Halloween ranks as one of my favorite horror films. I’m old enough to remember when it was chilly in October rather than the extension of summer that sometimes goes into November. When you went out trick or treating, you could expect a cold and dark night. Halloween captures that feeling so well and layers a slasher film on top of it all with Michael Myers out for some sort of revenge. Despite the relentless nature of Michael Myers, I prefer Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise as far as movie killers. Halloween Kills tweaks Michael and makes him more unstoppable and brutal like Jason. This shift doesn’t lead to a better movie as I would have expected. Halloween Kills suffers from sloppy writing and a terrible sequence that ultimately gut the movie instead of handing out a treat.
Director David Gordon Green continues what he started with 2018’s Halloween reboot, and he’ll (perhaps) finish the franchise with Halloween Ends. Written by Green and cowriters Scott Teems and Danny McBride, the story picks up right after the ending of the 2018 Halloween. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) escape Strode’s burning house after trapping Michael Myers/The Shape (mostly James Jude Courtney, but with contributions from original performer Nick Castle) in the basement and setting the house ablaze. The three women head to the hospital for Laurie to receive some needed care, while Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) ends up in a bed right next to Laurie after his own injuries in the previous movie. This leaves a mixture of old and new as Karen, Allyson, Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold) and characters from the first movie (now older) Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet) — Cameron’s father — lead citizens to fight back against Michael.
Curtis serves as the face of the franchise and one of the original scream queens in ‘70s/’80s horror flicks. Her limited role disappointed me, especially because she did so much promotion for the film. I can only hope that she moves back to the top for screen time in Halloween Ends. Laurie’s hospital stay does lead to a wonderful scene between Curtis and the always compelling Patton as they reminisce about their lives and battle scars. Everybody knows and loves Greer, so for her to take the lead adds yet another strong character to her long list of roles. I was completely surprised for Hall to also step up for this prominent part, and he strikes a good balance against Greer as their characters aim for a common goal. In addition to some masks that form a callback to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, some familiar faces from the original Halloween return. Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards and Nancy Stephens reprise their roles in this night where they also came home. I must mention Scott MacArthur as Big John and Michael McDonald as Little John — a couple dressed up and ready for Halloween until Michael makes a visit. Their scenes inject some life and humor into an otherwise bleak and gruesome outing.
Continuing my comparison from before, Michael Myers surpasses even some of the bloodiest Friday the 13th movies with his death count in Halloween Kills. Beginning with a number of firefighters trying to douse Laurie’s house, Michael dispatches at least 20-25 people. It’s hard to count when some of these deaths occur off-screen and you only see the bodies. That said, Michael’s deaths aren’t necessarily creative. Instead, they’re brutal and relentless, and when Michael somehow fends off attacks, he crosses over into the Jason level of superhuman without being as dead as Jason after the first few movies. The death count in the original Halloween was low, but Michael added a level of creepiness to his work that’s epitomized in an iconic scene by staring at a body pinned to a wall and tilting his head to admire his work. More merciless tank than crafty assassin, the latest Michael’s exploits live up to the film’s title.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers indulge in some of the tired tropes of these kinds of films. I expect better in 2021. Pairs or higher numbers of characters should never separate when they go looking for a killer, yet this happens a few times. Ugh. Although I could believe that Michael might take out a few firefighters in the opening sequence, how the hell does he kill them all? Just turn on the hose and blast him back a dozen feet. Another mistake that drives me nuts is when a character has a chance to make sure that a killer is deader than dead and stops the attack. If I’m ever in that situation, movies have taught me to continue whacking away until I see brain or just decapitate the bad guy. The worst offense of all threatens to derail the entire movie and almost lost me right then and there despite going into the theater knowing what to expect more or less. You’ll know it when you see it, but I’ll allude to it by simply saying that an angry mob that should be directing righteous anger at Michael instead heads down a different path that is both not believable in the course of the story and completely boneheaded.
Green has some skills that could lead to a better franchise finale if he’s steered in the right direction. I know how hard fire scenes are for both actors and stuntmen, and those shots with Laurie’s house are downright breathtaking. The jumps back in time to 1978 anchor the movie and lead to powerful, dramatic moments. More of that, please. Audio effects don’t receive as much attention as they should with today’s better theater sound systems. For a few minutes in one clever sequence, you will get as paranoid as the characters as you hear movement from the left, right and above in the audio space. I had hoped that I would enjoy Halloween Kills more than I did, but the result was like the houses that put out wholesome snacks or gift cards on Halloween — more trick than treat. I want candy!