Somewhat bizarrely, the Halloween franchise is one of the only popular horror staples to survive into and beyond the 2010s. We haven’t heard from Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger in a while (though Chucky is still hanging around), but Michael Myers has continued to make big-screen appearances with varying results.
Credit where’s it’s due, he’s becoming a dependable source of spooky fun for the season.
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Halloween Kills, the sequel to the 2018 franchise reboot, is exactly that. It’s a pumpkin-spiced dose of mayhem for those who want to watch gruesome murders and revel in the slasher genre. It’s by no means perfect, but audiences will be pleased to learn it delivers exactly what they want.
Here are our thoughts on the film…
What is Halloween Kills about?
(SPOILER WARNING: Halloween Kills takes place immediately after the ending of the previous film, which this plot summary will highlight)
Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are recovering in hospital having just faced off with Michael Myers and leaving him to burn to death in Laurie’s basement. Or so they assumed, as Michael emerges from the flames to murder everyone in sight.
It’s long before word about Michael’s killing spree spreads across the city of Haddonfield with residents led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), a survivor of the 1978 massacre, taking to the streets armed with weapons and a thirst for vigilante-style justice.
Chaos erupts, and it’s up to the Strode family to not only deal with paranoid mobs on every street corner but to take down the boogeyman once and for all.
You want Halloween? You got Halloween!
Throughout its runtime, Halloween Kills tries its hardest to emulate the atmosphere and mood of John Carpenter’s original movie. At the same time, the movie is a mashup of bits and pieces from every other Halloween movie that came before it.
It has the first act of Halloween 2 and the middle part of Halloween 4 (with a cameo sprinkling of Halloween III). Much of its subplot has to do with the aftermath of the first movie with inserted flashbacks and appearances by former characters.
Does it all come together? Kind of. The movie gives off a grim mood with the lighting and overall tone conveying nothing but horror. Not to the extent the ’78 film did, but successful nonetheless. You can’t help but feel a sense of dread throughout it.
Where it starts to stumble is the subplot itself. This movie, and Jamie Lee Curtis specifically, spend a large chunk of time thinking about how Michael Myers is a walking metaphor for evil.
It’s flavour text that adds nothing to the story and it severely slows the story down whenever it happens.
Cast is a treat, but we’ve been slightly tricked
For all that can be said about Halloween (2018), everyone can agree Jamie Lee Curtis was one of its best parts. The actress is the legs, brains, and charisma of this franchise. We witness the terror of Michael Myers through her eyes and it is her determination that brings an exhilarating and hopeful element to the movies. Annoyingly, she’s laid up in a hospital bed for most of this one. What a waste.
We’re left with a supporting cast that sincerely is doing nothing wrong, but they just cannot compensate for Curtis’s restraining.
Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are doing a fine job of propelling the story between beats. Anthony Michael Hall is good as a broken man driven by tragedy (even though Paul Rudd, the shining light of Halloween 6, will always be the true Tommy Doyle). And Will Patton enjoys sweet chemistry with Jamie Lee Curtis to the point you end up wishing those two were the film’s main focus.
Kills: The make-or-break of a horror film
In the face of several storytelling shortcomings, what pulls the movie back to the surface is Michael Myers’ murderous escapades.
The kills are fun to watch (some of them welcomingly comedic) and there are a lot of them. Add to this the overall feeling of dread and the movie delivers what most audiences will be seeking.
Another important factor to consider is the decision-making skills of the characters. It’s straightforward: One cannot get invested in a character if they’re making unrelatable or simply stupid decisions.
The movie comes close to messing this up though. The climax involves two of the dumbest face-palming decisions characters like these could make (with a large plot hole towards the beginning, but a necessary one otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie). But thankfully leading up to that, most decisions made are appropriate.
The movie also gets top marks for the central narrative question: How would the rest of Haddonfield react when faced with a serial killer returning after nearly five decades? It’s a perspective relatively new to the franchise and it’s a compelling one.
Halloween Kills verdict
Halloween Kills ultimately comes off as average thanks to a substantial mix of positive and negative elements.
The plot is compelling, the kills are fun, and the atmosphere is spooky. However, Curtis is underutilised, the subplot is a waste of breath, and audiences’ mileage may vary on the choices the residents of Haddonfield make.
Halloween fans should be happy with the end result, though. It’s a film for the season and delivers on the qualities and givings of its genre.
Featured image: Universal Pictures