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edge staff writer


‘Halloween Kills’ more trick than treat

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Even in a Hollywood landscape constructed atop a foundation of IP-driven franchises and remakes, there are few rabbit holes as deep as the one surrounding the current iteration of “Halloween.”

The John Carpenter original is one of the classics of the horror genre; its success gave birth to a lengthy list of sequels of rapidly-diminishing quality. We got a Rob Zombie effort at rebooting, resulting in a couple of movies of middling quality. And then, in 2018, we got yet another reinvention of the franchise with David Gordon Green and Danny McBride leading the way – an effort to wipe the slate clean of the confusing and convoluted lore and reenergize the franchise. It was an effort that mostly worked.

However, the sequel to THAT movie – “Halloween Kills” – doesn’t achieve the same manner of success, instead opting to lean into over-the-top gore and an added selection of legacy characters from the franchise’s early days. And while there’s some meat on that particular nostalgic bone, Green and the rest of the filmmaking team never quite figure out how to most effectively gnaw it.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s joy to be derived from the sheer splatter factor here, as well as some moments of dark levity. It’s just that this is very obviously a middle movie, and when you already know the next movie is coming, it’s hard to make any sort of real narrative progress; it occasionally feints at some greater themes, but can’t really deliver on the follow through. In the end, what you get is largely a placeholder, a movie that exists largely because you can’t get from point A to point C without a point B. It’s fine for what it is, but ultimately, it proves disposable.

The action picks up in the immediate aftermath of the previous film. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being rushed to the hospital following her final confrontation with the murderous Michael Myers. She is accompanied by her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). The three women barely escaped with their lives, but left the murderous Myers to die in the basement of Laurie’s burning house.

As is often the case with Michael Myers, however, it isn’t nearly that easy.

Various residents of Haddonfield gather on Halloween night to tell one another scary stories about the legend of the Haddonfield Boogeyman on this, the 40th anniversary of those murders. While most of those present are too young to remember, we do encounter a number of people who crossed paths with Michael Myers once upon a time – Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet) all had their brushes with death back then.

Meanwhile, first responders have gone to the Strode compound to fight the blaze. But the blaze isn’t the only force of nature they’re going to confront – and they’re not nearly prepared for the relentless killing machine that they’ve inadvertently saved. Michael Myers is on the loose once again, but while he will spill his share of blood, his monstrousness impacts the citizens of Haddonfield in other ways as well.

Laurie goes under the knife for emergency surgery, with Karen and Allyson looking after her. But when Tommy shows up looking to put together a group to go out and hunt the killer down once and for all, things get complicated. Laurie wants to fight, but her injuries are too great; Karen does her best to keep her mother in check. Meanwhile, Allyson arms herself and makes her way out into the community, willing to do whatever she can to avenge those who Michael has already taken from her.

But as the night progresses, it becomes clear that an angry mob is no match for the inexorable progress of Michael Myers, who slashes and stabs his way through town, leaving scores of bodies in his wake as he makes his way toward his final destination. Where that final destination is – and what he seeks to do when he arrives – is unclear; different people have different ideas about Michael’s endgame, but if there’s to be any hope of stopping the monster, someone needs to figure out the right answer before it is too late.

“Halloween Kills” is fine for what it is, a gory slasher movie with the occasional tinge (or more than a tinge) of the supernatural. You’ve got your mute, unstoppable bad guy and a bunch of people who are trying to stop him.

But it’s when the film tries to fold in a larger, overarching narrative that we run into some problems. The filmmakers try to circumvent these issues by adding in new elements – the reintroduction of characters from the 1978 original (some even played by the same actors) is an interesting move, one that plays on nostalgia while also solidifying the erasure of the subsequent four decades of middling-to-bad offerings from the canon.

It’s just not enough.

“Halloween Kills” tries to stuff a bunch of story into its 113 minutes, yet still manages to come off as a bit meandering. There’s a general feeling of disconnect, as though the set pieces aren’t quite a full part of the film writ large. There are some impressive ones – as well as some darkly humorous ones – but they don’t quite line up. Throw in some efforts at topicality and a handful of plot threads left to dangle and you’re left with something of a mess.

The performances are generally OK. Jamie Lee Curtis can do this stuff in her sleep. Greer and Matichak are both good as well, with each getting a different genre trope to explore. Hall is all bug-eyed panicked vengeance; it works in some moments, but fails to click in others. Will Patton is woefully underused. The return of folks like Richards and Stephens and Charles Cyphers is cool, albeit a little fan service-y. And there’s a lot of only tangentially connected stuff, the highlight of which is probably the appearance of Scott MacArthur and Michael MacDonald as Big John and Little John, respectively (you’ll see).

“Halloween Kills” is plenty bloody but not all that scary, a film that neither escapes nor embraces the weight of its place in the middle of the planned trilogy. Fans of blood and brutality will get some satisfaction, but as an extension of the franchise, “Halloween Kills” … doesn’t.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 18 October 2021 07:37


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