‘Halloween Kills’: More of the Night He Came Home…

Michael Myers slashes his way back onto the big screen in another gratuitous yet enormously entertaining Halloween sequel.

by Chris van Dijk
Halloween Kills

To state the obvious, we never needed a sequel to the 1978 original Halloween. The essence of Michael Myers’ frightening presence, the murderous void that guides him and makes him known as The Shape, had already been portrayed flawlessly through John Carpenter’s masterful directing. There was no reason to extend the mythology of the character. Everything meaningful had already been said. As Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) confirms to the viewer; he’s the boogeyman incarnate.

But when things make money, artistic merit becomes of lesser importance or isn’t taken into consideration at all. As a famous horror franchise, Halloween is probably the most uneven in terms of quality.

But Halloween (2018) was a refreshing entry of the series. Not just because it ignored all the sequels, but because David Gordon Green and his fellow screenwriters understood what made Myers scary to begin with. Gone was Myers’ motivation to hunt down the surviving sibling; gone was the druid cult that manipulated Myers behind the scenes; gone was kung-fu kicking Busta Rhymes; gone was the pop psychology introduced in Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake. Myers was back to being nothing more than a soulless killing machine.

Original Scream Queen, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is back. Now Curtis had returned multiple times before. First in the worthy 1981 sequel, then in the half-decent 1989 revival which was the first attempt to retcon the series’ troubling timeline, and then finally in the one where Myers got his ass handed to him by Busta Rhymes (*shudder*).

But the screenwriters of Halloween (2018), gave a lot of emotional pathos to the aging Laurie Strode. The trauma of her first encounter with Myers (and ignoring all the mess that followed after) turned her into a paranoid recluse, which in turn had a painful effect on her relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).

It was also genuinely suspenseful and that’s because you cared about the characters. We shouldn’t neglect to mention the kill scenes, as a slasher film is nothing without it. While many of the kill scenes would have been generic under a less visionary director, David Gordon Green made each of them memorable — such as the sequence where Myers kills two people in one long take.

Naturally, there was the marvelous score, courtesy of the great John Carpenter, alongside his son, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davis.

That should have been the end of it. However superfluous it might have been, it was a dignified sequel, exceeding all the ones that preceded it (with the exception of perhaps Halloween III: Season of the Witch, though as fans know well enough, that shouldn’t really be considered a sequel).

But it became the highest-grossing slasher film to date. A sequel was inevitable. I knew it was going to happen, but I was slightly disappointed. In my mind, there was nowhere meaningful you could take these characters.

Yet, with the return of director David Gordon Green, I was hopeful that it could somehow justify its return, besides its monetary value.

Halloween Kills takes place right after its predecessor, with Laurie and co. being driven to the hospital. They see a fire truck driving by and they know it is headed to Laurie’s burning house, where Michael (James Jude Courtney) is locked in the basement. Laurie screams to the passing firefighters to “let it burn!”

Naturally, Michael makes it out of the burning house, murdering hordes of firemen in his path. He then proceeds to venture into Haddonfield, instigating his knack for a killing spree.

Meanwhile, many Haddonfield residents, realizing that their once feared foe has returned, begin to amass a mob. Led by baseball bat-wielding former survivor Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), the mob aims to take down Michael once and for all.

A lot of the strengths of the previous film return here. All the characters, even the ones that are quickly dispatched, receive a lot of humanity. They are all likable and feel like real people (even if they make the occasional dumb slasher movie decision). They aren’t just thinly written characters just there to meet their demise. Even when you’re reveling in the cinematic bloodshed, you do actually feel bad for most of the victims in the film.

There’s also care given in how other characters react to the death of others. There are quite a few instances of grief on display. You see the effect all this violence has on people. People don’t just move on because the script needs them to.

Jamie Lee Curtis, though confined in the hospital throughout the film, gives another emotionally resonant performance. Judy Greer is unsurprisingly endearing as Laurie’s Daughter and gets more things to do this time around. Andi Matichak proves herself once again as a worthy teenage heir to Laurie Strode.

The film also features the return of Will Patton as Deputy Hawkins, who miraculously survived the events of the previous film. Patton has always been a reliable performer and shares some great scenes with Curtis.

Halloween (2018) mentioned his involvement in Michael’s arrest in 1978, and his guilt for not killing him when he could have. A neat 1978 flashback sequence gives a lot more weight to his pathos — it also features the return of a franchise favorite character.

The film also features the return of many supporting players of the 1978 original. Besides Tommy Doyle, there’s Leigh Brackett, played once again by the great Charles Cyphers. Nancy Stephens returns once again as former nurse Marion Chambers. Even Kyle Richards, who played young Lindsey Wallace, the child Laurie was watching over in the original, returns in the role four decades after.

They are all part of the mob that aims to take down The Shape. Even Tommy Doyle’s bully from the original, Lonnie Elam (played here by a very likable Robert Longstreet), shows up to provide his gun-toting services.

At the same time, it has to be said that these characters didn’t receive much attention in the original. Their involvement in the original, or the confrontation with The Shape, was also quite minor in comparison to Laurie’s. The notion that all of them feel a sense of collective trauma feels rather overblown.

Nick Castle, one of the original performers of Myers from the original, also cameos as The Shape itself, just as he did in Halloween (2018). An affectionate decision which I’ve always appreciated. It’s similar to how Peter Mayhew once again donned the Chewbacca costume again in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Besides the cast, the film features hordes of fan service. From recognizable masks from Halloween III to familiar plot points.

Rather than feeling like cynical nostalgia bait, it all feels like a loving tribute to Carpenter’s original. It’s obvious that despite the filmmakers’ disagreement with how the character of Michael Myers was handled, they do have affection for almost every entry in the series.

As I had hoped, the score is once again composed by Carpenter and co. Considering the tone of the film, the soundtrack is far more frenetic and action-oriented. It makes it a little less memorable but it’s nonetheless supremely effective. As a highlight, there is a haunting new rendition of the main title theme.

What differs this from the previous film is its brutality. While the former film wasn’t deprived of graphic bloodshed, this film amps it up significantly. In graphic detail, you will see sharp objects being plunged through skin and bone. The moment Michael steps out of the burning building, all hell breaks loose.

I would even state that Michael seems more vicious here than in Rob Zombie’s films — though luckily, the kills here are filmed with far more inventive camera work. It never becomes repetitive. A simple kill will be enhanced by a slight stylistic tweak — like showing the kill from a character’s POV.

Sometimes it’s not the bloodshed that’s the most painful, but the reactions of loved ones, as they see their significant other, or friend, or family, whatever, being brutally murdered in front of them. This makes it also similar to 1981’s Halloween II, which also amped up the gore.

At the same time, this does come at the detriment of what the original film was focused on: suspense. Halloween (2018) was a rather nice mixture of the two. There was suspense as well as the occasional flow of blood. Halloween Kills seems far more interested in giving us some slasher thrills, so much so, it almost ventures into exploitation territory.

It must also be stated that the more down-to-earth tone of H2018, is thrown completely out the window in this sequel. The ridiculous carnage on display, alongside Michael’s near-omnipotent ability to persevere through knife or gunshot wounds, makes him a near-supernatural character. This was already hinted at in the original, and shouldn’t be a problem for those aware of the franchise lore in general.

Thematically, the film focuses on the danger of mob mentality. How fear can lead people to take the law into their own hands, with dangerous consequences to boot. Unfortunately, instead of merely showing this, the obvious message is reiterated through heavy-handed dialogue.

At the same time, even with this thematic intent, there’s no indication that the filmmakers had greater ambitions. They knew what kind of film they were making. They were aiming to make an entertaining piece of slasher cinema. And on that, whatever you can say about it, it certainly succeeded.

There’s not a dull moment to be had. I was glued to the screen from start to finish. It’s the horror movie version of a thrill ride. There’s also such a sensibility to how the characters are written. The kills might be merciless, but it doesn’t have a mean-spirited tone. It’s also nice seeing a slasher film starring a group of people of all ages, not just a group of attractive, boring teenagers.

For someone who suffered through innumerous mindless slashers, this one stands out. I can certainly nitpick the hell out of this movie, but it’s impossible for me to deny the obvious: I had one helluva good time watching this movie.

Unfortunately, with this being the second film in a now planned trilogy, Halloween Kills does end on a rather anti-climactic note. While it may give one particular character an interesting trajectory, you wish it would have a more conclusive finale. The next one is supposed to be the last one (until another inevitable reboot, of course), with its released planned for October 2022. Similar to this one, or any other Halloween sequel, it won’t really be needed. It will be another redundant slasher sequel.

Yet for all my complaining, I know I will watch it anyway. I like these characters and I must admit, seeing Michael do his thing, accompanied by a John Carpenter score, is too good to miss.

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1 comment

Nick Kush October 20, 2021 - 3:18 pm

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