Released: 14th October
Seen: 31st October
If I were to rank my favourite horror franchises, Halloween would be in the top five. Hell, I’m sure EVERY horror fan would put Halloween up there in their top five franchise list. It’s a generally good franchise that tends to be good at delivering the scares… sure it has some down parts (Curse, Resurrection, The Rob Zombie ones) but more often than not these films are good. The last one, Halloween (2018) might be one of the best in the franchise. I certainly loved it enough to give it a glowing 4 star review and have spent the last 3 years excitedly waiting for this sequel, Halloween Kills. So, let this be a lesson for you kids, never hope for anything because you will be let down every damn time.
Halloween Kills takes place moments after the first one ended. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are all riding in the back of a truck to get to the hospital after they trapped Michael Myers in a burning house where they expect him to die. He doesn’t, because he’s Michael Myers, and so begins even more murder and torment for the town of Haddenfield. Of course, this time the town isn’t going to take it lying down. Now that everyone knows Michael is back, the town teams up behind Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and goes out to hunt down Michael Myers and kill him once and for all.
That sounds like a great plot idea, doesn’t it? It sure did when I heard that Halloween Kills was going to be about the town dealing with the trauma of Michael’s rampage… the problem is that while the ideas behind Halloween Kills are solid, the execution of them is absolute garbage. The editing is actually awful, both shot to shot editing and just the general structure of Halloween Kills. The dialogue ranges from pure exposition to tolerable at best. The characters… excuse me, I have to laugh at the idea that these were characters because they weren’t, they were stand ins that you use to plot stuff out in an early draft except no one thought to do a second draft to fill in the blanks. There are so many problems with Halloween Kills on a structural level that it’s a miracle that the thing is still able to tell a mostly coherent story… it tells it badly but you get where things are going!
Possibly the biggest sin is that Halloween Kills has come to the decision that you, the audience, are very stupid and can’t follow basic plot information. You’re a big thick stupid dum-dum, according to Halloween Kills, and therefore it will proceed to tell you everything about half a dozen times just to make sure you understand. Not even stuff relevant to this story, things like “Hey, did you know that Michael Myers killed his sister in 1978?” or “Did you know that Michael Myers’ house is scary?”, they repeat this shit constantly. In exposition, in casual conversation, in cutaway scenes with children, in flashbacks, I think they tattooed those sentences backwards on my ass as I sat in the cinema just so I would remember. It’s like they couldn’t decide how to get this information across while they were filming so they just did it on every location and figured they’d pick in the editing booth, but then ended up just doing them all.
Speaking of that editing booth, Halloween Kills needs about 15 minutes chopped out of it easily and several sequences moved around in order to actually be a good coherent narrative. Ideas that the film tries to do, like when the mob of Haddonfield chase someone they think is Michael, end up not working because the editing gives away the twist reveal too early or kills the pacing dead in its tracks.
Then there’s just the fact that all the characters are inconsistent idiots who do nothing of value the entire film. Laurie Strode somehow does less in Halloween Kills than she did in Halloween: Resurrection and she was dead before the credits rolled on that one. She just spends the entire time monologuing in a hospital bed or staggering about a hallway without having any impact on the plot. Tommy Doyle is just an annoying piece of shit who effectively becomes the main character, despite not even being played by the same actor as the first one so there’s just no reason to give a damn about him. Hell, most of the big ‘returning’ characters in this film offer nothing other than to just exist and maybe be added to the kill count. It’s stunning how none of these characters have anything interesting about them, and sad because all the actors are putting everything into making them work but they have nothing to grab onto.
This isn’t to say that everything is bad (though most of it is). For example, when the time comes for Michael to revel in the “Kills” part of the film’s title it becomes pretty spectacular. It’s over the top and brutal, much like the last time, and there’s some very creative and shocking moments of violence here that really make it clear that Michael Myers is something truly otherworldly in how evil he is. I also have to admit that there are some fun callbacks for fans of the franchise, any fans who know what foggy car windows meant in the original film or remember the pure shock of that scene outside the asylum are in for a fun callback… but that’s all they are, fun callbacks. We did those already, you got anything new? Well, yes Halloween Kills does kind of have something new… in that it has flashbacks to the 1978 film that show just how Michael got caught. As a sequence this is mostly fine (Even though it’s in a really bad place in Halloween Kills and would’ve been so much better playing later on when one of the characters is talking about that night) with a few good ideas but it’s high point is a genuinely brilliant recreation of Donald Pleasance’s Sam Loomis character, it’s honestly the most impressive effect in the entire franchise because it just looks exactly like Loomis… but it really serves no purpose.
At best Halloween Kills gives one character a mildly sad backstory that he didn’t have in the previous film but that’s it. It doesn’t give us new insight into Michael, we know he got captured shortly after the original film… that was the conceit of the last one. There is no new information here and no reason for this other than just wanting to show they could recreate 1978. I honestly thought that maybe they did this to have Sam Loomis turn up at some point in this film (possibly as the second escaped mental patient that is mentioned throughout) but no, no it’s just a pointless little bit of padding.
“A pointless little bit of padding” might explain most of my problems here. When Halloween Kills tries to pad out the runtime, it ends up doing so at the detriment of the actual plot because it doesn’t know where to put the padding to make it work. Instead of putting it in the places where we have down time, it shoves it in so randomly that it creates a disjointed mess with only a few occasional bright spots and nothing of real substance to latch onto.
Halloween Kills is not the worst film in the franchise, as I said earlier Resurrection, Curse and the Rob Zombie films still continue to exist despite my best efforts, but it’s not good. It’s muddled, repetitious and doesn’t move the story forward in any way. If you were to skip this film, at best you might notice a few characters missing that you didn’t really care about and that’s about it. No one grew or learned anything. This film basically loops around the idea that if all you knew was “Laurie went to the hospital” then congrats, you’re caught up. There was promise here, the ideas are solid enough that they could have worked but it feels like no one wanted to give anyone any notes because the last film made a quarter of a billion dollars so they just assumed everything would be alright. It wasn’t, someone needed to check the work before filming started and definitely needed to double check the edit. I’m still going to hope Halloween Ends brings this franchise to a good conclusion, but my anticipation for it has significantly dimmed.
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