awful in terms of fundamentally misunderstanding what Carpenter achieved with this series all those years ago.  So many times in this film characters scream out "Evil dies tonight!!!"  By the time I exited the cinema I was hoping that this newly retooled HALLOWEEN series would also expire. 

As established, HALLOWEEN KILLS begins exactly when HALLOWEEN ended, with Michael's apparent fiery death, which has caused Laurie to seek immediate medical care and her daughter in Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter in Allyson (Andi Matichak) trying to mentally process their trauma.  Laurie is not quite on death's bed, but she's so horribly wounded from her ordeal that she's in a hospital bed recovering...for most of this movie (more on that in a bit).  Laurie's hospital bedside neighbor is Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), whom was presumed dead after a standoff with Michael (in one of the film's few compelling sequences, we get an extended flashback montage that takes us back to the end of 1978's HALLOWEEN that shows the young deputy Hawkins having an equally rough encounter during Michael's first night of attack).  These two have absolutely gone through the ringer with this madman.

If only his evil could...END TONIGHT!!! 

 

 

Well, wouldn't ya know it, Michael somehow survived his flame filled tomb and is on the loose again.  Coinciding with this is an annual town tradition that has the citizens of Haddonfield gather in a local watering hole to remember the victims lost way back in the 70s.  One of the victims attending is Tommy (Anthony Michael Hall), who encountered Michael as boy, as well as Lindsay (Kyle Richards), Marion (Nancy Stephens), and Lonnie (Robert Longstreet), all of whom survived crossing paths with Michael (interestingly, we get multiple actors reprising their roles from the Carpenter original).  When news breaks out that Michael has supernaturally made it out of the burned down house and is on the prowl again, Tommy launches a lynch mob with the remaining survivors (as well as just about everyone else in the town) to hunt this boogeyman down and murder-death-kill him...for realsies this time.  

"EVIL DIES TONIGHT!!!" the angry mob chants throughout the story.  

Who are we all kidding.  Yeah, good luck with that. 

Okay, so let's chat for a second about fan servicing and angry lynch mobs.  HALLOWEEN KILLS really, really wants us to revisit the 1978 franchise starter by recreating that film's climax (or elements of it) to experience it through a different character's perspective, but it also gives us a series of aforementioned cameos by some of the bit characters from Carpenter's film.  Hell, via some nifty VFX, we even get a surprise cameo by that wacky Michael hunting Dr. Loomis (which is pretty damn convincing) during the '78 flashback.  One of the larger issues with HALLOWEEN KILLS is the sheer number of characters vying for attention here.  Gone is the lean and mean family dynamic of Laurie and her offspring (and her offspring's offspring) going toe-to-toe with Michael, and instead we get a bizarre menagerie of newly introduced characters that are not in any meaningful way fleshed out, nor are they interesting in the slightest.  I think I understand where Green and his co-screenwriter in Danny McBride want to go with this sequel in terms of showing how the psychological damage inflicted by Michael decades ago has had a ripple effect on the entire Haddonfield community, but the execution of this idea is uninspired and half baked at best.  It's just clunky as hell. 

The allegorical elements here are also a bit on the nose and obvious too.  Yes, these townspeople have experienced unimaginable pain and suffering, but now - gasp!!! - they're becoming the very collective stalking monster that they're trying to nab and murder.  The commentary of mob/vigilante justice here lacks refinement and has instead been broken down to its lowest common denominator ingredients (also, there are hints of political sermonizing here, showing how Trumpism has infected good people and turned them into one-note cretins).  I don't think this film's yearning to tackle social/political themes is its total undoing, but this mob is comprised of so many hopelessly imbecilic people that make cardinal horror movie 101 character mistakes that I was just immediately taken out of the story altogether.  There's a moment, for example, when this angry mob descends on a short, tubby, and unstable mental patient.  This mob thinks that he's an unmasked Michael.  Huh?  What?!  Multiple people of this town have had deeply intimate confrontations with the tall, lean, and psychically fit (at least for his age) Michael, so how any of these clueless people would ever think that this diminutive patient is evil personified is straining credulity to the max.  HALLOWEEN KILLS wants to be thematically smart, but is ultimately so bloody dumb in its plotting.  This is one of the stupidest blood thirsty mobs in cinematic history. 

The two other large movie-breaking issues with HALLOWEEN KILLS are (a) Laurie herself and (b) with this film's mean spirited level of ugly carnage.  Poor Jamie Lee Curtis.  As the series matriarch, she's really done a huge disservice here in being bed ridden throughout most of HALLOWEEN KILLS (she doesn't even utter a line of dialogue until the halfway point).  Considering the huge goodwill that her character received in 2018's HALLOWEEN (being Sarah Connor-ized as a tough as nails warrior), seeing her in post-surgery recovery mode here is a real letdown.  The biggest pleasure of this film's predecessor was seeing Laurie take charge of her situation and go on the offensive against Michael, which makes her minimized position in HALLOWEEN KILLS all the more dissatisfying.  Secondly, Green seems to have gone all-in on rampant blood curdling, bone crunching, and brain mattered spewing violence here, so much so that his film becomes less and less scary as a result.  Carpenter's film was violent, to be sure, but it never wallowed in such grotesquery.  His film was about fostering an undulating sensation of dread and despair; it had a nail biting atmosphere and tension uniquely its own.  It's shocking how HALLOWEEN KILLS fumbles this aesthetic ball.  There's rarely a frightening moment to be had here, because this film is so infatuated with Michael's gory murders.  The kills here are indeed clever and will appeal diehard slasher film fanatics, but to what point?  HALLOWEEN KILLS comes off as just another assembly line slasher on wash, rinse, and repeat cycle.  And Green should be above such trivialities.   

Actually, there's a multitude of other problems here too, like some side characters being so categorically terrible that I literally wanted to throw something at the screen in disgust (Michael McDonald and Scott MacArthur appear as comic relief - I think - playing a pot smoking gay couple that are not in any way shape or form ready for a Michael home invasion; this small subplot felt like it was just inserted in for the purposes of cheap laughs).  I will say this, though, in defense of HALLOWEEN KILLS: Outside of it looking good (Michael Simmonds' cinematography is a macabre delight), Carpenter has once again returned to co-score the film, making HALLOWEEN KILLS another sonic delight.  Beyond that, Green's follow-up to his well respected first crack at the HALLOWEEN whip emerges as one of 2021's great disappointments.  With tone deaf and DOA themes, too many characters, too much fan service, a saddled with nothing to do main heroine, and, yes, too much gruesome killing that gets in the way of genuine scares (hey, at least the title is accurate!), HALLOWEEN KILLS is the furthest thing from the masterful template that Carpenter envisioned as one could get.  

There's going to be a HALLOWEEN ENDS next year to cap off this semi-self-contained trilogy.  

Like, seriously, can evil just die then already! 

  H O M E