REVIEW: HALLOWEEN KILLS
Running Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: 15th October 2021
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton
Written by: Scott Teems, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
``a blunt instrument, free of sophistication or suspense``
As a hardcore fan of John Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween, I was genuinely surprised by how good co-writer/director David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel was. So it brings me no pleasure to report that this follow-up is truly appalling. Halloween Kills sticks rigidly to the sequel pattern of diminishing returns. I just wasn’t expecting the return to diminish this quickly.
Green’s 2018 sequel did away with 40 years’ worth of terrible sequels, reboots and retcons, and pitched itself as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original. And it worked brilliantly. Halloween (2018) had just the right amount of nostalgia, and call-backs to the original were used sparingly and smartly. It invited you back in and said “the water’s fine”. This sequel, however, is like sitting into a rusty tin bath that’s been sitting in a field with bog water and scummy leaves on the top.
Halloween Kills picks up immediately after the 2018 movie. Following a killing spree in the town of Haddonfield in 1978, bemasked serial killer Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) escapes from a mental institution and goes on another rampage. Original survivor and archetypal final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has trapped the psychotic serial killer in her basement and burned the house down around him. Needless to say, he survives.
John Carpenter and Deborah Hill didn’t invent the teen slasher movie with Halloween in 1978. There were many precursors (Black Christmas, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). But they certainly perfected it. Halloween is a lean, creepy, suspenseful masterpiece. One of the most unsettling aspects is the credibility and the believability of it all. There was nothing in the story that couldn’t conceivably happen. A psychopath in overalls and a creepy William Shatner mask goes on a killing spree? Why not? Here though, Myers is turned into an unkillable superman. It’s a far cry from what made Carpenter’s movie so appealing.
There’s a nasty streak running through Halloween Kills that has more in common with Rob Zombie’s reboot than Carpenter’s original. It’s easy to forget that there is no blood or gore in the original, and the body count is a paltry five victims (and a dog). The terror was achieved through clever camera placement and lighting. Myers was used sparingly and effectively. When “The Shape” appears, it has a real impact. The character has no impact here at all. Myers is rarely offscreen, and it gets boring very quickly.
Halloween Kills quickly establishes a pattern of endless kills that become increasingly violent and gory, and increasingly less effective. The body count here is enormous. Eventually the violence loses all impact. A new character is introduced and literally within seconds they’re dead. It’s almost like watching a series of sketches.
The plot makes no sense at all. At one point a frenzied lynch mob targets a short, fat, bald Sam Kinison lookalike, mistaking him for the burly, seven-foot-something Myers. Which is a bit like confusing Arnold Schwarzenegger with Mickey Rooney. Over and over, stuff happens that makes no logical sense whatsoever. I rolled my eyes so hard that I think I saw my brain.
The previous movie provided Curtis with a good meaty role. It evolved the character of Laurie Strode in an interesting way, and cleverly reversed the roles of predator and prey. Here, she’s shunted off into a hospital bed within the first ten minutes and stays there for most of the movie. Instead of Curtis, we get a steroid-sweaty Anthony Michael Hall running around with a baseball bat shouting “evil dies tonight”. Which is even more embarrassing than it sounds.
Green’s original intention was to shoot the 2018 movie and this follow-up back-to-back. But he decided to wait and see if the first movie was a success, and to learn from what worked and what didn’t. Frankly it’s downright bewildering that everything that was good about the previous movie has been completely undone here. This is so appalling that it’s difficult to fathom that the same creative team were involved (they are). The 2018 movie seemed to be moving in a confident direction. It knew where it wanted to go and how it was going to get there. Halloween Kills is directionless and pointless. It’s a blunt instrument, completely free of sophistication or suspense.