Movie Review: Halloween Kills

A common part of the continued existence of a movie franchise is this cardinal rule: never let a good ending get in the way of making money. We have seen it with Star Wars, Terminator, and the Alien franchise in recent years, each of which had to destroy the ending that each series was left with in order to exist itself. Apart from the Terminator franchise, it’s the Halloween series that has been most guilty of this. The catharsis of the first Laurie vs Michael battle, Halloween H20, was too successful for Laurie’s supposed victory to last. With the mere existence of Halloween Kills, the same thing has happened again. 

2018’s Halloween was not a good movie. Instead it was the entirely expected mish-mash of fan service, creative kills, and terrible idiotic characters. One thing it did have was a good ending: Michael trapped in the burning basement of Laurie’s house, lured there by her, her daughter, and granddaughter, three generations of Strode women defeating the shape who had haunted their family history for years. The problem is that Danny McBride and David Gordon Green called the fire department.

Halloween Kills is just as typical as the movie that preceded it. This franchise is filled with movies that try to copy the brilliant simplicity of John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s slasher version of Citizen Kane – filled with needless convoluted sequels that have a million halves of ideas and no original voice of its own. Halloween Kills is disappointing because, for the umpteenth time, anything after the initial Laurie vs Michael battle shows how limited the premise and villain of Halloween truly is.

Halloween Kills tries to solve this problem with a bunch of sub-plots that try and fail to give Michael’s blood-soaked playground of Haddonfield a bit more personality. There are flashbacks to Michael’s capture after his first rampage, scenes that are built to hold a significance to the end of the movie which isn’t even a little bit earned. But what of the Strode women? Well, just like Halloween 2 (y’know, the first sequel you’re supposed to forget) Laurie spends the entire movie in and around her hospital bed while her granddaughter goes looking for Michael and her daughter is stuck with trying to wrangle them both, most of her “no no no NO NO nonononono NO” dialogue plucked straight from my lips as I try to stop my cat running into the living room to eat her brother’s food and bop him on the nose.

Here is an example of how stupid Halloween Kills really is. Karen (Judy Greer) is trying to convince her daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) not to go looking for Michael because that would be too dangerous. Instead she tells Allyson to stay and watch granny Laurie, before telling the police that she believes that Michael will be coming for Laurie. Let that sink in. Now I’m going to tell you that Karen is the smartest person in this movie. That’s the level we’re working with here; stupidity for plot’s sake, for the sake of putting certain characters in certain situations not out of logical motivation, but because they need to be at specific places at specific times in order to get skewered on the end of Michael’s machete.

Speaking of Michael himself. He’s a character who was literally described as the Shape in his original movie; a creature who moves through the night with no thought for anything other than causing chaos and leaving a trail of murder and mutilation in his wake. That works great for a single movie, as the 1978 Halloween proves, but beyond that, you need to start elevating him, start building on his backstory, start explaining why and how he does what he does to keep him more than just a stab-delivery device. Halloween Kills wants it both ways: this embodiment of ancient and horrible evil who is compelled to do what he does just because, and also Michael as an actual person, a man compelled to return to his childhood home, a man who makes deliberate choices in who he does and doesn’t kill (sparing a kid at the start of the movie for no stated particular reason). I’m fine with either of those characterizations, but the movie has to stick to one and commit to it. As it is, Michael is half-formed, massive feet in both camps, the best thing about him the cinematography that makes his iconic presence at least look great, if nothing else. Michael can be a person, or he can be a monster, and a great film could have found a way to make him both, but as it is, Halloween Kills just underlines the limitations of a villain who represents something rather than embodies it.

Maybe Michael’s wobbly presence wouldn’t be so bad if we got to dig into the Strodes, instead. But the Strode women, who are supposed to be our protagonists, are barely in this movie. Allyson and Karen mutter platitudes to each other while Laurie monologues from her hospital bed (a terrible waste of the terrific and still very game Jamie Lee Curtis). Instead, we have the combined limitations of the people of Haddonfield, led by a grown-up Tommy, the kid Laurie babysat in the original, convincing the town to posse up and take Michael down. There is supposed to be some commentary in all of this, especially with the townsfolk yelping the slogan EVIL DIES TONIGHT like a particularly stupid Springfield mob as they hunt down an innocent, mentally ill man, but what it feels like is the guy who made Your Highness taking an ill-informed liberal dump on small-town America. There is a smugness to the stupidity of this town from the creative team that suggests to me (a liberal from Scotland) that I’m supposed to enjoy Michael butchering these people jumping to conclusions and looking for relief from a lifetime of trauma. Though I don’t think Halloween Kills is smart enough to tackle any of these issues, nor is it smart enough to see that it doesn’t have the bandwith to pull it off, either.

Halloween Kills is what happens when filmmakers have a beginning and an ending for a movie trilogy but don’t have a fucking clue about the middle. What we get is just under two hours worth of filler with some of the most embarrassing monologing I’ve ever heard about the nature of evil and what Michael Myers truly is. Next time, let the house burn, and forget about the money.

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By Kevin Boyle

(header image via Roger Ebert)

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