Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Watching the latest installment in the Halloween franchise, I was reminded of John Carpenter’s sentiment towards 1981’s Halloween II, a film in which he didn’t direct but eventually co-wrote with the late Debra Hill. Carpenter admitted it was a difficult script to write, because it was just a case of just repeating what Michael Myers does best. Carpenter drunkenly came up with the twist of Michael being the brother of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. Whilst I think the Rick Rosenthal-directed film is pretty solid, whilst defining the franchise and that whole cycle of slasher films in that decade, Carpenter’s bitter sentiment towards that film can be reflected in David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills.
Starting immediately where the 2018 film left off, Laurie and her family, comprising of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), take a breather after locking Michael in her basement and setting it on fire. Unbeknownst to the Strodes, Michael has escaped from his fiery fate and continues his killing spree in the town of Haddonfield, causing its community led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), to fight back.
What makes David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel interesting, apart from ignoring all the previous films and thus continued the franchise’s long-running tradition of retconning itself, is how it expands on the ideas of Carpenter’s original. They don’t always work, such as exploring more about the ambiguous evil of Michael Myers, which goes off on a strange detour; but the characterization of Laurie Strode, who went through PTSD and how that fear and hatred towards Myers affected her and later generations of her family stands out. Whilst it leans too hard at times on familiar slasher tropes and lacks the Hitchcockian implied approach to violence that inspired by Carpenter’s original, Green never feels like he’s above the horror genre and constructs some well-crafted sequences that recontextualizes the iconography of said original.
Sadly, Halloween Kills never finds an emotional angle, despite the many attempts of finding one. In the tradition of many horror sequels, Green and his two co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems are left scrambling to where to go with these characters, including a masked killer who seems indestructible. Apart from an opening flashback that explains how he was apprehended after his 1978 murders, there isn’t an idea what to do Myers, other than to give him the chance for come up with gory but creative kills, some of which are unintentionally funny. It’s just a shame that the horror isn’t that scary and at worst, boring and that criticism can be aim towards everyone else on screen.
With Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie sadly sidelined in what should be her own film, you spend most of the running time with a group of characters, old and new, some of which are characters from way back to Carpenter’s original. Taking cue from 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which was about the Haddonfield community acting above the law in retaliation towards the antagonist, the majority of characters here fall into the horror cliché of making dumb decisions that are the cause of their own deaths. So much of the performances and dialogue are very much “we’re in a horror movie”, that it’s hard to take Halloween Kills seriously, even when it tries to convey this message about how Michael’s evil can influence people, which just gets muddled.
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