Halloween Kills (2021)

Halloween Kills is a narrative and structural mess, jumping back and forth between 1978 and 2018. It expands on what happened after the first Halloween of this reboot series, showing different people’s experiences on those two nights that we hadn’t seen previously, adding characters to the cannon, and trying to establish too many new threads (presumably to connect Halloween (2018) and Halloween Ends). There are plenty of fun moments and interesting callbacks throughout the movie. Unfortunately since so much of the movie is pulling threads from the prior to the forthcoming films, there’s boring plot expansion and exposition—not to mention a clear disinterest in the Strode family.

Casual fans of the franchise may be confused by all of the retconning and character expansion—a lot of the new plot points and characters originated in prior films (either 1979 or 2018), but the filmmakers are drawing on too little source material. Characters or commentary we’ve previously seen for less than two minutes of screen time are given their own whole story.

Meanwhile, Laurie Strode is lying in a hospital bed, more or less delusional. It’s sad, in a way, that Laurie is unable to “get over” Michael, while he is basically unaware of her at all. Mike of Evolution of Horror suggested that the Strodes don’t need to be in this movie at all, and I think he’s right. This movie could’ve been the pared-down slasher of old, a story that plays out while Laurie is mostly off-screen—healing and recovering, with her daughter and granddaughter at her hospital bedside. Instead, we see Laurie in the hospital, Karen helping stir up the mob, and Allyson joining the mob—and almost all of their actions are of no consequence.

Of the four survivors of Halloween night 1978, the motivation of Tommy, the grown-up boy Laurie babysat back in 1978, is the most believable. And Anthony Michael Hall takes the role appropriately seriously and does a good job driving that mob mentality. It is frustrating though, that the writers don’t even attempt to explore the different trauma responses these survivors may have had to their experiences. Each survivor is turned into a mini-Laurie Strode, herself being turned into a Sarah Conner-type. They should’ve been so much more than two-dimensional revenge-seekers. It’s unlikely that not even one of them would want to run and hide, rather than face off again with him.

In truth, I think this movie should’ve been broken up into a 4 part miniseries:

  1. The events after Halloween 1978
  2. The development of Michael’s survivors
  3. The experiences of Laurie, her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson between burning the house and going to the hospital after Halloween 2018
  4. The town of Haddonfield vs. Michael Myers

Of course, the two best (and scariest) scenes in Halloween Kills, the first with the older couple playing with the drone and the second with Big John and Little John, could’ve played out in the 3rd and 4th episodes, respectively. This structure would’ve given the filmmakers enough time to tell the story it seems they want to tell, rather than giving us a jumbled and often confusing mess of a narrative.

Michael does break his body count record in Halloween Kills, and the kills are generally really good. I loved the Big John and Little John sequence especially. The filmmakers actually concerned themselves with building tension and suspense, rather than relying on surprise attacks and gore. However, much of the movie feels rushed, and that includes a lot of the kills, which adds a humor to the movie that maybe wasn’t intentional. Watching Michael take on 10-15 people at multiple points in the movie made me feel like he’s meant to be this supernatural killing machine. These sequences and their choreography could be dropped right into any action movie without changing a beat. Michael is highly skilled in fisticuffs and melee self-defense. He’s in the center of a crowd of armed civilians who take turns running at him and one by one he takes them down. It’s fun, but it doesn’t really feel like a Halloween movie so much as a Steven Segal movie.

And as it turns out, the more he kills the stronger he becomes! It was always clear that Michael was supernatural, but this revelation coming from Laurie in the hospital room just doesn’t make sense. How would she know this, how did she piece this together, while not doing anything this entire movie? Beyond that, can we even believe her about this? She’s been wrong about his other motivations consistently—like the idea that he was on his way to the hospital. He never was – he was always going home. This idea of regenerative killing takes the lore in an odd direction.

As mentioned, I did really like the side scenarios with Big John and Little John. I thought those characters were actually the most developed, considering the small amount of screen time they each have. The trick that the neighborhood kids play on them is great, and the way the Johns handle it really made me appreciate their approval of harmless holiday hijinks and ability to take a joke, playing their own joke on the kids in turn. It was pretty cute.

Maybe a lot of the issues I have mentioned here don’t take into consideration that this movie is a bridge between Halloween (2018) and Halloween Ends. It’s no surprise that this isn’t a standalone movie – we know that it’s part of this trilogy. But even still, it’s just lacking. It didn’t have to only be a bridge.

And I am still excited to see Halloween Ends.

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