Halloween Kills Lives Up To Its Title – For Better, And Worse

Finally, it’s here. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed a lot of hotly anticipated horror movies. A Quiet Place II. The Forever Purge. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. But none of these movie had quite the same buzz as Halloween Kills. After David Gordon Green and Danny McBride successfully revitalized the dormant series three years ago, Blumhouse Productions eventually announced plans for not one, but two sequels – Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. Now the waiting is over. And a host of returning actors from the original Halloween along with a few new faces are joining Jamie Lee Curtis for the middle sequel. Not surprisingly, critics are a little less enthusiastic about the results. It sounds like Halloween Kills suffers a bit from its place as the middle movie of a trilogy.

Synopsis

As her house burns with Michael Myers trapped inside, Laurie Strode and her family escape to a hospital believing they’re finally safe and free. But when first responders inadvertently free Myers, his killing spree continues on Halloween night. This time, however, Haddonfield and its weary residents are ready. No longer content to hide indoors the town rises up to hunt down the masked killer and ensure that ‘evil dies”.

Halloween Kills Ups The Violence, Downplays Atmospheric Scares

If John Carpenter’s 1978 original emphasized mood over overt violence and Rob Zombie’s remake was, well, a Rob Zombie movie, the 2018 sequel fell somewhere in the middle. Here, writer and director David Gordon Green doubles down on the slasher violence. In fact, Halloween Kills almost rivals Zombie’s remake and sequel. Just the body count alone is massive – and that’s before Michael Myers even makes it back to Haddonfield. In fact, Green dives headlong into the slasher tradition of creatively gory kills. From shattered fluorescent tubes to neck-snapping to eye-gouging, horror fans haven’t seen a Michael Myers this sadistic since Zombie’s Halloween II. Much of the sequel follows Myers from one gory set-piece to the next.

Just the body count alone is massive – and that’s before Michael Myers even makes it back to Haddonfield.

However, more isn’t necessarily better. More specifically, Halloween Kills does downplay scares for carnage. Yes, there’s still some good jumps, but Green seems less interested in suspense this time around. Furthermore, the director mishandles many of these kills with frenetic editing that often makes it hard to always see what’s happening. Though Green also leans a little too much on flashbacks, Halloween fans should love the sequel’s opening that shows how Haddonfield police originally captured Michael Myers in 1978. Just the meticulous recreation of the 1978 movie’s aesthetics alone shows Green’s genuine love of Carpenter’s masterpiece.

Halloween Kills Too Often Forgets What Made The Last Movie Work

If there’s an obvious downside to Halloween Kills’ narrative choice to pick up the action immediately following its predecessor, it’s that it necessitates sidelining Jamie Lee Curtis. After Halloween 2018 afforded her a rich, complex character arc, Curtis’ “Laurie Strode” spends most of the sequel waiting for Halloween Ends. Instead, Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems, shift the focus to other characters. A lot of other characters. On the plus side, Halloween Kills gives Judy Greer and Andi Atichak more to do here. And the callbacks to minor characters from the 1978 classic is a nice nod to longtime fans. In particular, Anthony Michael Hall shines as a grown-up Tommy Doyle. But the sequel’s ever-growing cast of idiosyncratic Haddonfield residents gets a bit tiresome especially since most of them are just cannon fodder for Michael Myers.

Instead, Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems shift the focus to other characters. A lot of other characters.

Arguably, Halloween Kills biggest problem is a screenplay overstuffed with ideas. Green’s first kick at the can felt focused – it showed us a Laurie Strode crippled by a trauma that no slasher has ever really explored. Some of those ideas are still in the sequel. On one level, Halloween Kills shows us a Haddonfield that has never recovered from the events of the first movie. Unfortunately, Green et al lose their focus as they try to explore more – and deeper – ideas. The sequel frequently diverts from the slasher violence for an “Evil Dies Tonight” exploration of mob mentality and how awful things can turn us all into monsters. Or something like that. In a movie that basks in violence, it’s anti-violence message feels misplaced.

Halloween Kills Takes The Franchise a Step Backwards

On one hand, Halloween Kills takes the franchise a step backwards from the 2018 re-quel. But it’s still better than the majority of series sequels. As its title implies, Halloween Kills benefits and suffers from overkill. This is a nastier sequel with a higher body count, brutal kills, and a Michael Myers at his most sadistic. Just from a pure slasher perspective, Halloween Kills offers basic fan service. But the sequel overdoes it with franchise callbacks alongside too many ideas. Series fans will be disappointed to see the sequel sideline Jamie Lee Curtis. While there’s an interesting continuation of the 2018’s sequel theme exploring the effects of violence and past trauma on survivors, it gets lost amidst the noise of the ‘Evil Dies Tonight’ mob theme. And Halloween Kills never overcomes its middle-entry status in a planned trilogy. Still there’s too much to appreciate to outright dismiss this sequel.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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