Tellingly, I actually quite enjoyed David Gordon Green’s follow-up to John Carpenter’s Halloween; though the pic is violent to an uncomfortable degree, the good definitely outweighs the bad with this one.
Let’s delve into everything that worked (the Good), didn’t quite work (the Bad), and sucked worse than Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the Ugly).
*Major spoiler warning*
Positives first. Halloween Kills should have been called Halloween — Episode III: Michael Myers Strikes Back, because that’s basically the gist of the flick. No, really. While a plot does exist centered around the citizens of Haddonfield, led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) seeking revenge for ole Mikey’s horrific crimes, much of the runtime is spent watching the Shape brutally murder an obscene amount of people in an obscene amount of ways — knife, chainsaw, fluorescent light, car door, ledge, boot, fist, thumbs. And truthfully, I dug it.
This is the scariest Michael has ever been, mainly because the character, as played by James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle, behaves as though he is genuinely pissed off. At one point, he uses multiple knives to stab a corpse over and over again and actually seems quite pleased with himself after every blow. Another bit sees the famed serial killer easily wipe out a group of angry people after enduring a fairly brutal beating, and he seems to relish the opportunity.
The final shot has Michael looking over Haddonfield from his old home like a bloodthirsty emperor eager to take another stab at his increasingly disloyal subjects. The film itself is a mess, but Michael actually stands out more than ever in this one.
Honestly, I actually like how they play up his otherworldly abilities. Let’s face it, Michael Myers is a super-powered supervillain with super-strength, invulnerability, and a knack for walking slow, but fast all at once. Late in the film, Laurie delivers one of many monologues about how evil feeds his power. Like, the more he kills, the more powerful he becomes. I’m not a Halloween fanatic and don’t recall many of the films beyond Carpenter’s original and that one with the naked nurse in the hospital, so I don’t remember if this is a carryover from previous installments, but it’s a fascinating wrinkle to Michael Myers’ character regardless.
One of Halloween Kills’ key elements is the town’s descent into bloodlust following the night’s murders. Green’s execution of this idea is a little off, with mobs hilariously running amok chanting, “Evil dies tonight,” but the overarching idea is quite novel. Tired of the blood running through the streets, Tommy and the Gang round up the locals for a fun round of find-and-kind-of-kill-the-Boogeyman, which results in absolute chaos.
Mikey’s an agent of chaos.
Seriously, there’s some interesting commentary to be found, much of it hidden beneath lazy performances and choppy editing, but it exists and I found it different than anything found in previous Halloween films. The escalating fear and mayhem spurred by Michael’s carnage obviously draws parallels with certain recent real-world events, but also acts as a strong STORY B to all the killings and happenings occurring in STORY A.
John Carpenter once again supplies the music for the pic alongside Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies and the trio do a bang-up job adding enough elements to the legendary Halloween theme to make it creepier than ever.
Am I wrong for thinking Halloween Kills and the upcoming Halloween Ends were initially designed as one film and then broken up into two for reasons likely involving lots and lots of money? So many moments in the film look and feel completely out of place, like deleted scenes that have been awkwardly spliced into the narrative to pad the runtime.
Case in point: everyone’s favorite slasher queen, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), spends the entire movie sitting in a hospital bed flirting with the always grinning Will Patton and delivering poorly written speeches that play over Michael’s kills. At one point, our tough-as-nails heroine proves her tough-as-nails-ness by hopping out of her hospital bed to join in a mob assault, but immediately gets punched in the gut and quickly goes back to bed.
I get that Green and Co. are saving Laurie’s big moment for the big third-act movie, but her screen time here is mostly clunky white noise that adds nothing to the narrative. It would have been better to keep her in some sort of coma while her family tries to protect her — and then she wakes up just as her daughter is killed! Boom.
Tommy and the Gang
Halloween Kills opens with a 1978 flashback showing a couple of creepy run-ins a few unlucky Haddonfield-ians had with Michael on that fateful October night. One such character is Lonnie Elam (played by that guy in everything Robert Longstreet), who, as a kid, manages to survive his encounter with the Shape by assuming the fetal position — who knew? Anyways, flash forward to modern-day 2018 and Lonnie now parades about with Tommy and a bunch of extras from previous Halloween films; and joins in on their quest for vengeance.
Except, all of them die rather unceremoniously.
Lonnie actually dies offscreen so we don’t even get to see him take a shot at Michael, much less try out the fetal position tactic as an adult. And since his character isn’t really developed all that much aside from a weird story involving Karen’s husband smoking a joint before jumping into a lake without pants, the question arises: what was the point of that early encounter with the Shape? It felt as though Lonnie was being set up for something special, particularly after we watch him get bullied by a group of truly rancid kids early on.
Are they saving him for later? Is he in fact not dead? Or, was he really just Cameron’s dad?
Actually, all of Tommy’s gang are offed quite quickly. And while their cameos and deaths are enjoyable, the Tommy Gang vs. Michael storyline could have and should have gone much deeper — think It minus the giant turtle.
The Escaped Convict
The whole bit with the Town chasing after an escaped convict they believe to be Michale Myers is an interesting idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I love that Judy Greer’s whole plan was to lock the poor bastard in a location that was easily accessible to the public, leaving the convict to take his own life by leaping from the building in a scene far too reminiscent of Bill Murray’s similar demise in Groundhog Day. No one ever mentions this bit again, either — there are no ramifications or consequences beyond a little bit of guilt and a collective, “Oops!”
Of course, this scene has nothing on Dr. Loomis’ straight-up accidental murder of some poor hapless lad in Halloween II, a sequence that results in one of the funnier “My bad” moments in movie history.
The Rando Couples
Much like they did with 2018’s Halloween, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (along with Scott Teems) attempt to inject humor into the otherwise dramatic narrative. And, much like that film, it mostly falls flat here. Most glaringly during an extended bit featuring a gay couple sojourning in the Myers home, who engage with some local brats — the kids in this movie are truly satanic — before bumbling about their home for far too long calling each other Big John and Little John and predictably bite the dust in bloody fashion — one via a knife to the armpit. Yikes! The whole bit feels like something from Funny or Die, and completely out of place in the film, mainly because the performances from Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald are unnecessarily cartoonish. They’re trying to be funny and their characters add little to the narrative beyond defusing the tension.
Other oddballs sprinkled throughout the film include an elderly couple who squabble over, of all things, a drone before Michael offs them with a fluorescent light bulb; and a doctor and nurse couple who are introduced early on but die rather unceremoniously without much contribution beyond a few “funny” one-liners. I’m all for tension-defusing comedy, but these characters actually detract from Halloween’s otherwise grim tone.
Memories of Ray
Remember that guy Halloween (2018) who made the funny penis joke at the beginning of the movie, bumbled about for a few scenes, and died like a dope before the grand finale? Yeah, me neither. But that was Ray, Allyson’s pop and Karen’s husband. He was mostly a throwaway character who no one, including Michael, seemed to care much about.
Halloween Kills spends quite a bit of time trying to convince us otherwise. Had the character been developed a little more into something other than “Karen’s dopey husband,” we might have cared a little more. Then again, most of the characters in Halloween Kills outside of Laurie have very little development, so, here’s to you Ray!
The Middle Child
As stated earlier, Halloween Kills feels more like a collection of extended/deleted scenes than an actual movie. And so, while a lot of it works, the film doesn’t fully satisfy because it doesn’t complete its own storylines. The film opens immediately following the events of 2018’s Halloween and has Dylan walking home from the school dance and discovering Will Patton’s Officer Hawkins dying corpse.
Hawkins, gasping for air, screams, “We have to kill Michael! And I’m gonna be the one who’s gonna get him!”
Cool setup. Except, it doesn’t go anywhere. At least, not in this film. Hawkins spends the entire runtime of Halloween Kills comatose next to Laurie. Sure, we learn a little bit more about Hawkins’ past and that he actually spared Michael’s life, but his storyline is placed on the shelf for the final film.
So, why is he here? The film ends with Karen’s death, and in a lot of ways, she is the hero of the story and the one who makes any of the somewhat rational decisions. She even swoops in to save the day during the climax, but eventually gets diced by Michael’s cruel blade just before the end credits. Why not design a film around her? You can still feature Laurie and Hawkins, but build the story around Karen — or even Tommy — rather than set up a bunch of plot threads that won’t conclude until part three.
I have a hunch Halloween Ends will make Halloween Kills a little more coherent, if not satisfying. Though, I also suspect, after a little editing, one might be able to streamline the stories into one two-hour film sans the unnecessary detours. Or, maybe there was no plan and we are witnessing the product as prepared by Green and Co.
Either way, Halloween Ends hits theaters next year. I’ll be first in line to see it.