REVIEW: Halloween Kills [2021]

Rating: 6 out of 10.
  • Rating: R | Runtime: 106 minutes
    Release Date: October 15th, 2021 (USA)
    Studio: Universal Pictures / Peacock
    Director(s): David Gordon Green
    Writer(s): Scott Teems, Danny McBride & David Gordon Green / John Carpenter and Debra Hill (characters)

None of us are innocent.

Ah, the dreaded middle chapter of a trilogy. Can I call Halloween Kills that? Yes. I’m going to regardless of it technically being the third of four since the first is more a prequel to its triptych than a legitimate opening to a quartet. This is especially true considering David Gordon Green‘s latest installment in the franchise cannot exist on its own whereas John Carpenter‘s original Halloween can. It even proves how its predecessor, 2018’s Halloween, can’t stand alone either. This last truth might be a positive, though, since I was left wanting with Green’s initial foray. It seemed to not understand Carpenter’s intent of making Michael Myers a literal Boogeyman when it was actually holding back the information proving it did understand so Kills could divulge how.

That’s the downfall of trilogies—and most franchises for that matter. Their desire to be serially cohesive often limits their ability to be independently relevant. I often wonder if this is intentional since the studio can brush off bad reviews as the product of a reviewer refusing to take everything else into consideration. So no one could ever truly judge a series until it’s completed despite no series (not today anyway) ever truly being complete when money is on the table to kickstart the IP again and again and again. And that’s a shame because Kills does all the things I believe need to be done in the wake of Carpenter and Debra Hill‘s original. Green and his cowriters (Scott Teems and Danny McBride) have lifted the curtain.

Everything I disliked about 2018 stemmed from its want to connect Michael with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). It was so desperate to make him purposefully hunting her into canon that I wondered why it bothered erasing Halloween II‘s blatant familial connection at all. But here comes Kills with its flashback to 1978 to reveal Green’s ruse. Michael had no interest in Laurie then or now. He only wanted to go home. That’s where Officer Hawkins (Thomas Mann as young, Will Patton as old) confronted him, where Loomis attempted to kill him, and where the police would eventually subdue and incarcerate him for forty years until his escape. The lore was suddenly reset. A good development by necessity, a bad one because we had to wait three years.

Now we get to the good stuff, though. What will Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) do to return home … yet again? He’s across town at Strode’s compound apparently being burned to death at the end of 2018, so that’s where he is now at the start of Kills. Laurie, her daughter (Judy Greer‘s Karen), and granddaughter (Andi Matichak‘s Allyson) are on their way to the hospital thinking the nightmare is over while Michael annihilates an entire firefighter crew in his resurrection. Now he’s lumbering from street to street, brutally murdering anyone getting in his way. Some are random characters. Some are blasts from the past that are either recast (Anthony Michael Hall‘s Tommy Doyle) or original flavor (Kyle Richards‘ Lindsey and Nancy Stephens‘ Marion).

The film is thus a bridge between new beginnings (2018’s Halloween) and presumed conclusions (2022’s Halloween Ends). While the title and action make it seem like that bridge is solely Michael’s to cross, however, Green and company should be applauded for also creating a pathway towards Hell for Haddonfield residents too far gone from fear to think straight. They’ve let the specter of the Boogyman haunt their dreams for so long that they are willing to tear this town to the ground to find an outlet. Think Republicans and their bloodthirsty, fallacious yearning to murder brown people (“Muslim terrorists,” “Mexican rapists,” etc.) and you get an idea of the stake-burning chaos about to explode. Michael is killing them (a lot), but he’s also living rent-free in their minds.

Will they have what it takes to snuff him out? Can they snuff him out regardless of whether the body that stalks them under that white mask is turned to ash? That’s the real question. That’s the question Carpenter and Hill were asking back in 1978 when they allowed their monster to kill without rhyme or reason. Loomis was correct when saying Michael was pure evil. He has infected this town to the point of no turning back. Instead of running away, they’re running towards him—and oblivion. Because once you have blood on your hands, the stain isn’t something that ever goes away. Look at the Strode women for proof. It’s steeled Laurie, created a menacing duality in Karen, and left young Allyson shaking … for now.

That Ends is coming guarantees that some of these Strodes women stay alive (how many is undecided). Don’t therefore expect anything of real substance to happen on the front of good versus evil. There is no good here. There may not be any good in Haddonfield at all. It’s Michael’s desperation to go back where everything began and the town’s mission to stop him from ever scaring them again. The result is suitably graphic. Green is finding memorable ways to watch and perform dismemberments and blood spurts with most victims being left alive to wheeze and suffer before finally being put out of their misery. It’s unapologetic with reason, though, as seeing that exposes how the townsfolk’s actions aren’t all that different. Murder is and always will be murder.

Is it enough to warrant watching? Not now. If you want my honest opinion, I’d say wait until Ends releases and watch all of them together, one after the other. You’re otherwise left waiting a year without having gained anything for the trouble. Both Green films so far could have been combined into one two-hour-plus entry and been better for it. So while Kills is an improvement over 2018, neither exists without what the other is saying. And what they have to say is incomplete without what’s still to come. Both are therefore ultimately just putting a lot of pressure on Green to wrap things up in a way that makes the journey worth something. This one thankfully gave me more confidence to think he might do it.

[1] Photo Credit: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures Caption (from left) Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green. Copyright © 2021 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Photo Credit: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures Caption (from left) Michael Myers (aka The Shape) and Cameron Elam (Dylan Arnold) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green. Copyright © 2021 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
[3] Photo Credit: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures Caption (from left) Deputy Graham (Brian F. Durkin) and Sheriff Barker (Omar Dorsey) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green. Copyright © 2021 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.

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