Halloween Kills Review Fair to Middling

Halloween 2018 was a slightly flabby but overall pretty solid entry in the bloated, chronologically confused Halloween franchise. And it made so much money that Blumhouse immediately greenlit two sequels to be spaced apart two years each. Alas, the Virus of Unknown Origin delayed Kills by exactly a year, which means we’re getting the ostensible conclusion of this story (Halloween Ends) in just 12 months. That may end up being a blessing… (read on).

In a way, this is the third version of “Halloween 2” when you consider that a large portion of the film takes place in a hospital where Laurie Strode is recovering from the events of the previous film. Michael has survived immolation this time (he’s endured worse) when Haddonfield’s fire department is a little too Johnny on the spot, and they pay for it with their lives. Soon, the residents of Haddonfield succumb to mob hysteria and, led by Tommy Doyle, form a hilariously disorganized posse to try and hunt Michael down for good.

I’ll start with the positives first. The visual style of the film is fantastic. Certain shots, like Michael emerging in slow motion from the burning Strode house, fire axe in hand, are worthy of framing. David Gordon Green knows how to make Michael Myers look as imposing and terrifying as possible. The new score by John Carpenter and son, while obviously relying heavily on the classic themes, is typically excellent as well. And the gorehounds among us will not be disappointed in the kills this time around. Halloween was never really That kind of franchise, of the Friday the 13th oeuvre, but Michael is more brutal than ever before, befitting the title. If you’ve ever held a fluorescent light tube in your hand and wondered about its utility as a weapon, our boy Michael has you covered.

This is considered a spoiler in most of the other reviews I’ve read, but the movie starts with an extended flashback to Halloween night 1978, revealing what happened immediately after Michael absorbed six bullets from Dr. Loomis and vanished into the night. I thought it was a pretty cool sequence, and the recreation of the ’78 version of Michael Myers was perfect, as was the somehow digitally resurrected Donald Pleasance.

However, now we’re getting into the less-awesome territory. Halloween Kills doubles down on nostalgia of the original movie by bringing back a whole slew of so-called “legacy characters”, including Tommy Doyle (now played by Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsay Wallace and freaking Nurse Marion (played by the original actresses). If you don’t immediately remember Nurse Marion, she drove Dr. Loomis to Smith’s Grove and witnessed Michael’s escape. So yeah, she’s back for some reason. As is the infamous Lonnie, of “get your ass away from there” fame.

Tommy Doyle winds up being the de facto mob leader here, all wild eyes and pointing and bat-wielding. He even comes up with a slogan for their mob: “Evil dies tonight!” And you will hear this phrase way too many times. Tommy is kind of obnoxious, to be honest. The film seems to want to include commentary about mob justice, and this necessitates a fairly pointless and bizarre detour when the mob focuses its ire on another Smith’s Grove escapee that they assume is Myers. It’s reminiscent of the Dr. Sartain tangent of the previous movie, in that it makes you think “Why the hell did THAT happen?”

You might have noticed that I haven’t brought up Jamie Lee Curtis. That’s because she… really doesn’t do anything in this movie. She spends the whole thing recuperating in the hospital, which actually makes perfect sense in reality, but doesn’t make for a great story arc. She gets a couple brief moments of badassery but otherwise has little to do besides pontificate on the nature of Pure Evil with the wounded Deputy Hawkins. The younger Strodes get more agency but get a little bit lost in all the chaos of the town-wide hunt for Michael.

The final detail I need to address is the durability of Michael Myers himself. Remember, this is a 60 year old man who spent his entire life institutionalized (all sequels are decanonized in this timeline). So while the original film saw him endure a stab to the neck, a stab in the eye, and six gunshots, and Halloween 2018 leveled a similar degree of abuse, it seems the temptation to make our slasher villains invulnerable is too strong to resist. It’s fair to say that, as this movie wraps up, Michael Myers now lives by Mortal Kombat rules of survivability: As long as the body is in one piece, he’ll keep getting back up.

Hence, next year’s Halloween Ends. It’s no spoiler that Myers lives to kill another day, which makes this movie feel incomplete, and kind of jogging in place until the conclusion we’ve already been promised. It’s setting up an epic final battle between Laurie Strode, her remaining family and friends, and an invincible Michael Myers. I’ll be there for it, because I’m invested in this series now, and hoping the conclusion somehow satisfies. As a standalone movie, Halloween Kills barely gets a passing grade (which is more than I would say for most Halloween sequels). But it released at just the right time, for anyone looking for a traditionally Halloweeny big movie release this month. You could do much worse.

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