Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills is the second entry in a trilogy of Halloween that takes the 1978 movie as their starting point and pretends that all previous sequels don’t exist.  That bit of artistic amnesia is certainly warranted, as pretty much every sequel that followed the original movie only served to cheapen what is generally considered a horror classic.  Halloween (2018), the first movie in the trilogy, was definitely guilty of raided the closest of the original.  There’s a tense opening credit sequence featuring a pumpkin, John Carpenter’s iconic film score, copious throwback scenes and a convincing performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.  Most importantly, that movie had an interesting story to tell.  Specifically, what impact did Michael have on Laurie Strode’s life from that point on, and how did Laurie’s reaction to that trauma affect her family?

Picking up immediately after the action of the previous movie, Halloween Kills shows Laurie heading to the hospital while firetrucks head in the opposite direction.  Twelve movies into the Halloween franchise, we all know that Michael will survive certain death yet again.  What we don’t expect is for this sequel to squander all of the goodwill earned from the previous movie.  Since Laurie is confined to a hospital for the entire run length of the movie, filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride fill out the story with a collection of flashbacks and various residents of Haddonfield, Illinois.  The flashbacks don’t add anything to the story except to turn the younger version of Officer Hawkins into The Shakiest Gun in Haddonfield.  The townies are an interesting bunch, curiously well drawn for a slasher movie.  Frustratingly, all of them eventually become cannon fodder for Michael Myers and his endless supply of kitchen knives.

The last movie in the trilogy, Halloween Ends, is due to arrive next year.  That movie will undoubtedly feature the last confrontation between Laurie and Michael.  Until then, Halloween Kills passes the time, existing only as the equivalent of cinematic padding between episode one and episode three.  Aside from one surprising death at the very end of the movie, Halloween Kills is inconsequential, irrelevant and completely superfluous.  If you wish to save yourself 1:45, scroll down past the included YouTube video where I reveal the name of the character who dies.  You can make use of the time you’ve saved by rewatching the original.  Not Recommended.

When Halloween (2018) was released three years ago, the movie accomplished something I thought was impossible: it made me interested in seeing a new Halloween movie for the first time in almost forty years.  

A former member of the Halloween series fan club, I let my membership lapse decades ago.  Like many other horror movie aficionados, I consider John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) to be a classic.  I remember seeing it when I was around ten years old, and it scared me out of my wits.  I’ve seen it several times since then, and while I’m able to retain my wits, I still find the movie to be extremely effective, even though I know exactly what’s coming.

Halloween II (1981) came out three years later, picking up directly after the events of the original.  The movie was largely a retread of the first one, only with higher production values.  Halloween III (1982) was released the following year, and like many who saw it, I didn’t get it.  The movie featured a sinister figure selling halloween masks with a Stonehedge-fueled microchip that killed kids while they watched a flashing jack-o-lantern on television.  Other than a catchy jingle (Silver Shamrock), the movie was the cinematic equivalent of Carpenter turning his back on the franchise he started.  I gave up on the series at that point.  If Carpenter wasn’t interested in his creation anymore, why should I?

I’ve been aware of what had transpired in the series in the five sequels released between 1988 – 2002.  Michael Myers “returned”, had his “revenge” and leveled his “curse”.  Jamie Lee Curtis returned twenty years ago as Laurie Strode, fought Michael again and ultimately died.  Rob Zombie rebooted the franchise, which briefly rekindled interest in the franchise.  I could only get through ten minutes of Halloween (2007), though.  (Zombie’s geek show aesthetic is not for me.)  What little I knew of the sequels and the reboot was this:  the Halloween “formula” hadn’t changed at all since the original.  Michael “returns”, walks around slowly, brutally kills people who act stupidly until has a confrontation with the “final girl”.  In the end, when everyone presumes he is dead, he comes back to life.  I kept my distance through it all, comfortable in the knowledge that the horror movies I chose to see over the past three decades and change were far better than anything the Halloween franchise was putting out.

When I first heard about the new direction made by the filmmakers behind Halloween (2018),  I felt like the new movie was made specifically for people like me.  By completely ignoring all of the previous sequels, my apathy (antipathy?) towards (and general avoidance of) the Halloween franchise had somehow been rewarded.

Halloween (2018) wasn’t a great movie by any measure, but it had an excellent opening credits sequence, competent direction, evocative cinematography, copious use of John Carpenter’s synthesized score and a game performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.  It had a compelling story to tell, and I looked forward to the sequel.

Halloween Kills picks up where Halloween (2018) left off.  After presumably leaving Michael Myers to die in a roaring house fire, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to the hospital with her daughter Karen (Judie Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) at her side.  A fleet of firetrucks head towards Laurie’s home.  Laurie screams, “Let it burn!”  And just like that, Halloween Kills morphs into one of the lesser sequels, with Michael avoiding certain death only to kill again.  And again.  And, well, you get the idea.

Halloween Kills spends most of its run time in the beginning playing the “remember when” game.  Minor characters I didn’t remember from the original movie are reintroduced as survivors.  They are joined by a quirky set of new characters who live in Haddonfield.  I imagine that these characters were resting comfortably in a computer folder titled “miscellaneous characters” until one of the movie’s screenwriters brought them into service for this movie.  (For example, there is a gay couple who refer to each other as “Big John” and “Little John”. Weird.)  Unlike the usual “cannon fodder” characters you encounter in slasher movies, these townies are relatively well fleshed out, to the point where I was a bit disappointed by how they were used in the movie.  In the end, both the survivors and the quirky townies become the human equivalent of Michael hitting a bucket of balls at the local driving range.

Several lengthy flashbacks show how Officer Hawkins was preventing Dr. Loomis from finishing Michael off for good.  As we all know, another bullet shot into Michael wouldn’t have stopped him anyway.  The flashbacks unfortunately subvert Will Patton’s respectful portrayal of Officer Hawkins, by showing his younger self as the soulmate of Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West.  (Among the movie’s few surprises is how it successfully brings Dr. Loomis back to life.  Thankfully, this reenactment is entirely organic, and not a weird-looking CGI recreation.  Marvel, please take note.)

Among the new characters is Anthony Michael Hall’s Tommy Doyle, who convinces both the survivors and the quirky townies to engage in some vigilante justice and bring Michael down once and for all.  Why Hall is in this movie is anybody’s guess.  I suspect either he lost a bet to the filmmakers, or thought it would be a gas.  Regardless, the movie’s message on vigilantism only amounts to “if you get carried away, you may kill the wrong person”.  I never would have expected a Halloween movie to spend time seriously contemplating a serious philosophical conundrum, but after devoting much of the movie’s runtime to this topic, I expected more than just a shrug and an “oh well”.

At around the midpoint of the movie, the vigilantes congregate at the hospital where Laurie and Hawkins are recuperating.  They’re on the lookout for someone they think is Michael Myers.  They all begin screaming and running after the guy, who of course is the wrong guy.  This sequence symbolizes a lot of what’s wrong with the movie.  There are a lot of characters running around trying to fill the void where Laurie Strode should be.  The movie’s energy level drops precipitously whenever Curtis is not on screen, and all director David Gordon Green can think of is having his supporting cast flail away and make noise to distract us.

The body count in Halloween Kills is so high it dwarfs the dozen or so in Halloween (2018), and makes the original movie and its five victims look quaint by comparison.  I never would have thought it possible, but filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have managed to transform Michael Myers into Jason.  While the previous movie had some suspense to it, Halloween kills has none to speak of, instead offering a supersized body count and increasingly gruesome slayings.  At one point, a dying character watches as Michael sticks knives into a character that is already dead, one after the other.  Is Michael practicing for his next kill?  Admiring who sharp the knives are?  As always, Michael’s lips are sealed.

Everything that happens in Halloween Kills is inconsequential.  Nothing that happens in the movie advances the story forward one inch.  Even the death of a significant character at the end of this movie is somewhat meaningless, since the only thing that matters is the final confrontation between Laurie and Michael.  That event presumably will be the focus of Halloween Ends which is due out next year.

If it sounds like I’m holding Halloween Kills up to a higher standard than the average, run-of-the-mill slasher movies of yore, I am.  That’s what happens when you raise expectations:  if you don’t meet them, the consequences are severe.  Halloween (2018) had the guts to declare all previous sequels null-and-void and replaced them with something meaningful.  Halloween Kills is proof for how shockingly easily the best of intentions can be defeated by sloppy storytelling.

At the end of Halloween Kills, Laure monologues to Officer Hawkins (and the audience) that the reason why Michael never dies is that he is being fed by fear.  Wrong.  The reason why Michael never dies is because we keep paying to see Halloween movies, which always manage to turn a profit.  Halloween Kills is essentially padding, and the filmmakers have wasted most, if not all of the goodwill generated by the previous movie on this completely superfluous sequel.  Other than that one unexpected death, which I won’t reveal here, there is no reason to see this movie, which should have been titled Halloween Kills Time.

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Michael kills Laurie’s daughter Karen at the end.

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