Halloween  is the best slasher film. It’s the granddaddy, the godfather of all that spewed forth (for good and ill) after. John Carpenter tapped into a primal fear of the evil that simply exists, brutal without purpose as it leaps forth from the dark to dismember us. David Gordon Green and Danny McBride existed in that reality for nearly forty years before they came forth to continue this muddled franchise into something new. They created a marvelous sequel to the original film, ignoring all others in the franchise (there are nine other films, existing in multiple timelines, and they vary in quality quite a bit). Halloween  felt righteous in a flawed way, but one that was successful with fans of the masked murderer and the two other planned sequels were given the green light. The pair of producers had pitched Halloween Kills  and Halloween Ends  to round out an complete story. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed them back a year, but as of this weekend we’re back on track with the release of Halloween Kills.
…and kills and kills and kills.
Most films in this franchise haven’t had a message, instead being these minimalist animals that are increasingly ridiculous until the studios shrugged and just handed it to Rob Zombie. Here, however, we have an attempt to say something with one of these beasts and it has such mixed results.
Michael Meyers isn’t dead after his adventures in Laurie Strode’s home. He is, instead, free and walking it off like the champ he is. Everyone else is in the hospital, but we cut to a bar and see that during the events of the 2018 film there’s been a bit of a side story. While Laurie (Jamie Lee Curits), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) have been battling the monster there’s been a hangout across town. Survivors of Michael Meyers have been coming together every year to drink, cry, and recount the story of their trauma while they try and fail to process it. Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall). Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), and a cadre of others survivors of the original film join up in arms when they hear that The Shape is back, hell-bent on taking him down. They rile up a mob, invent the soundbyte “Evil Dies Tonight” that their crowd can chant, and lead them on an unfortunate spree of violence and failure. Michael does what he does and it goes how it goes.
This feel especially poignant after the January 6th racist/misogynist/LGBTQ+-phobe spree that Trump fans went on. It was shot and edited before that, but it can’t help but feel targeted after a year of mob mentality leading the angry and aggressive down a rabbit hole of misinformation. It’s unfortunate that this is the case, because what could have been a mildly on-the-nose statement about violence and groupthink has turned into a specific reference that many are pathetically still trying to justify. The behavior of a mob, and the excuses made for it, are running rampant through Halloween Kills and they cause as much damage as the killer himself. It’s an important film in some ways, but the shakily-executed discussion doesn’t back up its statement beyond merely making it.
The slasher work, though, is top notch. Kills are frequent and brutal, pushing right up to the line of what even a gorehound would find acceptable for a film of this caliber. It’s lean, mean, and takes Michael Meyers from masked knife-killer to brutal beast in the shape of forty-five minutes (pun intended there). It’s an absolute blast to get nasty with the best of the bunch, each kill effect more intense than the last.
I’m not touching on the John Carpenter score. You know what you’re in for, and it lives up to that expectation. This is a wall-to-wall banger, no exceptions.
Look, the crew had a tough task living up to the original film and they succeeded. Lighting didn’t strike twice, at least not fully, but it has interesting things to say despite its lack of strength.
Halloween Kills is currently in theatres and streaming on Peacock.