Halloween Kills Review: A middling middle entry that’s a bloody mess

*This Review Contains Spoilers*

Blumhouse and Universal’s 2018 reboot/sort of sequel of Halloween brought Laurie Strode back and kicked off a modern trilogy, but it’s follow-up, Halloween Kills, gets messy.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween felt like a pure return to form for the series in how Green evokes the scares and suspense of the John Carpenter classic that started it all. The big, long shots of Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) stalking throughout Haddonfield returned with some modern styled suspense building that delivered some great shocks and scares. Not to mention, those kills were brutal and that Jack-o-Lantern with a cop’s head Michael makes is one of his most gruesome and creative kills ever. It also brought Jamie Lee Curtis back, once again, as Laurie Strode and showed why she is the ultimate final girl. Her brute toughness and willingness to kill Michael was excellently brought out in Curtis’ performance and the moments between her and her family dealing with the persisting trauma of her survival was really strong.

Green’s first Halloween film succeeded in evoking the original without completely copying it, but Halloween Kills tries to juggle too much in connecting the past to the present and bringing back legacy characters. Frankly, anyone hoping to see Laurie back in full form, ready to kick Michael Myers’ ass again will be disappointed since she stuck behind a lot of other characters. It makes since given how their last bout ended and there’s still one more real finale ahead of them, but it’s a shame that she’s so absent in this sequel – especially because Curtis still kills it whenever she’s on-screen. It’s also a shame that the other Strode women, Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), don’t really get more depth with their characters.

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Halloween Kills struggles to give the Strode women the focus they deserve. PHOTO: The New York Times

After pushing past her fears and taking charge, Karen essentially cowers back into a protective role that just feels like a step back for her character. Karen goes through the same arc again with her not wanting Laurie or Allyson to fight Michael and acts as an alternate perspective to the mob mentality that forms to kill Michael only to half-heartedly muster up the courage to take Michael head on. The conclusion of this arc is also super-underwhelming since it just leads to her death that will likely play a part in Laurie and Allyson’s motivations in the next film but doesn’t do much here. The only aspect of Karen that’s really touching is how much her husband’s death affects her. The moments of Karen grieving are the strongest parts of Greer’s performance and maybe that’s why she doesn’t want anyone to fight against Michael, but it feels more like an unnecessary reversion and isn’t as admirable as Allyson’s feelings on the matter.

Allyson’s arc is also cut short in this film because of all the rotating storylines, but each time we cut back to her, it’s some of the most emotional parts of the movie. You can easily appreciate her ambition and determination to finish Michael Myers once and for all and sort of stepping into Laurie’s shoes. Matichak puts in another great performance that balances Allyson grief and anger and if there wasn’t so much time getting taken away from her, Halloween Kills could’ve been the perfect time for Allyson to take the mantle from Laurie. Unfortunately, Halloween Kills is way too obsessed with its past and creates a confusing present that makes its themes about Michael being more than man and the dangers of mob mentality jumbled.

It’s cool to see legacy characters like Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), and Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) make a return and the idea of them still being haunted by Michael like Laurie is very compelling. It’s an interesting depiction of survivor’s guilt that leads to a vicious mob forming made up of Haddonfield residents. We basically get to see that angry mob in Halloween II in full force and while that can create some emotional pull, these legacy characters are wasted in the lack of depth they have, and the film’s themes about mob mentality are a mixed bag. Sure, it’s interesting how their hatred of Michael leads them to get an innocent man killed and watching Tommy as a bat-wielding revolutionary that you wouldn’t want to mess with was very dope, but its hard to figure out what the film is trying to say about this mob mentality. It partially wants to denote it as bad for how overly blind their hatred makes them, but there’s a lack of fallout or distinct lesson learned from this. You kind of can’t blame them for the unrelenting anger because, after all, Michael has been built up as this undying, evil entity.

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Michael (left) returns to deliver a high, bloody body count. PHOTO: Deadline

Given that their town is so haunted by him, it’s kind of no surprise that they want to take things into their own hands and don’t even want the police involved since they just want to do the same old, same old in handling Michael. If Michael had some charismatic qualities that didn’t make him pure evil, maybe there could be something more conflicting or interesting with this mob mentality dissection. Instead, it goes nowhere and feels more like a diversion and an excuse to have nostalgic characters return. Also, how this film treats Michael is super odd since it feels like they do try to create some empathy or deeper intrigue in understanding what he’s “really after.”

I like the idea of Laurie not being his fixation, but rather his childhood home since that could lead to some sort of interesting revelation about him. It also makes sense because in this timeline Laurie isn’t Michael’s sister so there’s no real connection between them. However, this film gets way too philosophical about Michael without ever really delving into answers. It just goes through the whole rigmarole of deciding “is he a man or something more” debate and provides an answer that just feels confusing without any explanation.

Don’t get me wrong, it was epic to see him spring up and kill an entire mob after they beat him down in the streets but leaves you wondering what the hell Michael is since he really should be dead from all the injuries he’s sustained. It just feels like a weird way to end this entry and it makes Halloween Kills feel unfinished. Also, all the stuff with Hawkins (Will Patton) talking about his night stopping Michael as a young cop can feel nostalgic with how it looks and the way it brings back an iconic character, but it’s super unnecessary and just muddles things up even more.

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Halloween Kills can’t handle its storylines and returning characters leading to an overcrowded story. PHOTO: Dark Universe: Horror Database

The one that Halloween Kills does do really well is live up to its name because it’s certainly the bloodbath it was hyped up to be. With a name like Halloween Kills, you’re essentially establishing the expectation of delivering the highest kill count in the franchise and it definitely delivers that. This is definitely the most mean-spirited and kill-happy we’ve seen Michael be and there was one moment where he causes someone to accidently shoot themselves that left me jaw-dropped. While it’s great that we get a hefty number of gory kills, it’s a shame that Halloween Kills really isn’t that scary and takes on a comedic tone that tarnishes the tension. Often, there are these comedic routines that are stuck in, like everything with the new owners of Michael’s childhood home, that completely break the tension and suspense being built. It’s such a shame to see Halloween Kills veer so heavily into comedy since Green was so good at building tension and creating some great scares.

Halloween Kills is a subpar follow-up that tarnishes the return of classic characters, killers, and the Strode women with its scatter-brained storylines and lack of real scares to match it blood-soaked kills. It’s a middling middle entry into this modern trilogy and hopefully it can course-correct with Halloween Ends.

2.5

Watch the Trailer Here:

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