Halloween Kills (2021)

This movie doesn’t have a plot. If I gave you a summary of the things that happen in this film, your reaction would be “that sounds like a ten minute coda to the last movie.” This is on par with the most narratively non-functional outings of the series — e.g., the abysmal Curse of Michael Myers and the wacky Resurrection.

Kills picks up moments after the ending of the 2018 timeline re-re-reboot (simply entitled Halloween). This will remind keen franchise devotees — and how many watching this movie are NOT devotees? — of the continuity between the 1978 Halloween and the 1981 Halloween II as well as the 2007 Halloween and the 2009 Halloween II. And that’s not where the similarities end. Just like the ‘81 and ‘09 Halloween II movies, Kills spends a significant percentage of its runtime in a hospital where Laurie is recovering. You may as well call this one Halloween II 3.

I swear at some point I’ll stop comparing Kills to other films, but that’s what happens when a series that’s twelve movies deep reinvents itself in the name of modern horror aesthetics every ten years with only minor variations on a few themes.

The plot, inasmuch as it exists: Myers escapes the inferno at the conclusion of Halloween and does some more stabbing. Then, a vigilante mob forms to hunt him down. And… that’s about it. Everything else is filler. One thing that stands out: Laurie Strode plays essentially no role in the plot this time around! She’s bed-bound and wounded; when she tries to join the mob, her pesky internal bleeding halts her. Perhaps Laurie’s lack of agency and plot centrality is connected to the sense that not much happens here; more likely, they’re both symptoms of an overall storytelling aimlessness.

More generously, you might call this a Halloween that focuses on flavor ahead of narrative. Certainly there are some moments that give color to the town of Haddonfield and its various residents. I enjoyed, in particular, a feud between an adult homeowner couple and some prankster trick-or-treating teens. It inevitably turns violent, as things tend to do in a slasher (though this makes me curious if there are any good hangout movies set at Halloween), but I at least felt a little bit of sadness when the couple, Big John and Little John, died. They had some personality.

At the thematic center of the film is Anthony Michael Hall playing Tommy Doyle, the little kid that Laurie babysat in the 1978 film. (You may recall that Hall is not the first actor to play a grown up Doyle — Paul Rudd played him in The Curse of Michael Myers.) I found Hall’s presence darkly comic and enjoyable. I was rooting for him as he stirred up a torch-and-pitchfork mob with an “evil dies tonight!” chant.

The whole vigilante subplot is another borrow from the 1981 Halloween II. David Gordon Green and team apparently thought this deserved a bit more exploration, and I agree; I definitely think the concept of Haddonfield’s collective reaction to Myers’ violence is a lot more interesting than yet another investigation of Laurie’s trauma. I actually think the film’s deliberate decision sever the connection between Laurie and Michael is one of the smarter things the movie does, since this reboot timeline retconned the ideas that they’re siblings.

On the other hand, if there’s no special link between Laurie and Michael, he becomes a generic embodiment of evil. A superhuman killing force. This worked in 1978, but in 2022 it feels like the Halloween franchise taking a few more steps down the “elevated horror” route — evil is a metaphor. This is backed up by the way the way the mob bloodlust is treated as a shared mental illness rather than anything cathartic. It’s not exactly pretentious, but it certainly wants to be meaningful in a way that doesn’t really work.

I ultimately feel quite warmly towards Kills, much more than I expected, but I can’t say it’s good, or even particularly close to good. It suffers from the same overall pointlessness of its precursor. And though I found some modest pleasures in the film’s discursive story, it is still a whole lot of nothing packed into 105 minutes, never quite clever enough or funny enough or scary enough or anything enough to be worth paying attention to. I like it more than the 2018 Halloween, but only barely.

Is It Good?

Not Very Good (3/8)

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