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Halloween Kills (2021) Review

halloween-kills-review

Halloween Kills

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Judy Greer as Karen Nelson
Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson
Will Patton as Deputy Frank Hawkins
Thomas Mann as younger Frank Hawkins
Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle
Robert Longstreet as Lonnie Elam
Dylan Arnold as Cameron Elam
Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Director: David Gordon Green

The nightmare isn’t over as unstoppable killer Michael Myers escapes from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) trap to continue his ritual bloodbath. Injured and taken to the hospital, Laurie fights through the pain as she inspires residents of Haddonfield, Ill., to rise up against Myers. Taking matters into their own hands, the Strode women and other survivors form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael and end his reign of terror once and for all.

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I was looking forward to Halloween Kills. I quite enjoyed Halloween (2018), it definitely had its issues but as a follow up to the original film set decades later, I thought it was really good. After the success of that movie, two sequels were announced, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. I had high hopes for Kills despite receiving one of the most divisive receptions for a Halloween film. While I’m prepared to say I like the movie, it is very disappointing.

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I could tell early on that the movie had some issues. The first 10 minutes are actually a flashback of the night of Halloween (1978). As well done as it was, essentially it’s just repeated information and doesn’t add a whole lot. That aside, plotwise it’s all a mess. While there were a number of characters in Halloween (2018), the focus was mainly on the Strode family. However after the ending with them almost killing Michael Myers in the last movie, Halloween Kills underutilises and sidelines them. Laurie Strode gets the worst treatment at all, having less than 15 minutes of screentime. The story mostly moves into a story about mob mentality as the people of Haddonfield are hunting down Michael Myers. While there were some good ideas and an effective scene or two, the attempts at social commentary and exploring cultural issues were misguided and didn’t work in execution. Some of the scenes where the people attempt to kill Myers are fine, they’re at least better than the scenes where people stand around and just declare that “evil dies tonight”. The movie also introduces the idea of Myers’s influence potentially turning the people of Haddonfield into monsters. However it only lingers on that idea for 5-10 minutes max before forgetting about it entirely. I really didn’t like was how they brought back characters from the 1978 film who were somewhat affected by Myers. It’s partially because it feels like the movie is relying so much on nostalgia, and tying all these people into the plot just felt so contrived.

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The other aspect of the plot is that of Michael Myers continuing to kill. Although I like the portrayal of Myers here, his scenes just weren’t the best. Halloween Kills definitely leans into him being superhuman, he’s comically unkillable. While the kills are definitely there, the encounters with him are more ridiculous and not scary, and they generally feel the same way with little variety or emotional impact. It doesn’t help that you already know that Michael Myers doesn’t die in this one, given that the next film is titled Halloween Ends. So any expectation or tension that he might die in this movie is just not there. The third act is where it becomes a conventional Halloween movie and gives up trying whatever they were attempting before. While I would generally call it a lazy fallback, it definitely works a lot better than most of what came before. The structure is a mess as it jumps between these three aspects of the story, none of them done very well. The story is dull and lacks the suspense and atmosphere from the 1978 and even the 2018 film. Even looking outside of the plot, the script is a mess. First of all, the tone. Halloween (2018) had quite a bit of humour in the film that felt quite out of place, but you were able to see pass them, and it at least focused up in the second half. However, the tone in Halloween Kills is all over the place. There is the aforementioned story about trauma, as well as the town getting ready to fight the shape that haunted them. However, it increases the jokes and silliness, and as much as I want to say that this is deliberately leaning towards camp (especially with the over the top kills), it is still taking itself seriously. The dialogue is definitely schlocky and silly but unfortunately not in an intentional camp way. Worst of all was how expository it was, dumping a lot of information on you and spells everything out in a rather insulting way, especially when its just repeating information from the past films. I think for all the issues it has, the most damning thing about Halloween Kills was how reluctant it is to move its story. It doesn’t really serve to have much purpose outside of following the last film, and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. Only a few notable things happen, and not a lot is learnt. It just feels like it’s there to be a filler movie before the actual finale with Halloween Ends.

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The acting and characters are a mixed bag. Out of all of them, the highlights were the Strodes. While there is unfortunately much less of them, the trio of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are great. It’s a shame that they don’t get many scenes together and they feel rather wasted. Laurie Strode’s Jamie Lee Curtis is shockingly underutilised especially given the last movie. This leaves Greer and Matichak to have more screentime, and they do work well in their parts at least. Unfortunately, Halloween Kills makes the decision to rely more on its supporting characters, a number of them meant to be people who were around for the night on Halloween 1978. It certainly doesn’t help that the characters in this movie make some really dumb decisions. This is a movie where someone makes a big rousing speech and declares that they will stay together as they hunt the killer, and shortly afterwards they split up. This is also a movie where a couple discover that someone is in their house, and their first instinct is to go inside and confront him. It only makes the non-Strode scenes even more frustrating to watch.

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David Gordon Green’s direction was one of the best parts of the previous movie, and his work here is good, if not as great. The cinematography is gorgeous and stunning but devoid of the smooth long takes that made the first movie so effective. The atmosphere just isn’t there for this movie, and doesn’t really build up much suspense. Michael Myers himself is certainly one of the best parts of the movie. I liked his look with the burnt mask, and he is effectively menacing. However, his kill/scare scenes are a bit of a mixed bag. The title for the film is certainly apt, and the kills do deliver. This is one of the most violent Halloween movies, up there with the Rob Zombie films. It is brutal, gory and violent, so credit for that. However there was always something that irked me about those scenes. First of all the executions are what I imagine much of the Friday the 13th kills are like, not for scares or horror but for the audience to see the killer violently dispatching people. In fact, they felt more like Mortal Kombat fatalities more than anything else. There’s also something rather mean spirited in the way they just throw these kills in for the pleasure of the audience, and for as creatively violent as they are, ironically only 3-4 were memorable. One of the strongest aspects of the last Halloween movie was John Carpenter’s score which was amazing. While I don’t like his Halloween Kills score as much, it’s still one of the highlights and is distinctly different.

Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills is unfortunately quite disappointing. The script is an absolute mess that tries to be so many things and can’t deliver on any of them. Ultimately it feels like a placeholder and filler movie, a movie just to draw out the conclusion with only a few things that move the film forward. It’s not without its strengths. It is generally well directed, I liked Michael Myers, and although they were under-utilised I liked the main three actors. I just hope that David Gordon Green and co. can pull off Halloween Ends because I’m much less confident in it after watching Kills.