Eric’s Review: Halloween Kills (2021)

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Yep, he’s still alive. Michael Myers emerges in Halloween Kills (2021)
★★ out of ★★★★★

Halloween Kills harkens back to the old traditions of the Halloween sequels. And that’s not a good thing. The movie delivers expert gore effects, and the cruel hyperviolence is superbly done. Old-school slasher fans will likely be quite pleased. But, for those who have grown accustomed to smart protagonists and the nuanced scripts of modern horror, you will be sadly disappointed. This movie is simply an exhausting bloody trudge, setting up the next and nominally final chapter to this trilogy.

Directed by David Gordon Green
Jamie Lee Curtis in one of her few scenes in Halloween Kills (2021)

“If you track Michael’s victims, it’s a straight line to Michael’s childhood home.”

Lonnie (Robert Longstreet) in Halloween Kills

And there you have it, folks. The entire plot is summarized in one simple sentence. Michael moves from point A to Point B and anybody in between gets a knife to the neck. No motivation. No justification. Just Michael going home and slaughtering everyone between where he is… and home. Sorry for the spoiler alert, but that’s pretty much what the movie is.

Note: This review is a bit of an interesting counter to my colleague and co-host Mike Campbell, who really enjoyed this movie. Good on ya, Mike! Celebrate what you love! (Even if it’s a celebration of an empty-calorie sequel.)

Halloween Kills suffers badly for being a horror sequel. Moreover, it’s the MIDDLE bridge episode of an expected trilogy. Therefore, some things are a given going into this movie, which robs it of any climactic suspense. You know that Michael Myers is going to make it. You also know that Laurie Strode is going to make it. That much really doesn’t constitute a spoiler. As such, I think it would have been wiser to make this a TWO movie enterprise, rather than a three-movie trilogy, but Universal is going to laugh its way to the bank, having released a profitable empty vessel in its second act. (It has already earned a respectable $50 million domestically at the box office.)

So… what you get is… again… villain emerges from the fire, heads home, and kills people. Anything else in the plot is really incidental. Even goddamn Laurie Strode is incidental in this movie.

Halloween Kills is a movie much less about our primary characters and becomes more about how the town of Haddonfield reacts to the appearance of the famed boogeyman back in their community after forty years. While the erstwhile leads are holed up in the hospital recovering from the last movie, Michael emerging from the burning wreckage of Laurie’s trapped home (a great sequence shown in the previews) and just carving his way through Haddonfield in a brutal fashion, positioning himself for a final showdown in the concluding third movie.

In its attempt to pad this offering, it brings in a few plot devices. One, it keeps officer Hawkins (Will Patton) alive from the previous movie (a minor surprise, as he had been stabbed and left for dead in the previous film) in order to tell his back story about how he could have let Michael be executed by Dr. Loomis back in 1979. (And do everyone a great favor.) It’s an OK sub-plot but really doesn’t add much other than some run-time filler material. Hawkins really doesn’t do much else in the movie other than recall his past regrets.

Because Laurie and family are largely taking a pit-stop, the movie brought back all the surviving kids from the original 1978 film to expand the cast. Kyle Richards is back as Lindsey, and Nancy Stephens is back as Marion, both survivors of the original horror. Tommy, the boy who was babysat by Laurie, has been recast with Anthony Michael Hall, who is dead-set about being the one who will make sure that “Evil Dies Tonight!”. Robert Longstreet plays an adult version of Lonnie, who survived a close encounter with the shape and is now the father of Cameron, one of the surviving teens from the 2018 reboot. Nice Easter egg nods, to be sure. But these characters feel like they are used as pins set up only to be knocked down by Michael on his way to the main course… which will happen in the third movie.

Anthony Michael Hall is a grown-up Tommy Doyle in Halloween Kills (2021)

The locals vow to put up a fight, but it really doesn’t matter. He is an unstoppable force, even as what would likely be a 75-year-old man. Michael is explosively violent and clearly in his prime element. And this is where the movie fails me, as did the sequels from the previous generation. Once the killer ceases to be human, it feels like he’s there to be a franchise prop. He’s unstoppable because he’s essential to create more sequels.

Michael Myers is no longer a man. Just like Jason Voorhees. It doesn’t matter what you do, he’s an unstoppable force of evil. And really, it becomes really frustrating. Hit him with a bag of bricks to the head. Nothing. Stab him in the gut repeatedly with a kitchen knife. Nothing. Jam him with a pitchfork. A small reaction. Light him on fire. What’s the point? Michael Myers is a killing machine with apparently no nerve endings. (Again… remember, he’s supposed to be a 70-ish old man) You just can’t stop the old fella. There is a sequence where Michael is DOWN. Cut off his head! Or at least his fingers or his feet! And for Christ’s sake do not let him within arm’s reach of a knife, even if it is wedged in his vertebrae. Apply palm directly and firmly to face.

For the most part, the good citizens of Haddonfield act like a bunch of idiots who have no sense of the legacy of Michael Myers, and then he just unloads on them. Add into this a mid-sequence unruly mob in the hospital that oddly echoes the Capitol riots of earlier this February, but to what purpose? The mob sequence actually felt awkward and forced. The ineptitude of the Haddonfield police also is on display and it feels equally forced and awkward. The scene shows the willingness of the town to get motivated, but it also serves as a big diversion to the main story, quite literally as the crowd descends upon a red-herring victim for a bit of mob rule. The end result of all that unrest? Not much. Michael is still out there, marching to his childhood home.

Something that was surprising is a general lack of Jamie Lee Curtis. The movie plot had the decent sense to realize that a 62-year-old woman with a large abdominal stab wound would not be able to take part in a lot of heroic action, and so she remains in the Haddonfield hospital. At least that made sense. Although, I do suspect a miracle return to form in short order for the concluding part of the trilogy. The series is fresh out of most of the good potential targets.

The three major supporting players, Tommy, plus Judy Greer as Laurie’s daughter Karen and Andi Matichak as her granddaughter, Allyson, both survivors from the previous film are pretty one-note, and each of them acts in frustratingly counterproductive behavior. Whether it is not coordinating with each other, or splitting up the party, or displaying particularly bad aim, the group falls into the worst of horror movie victim tropes. They have their occasional moments but are critically stupid in critical situations.

Kyle Richards is Lindsey, another survivor from ’78 in Halloween Kills (2021)

Interestingly enough, some of Michael’s other victims were more interesting characters. The two couples who he dispatches, an elderly couple, and a gay couple… boy that sounds bad when it gets phrased like that… were people who, with proper warning, should have fled the scene. They seemed like potentially interesting characters, but they were more meat for the chopping block. But again, to give proper credit where credit is due, those sequences were scary and the violence was extremely gory and memorable. Fans of gory violence will certainly appreciate those sequences.

I really had higher hopes for this film. I thought that the 2018 film was really well-executed, and breathed some new life into the franchise. It tapped into the lore of the franchise. Michael was scary again. The motives were there. The engagement was there. The power and the shock value remain, but the sense of an elevated slasher film evaporated pretty quickly. It really is an old-school slasher, for better and for worse. Big, dumb, and scary.

Despite its terrific violence, this is the kind of story that ended up dooming the slasher film after so many bad sequels and cash grabs in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This film is reminiscent of the much-loathed Rob Zombie Halloween movies, and the reboot of the Friday the 13th movie in 2009. They updated the violence and production values, but the plots were ridiculous and clumsy, just like the cheap sequels that came before them. The slasher film disappeared because they sequeled themselves into a predictable and rather boring cul-de-sac.

There is hope though. This trilogy can be redeemed with a grand finale with Laurie vs. Michael FOR REAL this time. Her supporting cast is largely gone now, so it’s really the fated pair, set for a proper climax. Unless, that is, if Universal gets greedy, and keeps the door open for more sequels.

Halloween Kills is lucky that it did not receive an NC-17 as the violence is so over-the-top and cruel, that it very easily could have been slapped with that brand. There is little to no humor to relieve the tension of the movie either. Unlike the franchise’s previous iterations, it does not have any sex or nudity, which perhaps is a nod to more contemporary trends. Progress? Shrug.

This movie is in wide release nationwide and is also available streaming if you have the top-tier package from Peacock.

Review by Eric Li

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