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Halloween Kills: Spoiler-Free Review

Amir is here with an early, spoiler-free review of the highly anticipated Halloween Kills!

Halloween Kills, the latest in the reboot series from Blumhouse, has the feeling of a bunch of puzzle pieces not placed properly together, forming an image that isn’t entirely clear. It eschews traditional slasher conventions, with some of its new ideas working out better than others. It ups the ante in terms of viciousness, carrying a mean streak with it that few horror films rarely carry, yet never fully commits to that aspect, diffusing it with some abysmal comedic elements and some downright silly moments that rip the tension away full stop.

It would like to tell you about how stories and legacies can negatively impact a community just as much as it can heal a community, but it never feels impactful nor meaningful enough to stick with you once the credits roll. It’s not a bad film by any stretch. In fact, I found this one to be a better offering to the Michael mythos than the previous film which felt overwhelmingly inert,  but its many shortcomings rob it from being a better horror film than one would hope.

(from left) Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

It’s not for a lack of trying though. After twelve films in the series, it was only natural for Blumhouse and co. to attempt to bend and twist the slasher canon in favor of a bolder approach which should be commended more than derided. The film picks up directly after the events of the previous film, with Laurie bedridden in a hospital after being severely wounded after her last run in with Michael, and her daughter (a woefully underused Judy Greer) and grand-daughter (Andi Matichak) attempting to reorient themselves after seemingly killing Michael in the house fire that ended the previous film.

Elsewhere in Haddonfield, a bar holding an open mic introduces us to many of the survivors of Michael’s rampage years ago, many of them kids when they encountered him. When word gets out that Michael isn’t dead, the townspeople led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), a young boy when Michael first appeared now grown up, decide enough is enough and go hunting him, with their chant “Evil dies tonight” echoing throughout the streets and throughout the film.

(from left) Cameron Elam (Dylan Arnold), Marion (Nancy Stephens, background), Allyson (Andi Matichak) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

If 2018’s Halloween felt like a linear video game with the promise of an open world, then Halloween Kills is that promise delivered. It’s the best comparison I can give to the film, as we open up the narrative to focus in on how the town itself responds and reacts to Michael, as we follow groups of people—improbable heroes—throughout town, armed to the teeth to take out an unstoppable force of nature by any means necessary. This element is by far the most interesting thing Halloween Kills has to offer, throwing out altogether the final girl showdown slow creep of series past. Cops and authority have always been useless within slasher stories, and this film shows what happens when a town is dissatisfied with that useless authority.

This isn’t a story about Laurie vs. Michael anymore, but instead about Michael vs. Haddonfield itself. It’s an interesting gambit; Laurie has for decades been the face of this series and while 2018’s offering had the viewer reintroduced to her as a survivalist grandmother, it’s interesting just as it is puzzling to see her character completely deemphasized here and removed of power. It’s even a note that Jamie Lee Curtis herself mentioned in a press interview for the film, finding the role challenging all things considered. It feels like a subversion tactic in the same way Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi sought to subvert the concept of legacies and fan expectation. The only difference is The Last Jedi pulls that particular aspect off far better by embedding it directly into the framework of the film beginning through end, while Halloween Kills only seems concerned with it to a certain point before being bored with it altogether.

Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

The hospital is an interesting location to feature as a central location in this film, not only because of its connection to 1981’s Halloween II but to the world of Haddonfield in general, as we see bodies swarming in as a result of Michael’s carnage. There’s a fear growing within the town, which only morphs into panic and soon chaos when the element of misinformation gets played into it. Some may loathe the vaguely political aspects of the film,  I found it to be one of the few compelling elements of this film, one that works for the most part before buckling under its own weight.

After a while, the film begins to feel more and more padded out for time, this becomes more exemplified than ever when the film returns to an opening flashback three times. More than its repetition, the opening flashback to the night of Michael’s original rampage feels more like an unnecessary world-building exercise, a way to fit in more details that the series never really needed. There’s a lot of unfunny comedic relief bits that never hit in the way I think the writers envisioned, instead giving more credence to that belief. There’s also something to be said about the way this film portrays its black characters especially in 2021, but why should I bring race into it when the creators clearly never thought about it either.

Michael Myers (aka The Shape, left) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

Still, if you’re looking for a slasher film where Michael absolutely demolishes everyone and everything in his path, then you’re in for a really good time. Never has Michael felt more dangerous and a threat than he does here, far removed from the slow walk we’ve come to expect from masked killers. His power directly contrasts with the community’s lack of strength against him; he is just too powerful and watching people get caught in his line of sight is terrifying, even if the film never conveys a sense of geography all that well.

A lot of talk out of festivals has focused on how Halloween Kills is one of the most brutal horror films around, and to that I say, I guess. The kills in this film are vicious and there’s a particularly mean streak when it comes to Michael this go around which is fun to watch, but with the exception of maybe one scene, none of the kills ever feel all that brutal or memorable for that matter, not like how a nurse gets drowned and severely burned in Halloween 2 or the entirety of Rob Zombie’s run at the series for that matter.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

Halloween Kills isn’t terrible, far from it, but it exists in this weird fugue state that Blumhouse I’m sure will reel back in with its third film. The film doesn’t so much end as it speedily wraps up and sets into motion what will eventually become Halloween Ends. It’s messy and feels incredibly random that when the credits rolled I genuinely couldn’t believe that was the ending they decided on.

Despite all its best efforts to subvert and inject the slasher canon with some political undertones, it never hits in a way I think everyone involved intended. If we’re to talk about this film in strict slasher terms, it’s a bloody mess that gorehounds and series diehards will come away satisfied with. For everyone else looking for this new trilogy reboot to deliver something more, you’ll probably have to wait for Halloween Ends

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