Halloween Kills (2021) Review
A MIDDILING “MIDDLE” CHAPTER
In 2018, Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions released the horror slasher film Halloween, the eleventh installment in the Halloween series and the direct sequel to the original 1978 feature. Directed by David Gordon Green, the film, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak, is sets 40 years after the events of the first film and follows Laurie Strode, who post-traumatic encounter with Michael Meyers has left her paranoid of the masked man return, while her estranged daughter and granddaughter prepare for Halloween festivities as Michael escapes from captivity and runs amok on a murdering killing spree; prompting Laurie to take up arms / action against the Haddonfield “boogeyman” once again. 2018’s Halloween was received well by both fans and critics with mostly positive reviews, with many praising Curtis’s performance, Green’s direction, the score, and the kills, with a “return to basics” mantra that had alluded most of the Halloween sequels over the years. The film itself went onto to make roughly $255 million at the box office worldwide; becoming the highest grossing Halloween movie in the franchise as well as the highest horror slasher movie in the genre. Now, three years after its release, Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, and director David Gordon Green return to this movie world of Laurie Strode and Michael Meyers with the follow-up film to the 2018 sequel titled Halloween Kills. Does this next chapter of this planned new Halloween trilogy continued the success from its predecessor or does it fall flat as an incomplete endeavor?
In 2018, on Halloween night, as citizens of Haddonfield go about their business on this seasonal holiday, a few father to remember the tragedies from the past, with Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) trying to commence a level of healing after surviving the original Michael Myers attack when he was a boy, spending the night with fellow victim survivors Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens). While the town’s Halloween festivities start to whine down, Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) has survived the blazing inferno inside Laurie Strode’s home, returning to his murderous ways as he searches for his final destination in Haddonfield. Across town, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is healing in a hospital bed from her recent attack with Michael, joined by her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), who believe they’re finally killed the Haddonfield “boogeyman” once and for all. When signs of Michael’s returns start to appear, panic ensues with Tommy, who gathers a hunting party to take down the monster for good. However, dealing with Michael himself proves to be more difficult than anyone can realize, with the Strode family returning back into the murderous fray of the masked serial killer.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I’ve said this before and I will say again…..I’m usually not the biggest fan of horror movies. There not exactly my “cup of tea” as I would prefer to watch other film genres out there as sort of “comfort food” watch in cinematic escapism. Plus, I still have a very active imagination and do get a twinge of fear of stuff that go “bump” in the night. Still, over the years, I’ve seeing and reviews a few horror movies out there; finding some of them to my liking, including the recent duology of IT (2017’s IT and 2019’s IT Chapter Two, the three main Conjuring movies, and The Nun just to name a few. One movie that I did like, which was a bit surprising to me personal was 2018’s Halloween. I was never a big fan of the Michael Myers Halloween movies; finding the whole masked slasher serial killer to be a bit repetitive. I did like the original 1978 film, but the subsequential sequels just felt dumb, silly, and started to get a tad bland; recycling several ideas and come up with concept that felt so off-kilter. Thus, I was a bit leery to see 2018’s Halloween, but I was quite taken with this direct sequel to the original Halloween movie. Yes, it had its faults and was still the same type of “slasher” endeavor, but I think that the story seems more refined and gave this franchise a “back to basics” mantra, which ultimately worked in the films favor. Plus, it returned the focus back to Curtis’s Laurie Strode; revolving the movie’s narrative around her and her relationship with her daughter, her estrangement from her granddaughter, and how fate brings her and Michael back together again for a fateful confrontation. It’s one of predictable plot points, with many classic horror cannon fodder supporting characters for Michael / The Shape to slash and kill, but 2018’s Halloween was a welcomed sight and certainly breathe new life into the long-running horror franchise.
Naturally, this bring me back to talking about Halloween Kills, a 2021 horror slasher movie and the direct sequel to the 2018 Halloween film. Given the reception that the 2018 feature received, a sequel was greenlit soon after as well as third installment, which is planned to cap off this new Halloween trilogy. So, like many out there, I was looking forward to seeing where the next chapter of this resurgence of Michael Myers’s Halloween feature was going to go next. I do remember hearing that Green and most of the cast from the 2018 movie were going to coming back to reprise their role as it revealed the Halloween Kills was going to take place immediately following the ending of the previous film. After that, I didn’t hear much about the upcoming horror project until a few month back when the film’s movie trailer was released; promising the same type of visual aspect and familiar tone to the 2018 feature by continuing the narrative. It definitely looked good and I, for one, was looking forward this upcoming horror slasher. Thus, I did go see Halloween Kills a few days after its initial theatrical release…. during one of my days off from work. So…. what the sequel good or bad? Well, unfortunately, it’s bit of mixed bag. While the violent kills and continuity of the previous films helps brings fun and familiarity to the proceedings, Halloween Kills is a bit unfocused and aimlessly in the middle chapter of the intended planning trilogy. It’s not terrible or bad, but this particular entry suffers from going nowhere and feels incomplete.
Returning to the director’s chair for Halloween Kills is director David Gordon Green, whose previous directorial works includes 2018’s Halloween as well as several TV episodes such as Vice Principals and Eastbound & Down. Given his familiarity by directing the previous film, Gordon’s returning to helm this particular Halloween sequel seems like suitable / logical choice, with the director approaching the material with knowledge of how to stage / execute such a horror endeavor for the modern age. Green certainly does that by picking up the feature several minutes after the events of the previous film, which definitely adds that continuity / connection feeling towards the previous Halloween movie and makes his interpretation of this classic horror franchise his own. Because of this, the movie is allowed to jump right into the thick of things with little to no time to reintroduce characters / scenarios, with Green quickly snapping us back into the terror that the Strode family (as well as several people from Haddonfield) went through and the evil that is Michael Myers isn’t true dead. This definitely helps build tension in the movie really quickly and Green keeps that momentum going for almost the entire film; seeing Michael stalking the streets and killing anyone who gets in his way.
In addition, the movie does try to shake things up by showcasing several different angles to what this movie’s narrative plays out throughout the course of a Halloween night. While Strode family clan is little one of the focuses on the main narrative, but Green and the writers, which is consists of himself as well as Danny McBride and Scott Teems, gives Halloween Kills something of a new preceptive by presenting the story through the eyes of several other characters, including a few callbacks from previous Halloweens movies. It’s definitely a different maneuver within the franchise and one that I do like, though sometimes the idea gets away and becomes a bit clunky. Yet, despite all that, it does render this horror tale interesting and a tad bit multi-layered. Plus, while the film does have a runtime of 106 minutes (one hour and forty-six minutes), Gordon makes Halloween Kills have a fairly good pacing throughout. The movie, while aimless a few times, doesn’t get too bogged down in tedious nonsense, with Green keeping the feature light on its toes and always something to see and do…..be goofy horror comedy or brutal violent attacks of terror.
Perhaps one of the best aspect that many horror fans will appreciate about Halloween Kills is in the many deaths that happen throughout the film. Green definitely gives fans what they want to see and delivers on that front; finding Halloween Kills to have some of the most gory and violent attacks / death in the entire franchise. This moments are not for the faint of heart as we (the viewers) see Michael do some horrific scenes to people, which can be considered quite disturbing. Again, this is a word of caution for some of the more “lightweight” viewers out there. For everyone else, however, this makes this movie had a better edge against its predecessors; showcasing the ruthless violent tendencies that Myer’s “The Shape” takes on, which (of course) translates into the real-world is quite scary. To me, slasher horrors has that little bit touch of reality as it is something that possible could happen and is more believable than spectral beings from the Great Beyond or supernatural creatures from dark legends. Thus, while this brutal deaths scenes are fun in the horror entertainment category, the movie holds a slight twinge of fear of the horrors that something like this could happen.
Similar to the 2018 Halloween film, Halloween Kills’s presentation is relatively a small budget, with the production giving $20 million (double compared to the $10 million of the 2018 feature), but I think that Green and his team once again smartly utilize what’s been giving them and effective make the background setting of the movie believable and life-like in the various locations that take place to depict the town of Haddonfield. Thus, I do have the movie’s “behind the scenes team”, including Richard A. Wright (production designs), Matthew Sullivan (set decorations), and Timothy Alverson (film editing), some credit for effectively making Halloween Kills’s setting both pleasing to look at (with the horror visual aesthetics) as well as a good playground for Michael’s killing spree in the suburbia area. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by original Halloween director John Carpenter as well as Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, is also fantastic to listen to throughout the movie. There are a couple of moments of where the score is compromised by modern style of movie soundtrack, but a great majority of the musical composition is derived of the classic horror style of the late 70s / 80s of techno-ish piano melodies and other nuances, which helps build up the feature’s tension and amping up the horror aspects for scare tactics. Even the iconic “Halloween” theme is presented in the movie with a much darker tone, which definitely fits the film’s overall tone.
Unfortunately, the movie somewhat falters and crumbles underneath its own weight and ambitions; finding several crucial problems with Halloween Kills’s overall execution. How so? Well, for starters, the big point of criticisms that I had with the project was the simple fact of that the film feels like a middling endeavor; feeling like an incomplete epilogue to the 2018 film. I definitely get it what Green was trying to achieve by this notion of picking up immediately after the first feature ended, but the overall execution of this narrative storytelling is left with some hollow results. If one combines the two movies together (narratively speaking), it kind of works; following a sequential series of events from the previous one into this new film. That being said, the movie struggles to stand on its own; offering a narrative that feels disjointed and jumbled together that offers a wide variety of characters, but no really protagonist; making every character more of supporting player in a film that definitely needs a strong lead….no matter what. In addition to that, the story just feels like it becomes more and more aimless as the narrative progresses and by the time the feature reaches its conclusion, it feels just like an extended epilogue to the 2018 version. Again, I get what Green was trying to convey, but the story of Halloween Kills feels empty and literally feels half-baked; never really going anywhere and having a bit of a unsatisfied ending. Basically, if Halloween Kills is to be one thing…. many will definitely call it a “middle” chapter; never really beginning nor concluding…..and that’s kind of a bad thing.
Another major point of criticism that I have towards this movie is the utter stupidity of several characters; the decision that they make and how they behave in certain situations. I understand that this endeavor is set in a movie world and somethings have to be suspend in disbelief, but some of the choices and / or decisions being made are just downright incoherent and feel dumb. Yes, I know that is sometimes a trademark staple of the horror genre (the idea has been parody many times over), but how this happens in Halloween Kills is just so dumb to the point where decisions that people are just too idiotic to be taken seriously…. even if this scenario was being played in the real world. Thus, it almost feels too much recycled effect and literally “dumbest” back down for us (the viewers), which gives the narrative (i.e., Michael Meyers) to go on a killing spree because of the incompetent choices that the people of Haddonfield make throughout the film. It all just becomes too tedious, repetitive, and feels like a step backwards, especially after the fact that 2018’s Halloween slightly pushed the narrative of the franchise out of being stale and unfresh.
In addition to the (and incomplete narrative format), the movie also adds a new concept into the Halloween franchise mix; position that citizens of Haddonfield in a sort of “mob” mentality. It’s a classic trick of evil by turning normal every day and making them the worst; something that was closely resembled from what the Joker did to Harvey Dent in 2008’s The Dark Knight. However, while aspect succeeded in that film, the usage of it in Halloween Kills is more of a half-baked and never really panders out quite well. Again, the idea is there and does offer a new wrinkle in the series, but either Gordon nor the script have an idea of where to take this new angle; leaving this particular idea left dangling and offers up a moot resolution. Because of this, the middle portion of Halloween Kills becomes stale and quite generically formulaic, depicting a series of events that become to repetitive and tedious.
Additionally, while the script for the film has some good ideas (both traditional and non-traditional horror genre elements), some of the actually written dialogue for several characters comes off as cheesy and otherwise silly. Again, horror movies usually do that, so I know that’s part of the genetic make-up for the genre itself, but (again), with this new trilogy trying to update the franchise, it comes across as a step backward. Plus, hearing the line “Evil dies tonight” many times throughout the film is a bit cringeworthy. Heck, people should make a drinking game on how many times the line is said throughout the movie.
The cast in Halloween Kills is a mixture of okay and “meh” in my opinion, which is sort of setback from what was previously down in the 2018 film. Perhaps the biggest blunder that the movie does is virtually sidelining one of the chief title characters of the franchise…..found in the character of Laurie Strode, who is once again played by actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Known for her roles in True Lies, Freaky Friday, and Trading Places, Curtis has become a well-known actress throughout her career, with her performance as Laurie Strode being one of the more iconic roles in her filmography. This was probably one of the more interesting aspect of the 2018 Halloween film, with Curtis delivering a great performance as a more older and paranoid Laurie. In Halloween Kills, however, the character of Laurie Strode becomes less than a side character in her own movie; sidelining her for majority of the feature, while all the secondary characters running around town in search of Michael. I do like Curtis, and I liked that she returned for this project, but she’s barely in the film and doesn’t have a great impact. She’s basically just there to help continue build upon the continuity and that’s basically it, which is hugely disappointing to me. Thus, Curtis’s Laurie Strode is back in Halloween Kills, but Green and his team utterly waste her talents on this project; reducing her character (a main character in the franchise).
In contrast to that, actress Judy Greer (13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses) gets a bit more in the spotlight in Halloween Kills as Laurie’s daughter, Karen. With Curtis sidelined for majority of the film, Greer’s Karen makes the most of her screen-time in this particular sequel; acting as the voice of reason for many in Haddonfield as the people around her grow fearful of Michael’s killing spree and the paranoia sets in among the populace. Personally, I think that Greer did a good job in the movie and probably acts as the best Strode family member that shines in Halloween Kills. The last member of the Strode clan to mention is the character of Allyson, Karen’s daughter and Laurie granddaughter and who is once again played by actress Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black and Assimilate). While the character once somewhat interesting in 2018’s Halloween, the character of Allyson sort of devolves a bit in this movie; making the character a bit bland and just becoming a generic horror character, which is disappointing. Matichak gives a decent performance (no harm, no foul), but I think that the script could’ve added more substance to the character, especially since this new trilogy is shaping her to be an important character.
Much like the 2018’s Halloween film, the real “rock star” for the film would have to be the character of Michael Myers / the Shape, the silent serial killer that wreaks havoc across the town of Haddonfield. Like before, writer / director Nick Castle (The Last Starfighter and Tap) reprises the iconic horror character in a limited capacity, with much of the handling work for Michael is giving to actor James Jude Courtney (Knot’s Landing and Far and Away). Collectively, the character of Michael is more of villain of action and he certainly shows that in Halloween Kills, with many of his ill-fated encounters with several people of Haddonfield being some of the most gruesome deaths in the entire franchise. There is a also a bit more backstory explained into Michael’s psyche sprinkled throughout the feature, which is something I do appreciate and seems a bit more practical than some of the other attempts to flesh the character in several of the previous Halloween endeavors.
What I do like about Halloween Kills is that the movie brings back several characters from the past Halloween movies, with the chief among them the character of Tommy Doyle from the original 1978 film and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Though not played by the either the cast members of either Brian Andrews or Paul Rudd, the character of Tommy Doyle is played by actor Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club and The Dead Zone) in the movie and I think that he actually does a great job in the role; lending a certain type of gravitas to the feature overall abundance of silliness. That’s not to say that Hall’s Tommy gets a couple of clunky / corny dialogue lines, but he does overcome them and almost becomes the main character of the film (alongside Greer’s Karen). Tommy involvement in Halloween Kills definitely works and I actually like him in the movie. In addition to this, there are several other callbacks from past Halloween movies, including the reprisal of characters like Marion Chambers, Lindsey Wallace, and Lonnie Elam, who are played by actress Nancy Stephens (Halloween and American Dreamer), actress Kyle Richards (ER and Down to Earth), and actor Robert Longstreet (Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House) respectfully. These returning players (most of them) are great and definitely lend a hand to the feature’s overall continuity to the franchise, even though (as to be expected) are relatively cannon fodder for the feature…… if you know what that means.
The rest of the cast, including actor Thomas Mann (Lady and the Tramp and Kong: Skull Island) as the younger version of Frank Hawkins, actress Carmela McNeal (Gritz and Fatal Attraction) as Vanessa, actor Michael Smallwood (Halloween and The Inspectors) as Vanessa’s husband Marcus, Ross Bacon (making his acting debut in the film) as an escaped convict from Smith’s Grove Psychiatric Hospital named Tovoli, actor Omar J. Dorsey (The Blind Side and Harriet) as the current sheriff of Haddonfield Sheriff Baker, actor / director Jim Cummings (Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow) as Hawkins’ partner from 1978 Pete McCabe, actor Brian F. Durkin (Days of Our Lives and The Highwaymen) as Haddonfield’s deputy sheriff Deputy Graham, and actors Scott MacArthur (The Mick and The Righteous Gemstone) and Michael McDonald (MADtv and The Heat) as the current couple / residences of Michael Myers’s childhood home, fill out the remaining minor side characters in the movie. Of course, some have larger roles than others, with some reprising their roles from 2018’s Halloween, but most are either there for continuity reasons (which I do like) or just for the classic fated horror cannon fodder victims. There are a few other small minor characters / cameo-like appearances throughout the movie, with some being more cannon fodder for Michael’s killing spree as well as other references to the Halloween franchise, with some utilizing photographs and / or archival footage from the previous films.
Evil is not dead as the Laurie, Karen, and Allyson Strode as well as the citizen of Haddonfield find out when terrors of Michael Myers returns to stalk their streets on Halloween night in the movie Halloween Kills. Director David Gordon Green’s latest film returns to what he began with his 2018 film; expanding upon the modern-day retelling of Carpenters’ classic horror slasher through his own visions that honors the past. While the movie does get some exciting and horrific darker moments through his violent kills / deaths as well as its score and a few other callbacks / other nuances, the film struggles to find its own footing; acting as incomplete epilogue to the 2018 film with his aimless / filler narration, goofy dialogue, corny moments, wasting Curtis’s involvement on the project and the utter stupidity from its characters. Personally, I felt that this movie was just okay. Yes, it had its moments of violence and some of the franchises’ most brutal deaths as well as keeping up the continuity of the previous films, but I felt it was definitely a step backward from the 2018 film; retreading old tropes and feeling too incomplete for my taste. That being said, the movie itself is probably one of the better (if not the best) Halloween sequels of the franchise. So, it’s kind of a give and take….in my opinion. Thus, my recommendation for the film would be a “iffy choice” at best as some out there (mostly horror fans or fans of the long-running Halloween series) will probably get more milage out of this sequel rather than critics or causal moviegoers out there. With the film’s conclusion ending on a cliffhanger, there is no doubt that this isn’t the end of the fated encounters of Laurie Strode (and her family) against the silent “boogeyman” killer of Michael Myers, with Halloween Ends, the third and final entry of this new Halloween trilogy, scheduled to be released on October 14th, 2022. However, until that point arrives and looking past that release date, Halloween Kills…as it stands…is a fun, yet middling middle chapter that doesn’t know where it wants to go; offering up a filler episode to its previous counterpart within its aimless navigation and brutal kills in this popular horror slasher franchise.
3.0 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice)
Released On: October 15th, 2021
Reviewed On: October 31st, 2021
Halloween Kills is 106 minutes long and is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language, and some drug use