Halloween Kills was reviewed out of the Venice Film Festival, where it made its world premiere. It will hit theaters on Oct. 15.
Halloween Kills is a dark chapter in the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, with a somber tone and even more gruesome murders than we’ve seen in previous installments. It finds fulfilling ways to expand the world of Carpenter’s original with a larger focus on the town of Haddonfield and characters from the 1978 classic, while unfortunately suffering from feeling like an incomplete experience.
The film starts with a flashback to the end of the original Halloween, expanding the role of Deputy Frank Hawkins (played by Will Patton in the present time) to show us what really happened when Michael was finally caught after his killing spree. Director David Gordon-Green and cinematographer Michael Simmonds do a great job of recreating the look of Carpenter’s original down to the film grain, and even find shockingly faithful ways to bring back old characters for new scenes. In fact, Halloween Kills feels even more closely indebted to the first film than the 2018 reboot/sequel did. There are nods to everything from Michael’s gruesome disposal of a dog in the original movie, to Easter eggs to the entire franchise (there are several references to The Curse of Michael Myers), in addition to the returns of several fan-favorite characters. Thankfully, the nods and cameos are more than just fan service; they enhance the franchise as a whole by building a thematic bridge between the original and the new films, connecting the trauma of the past with the resurgence of The Shape in the present.
The main story takes place immediately following the events of the 2018 Halloween, with Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, Judy Greer’s Karen, and Andi Matichak’s Allyson leaving Laurie’s burning home, believing Michael to be dead. Of course, evil that strong never truly dies, and the Boogeyman comes home yet again. This time, however, the cast expands to include more than the Strode women and a bunch of innocent bystanders. Several characters from the 1978 original return, including Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and even former sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers).
Tired of living in constant fear, the townspeople of Haddonfield decide to form a mob and hunt down The Shape. This is a unique theme for a slasher movie, and one that Halloween Kills doesn’t really know what to do with. There are interesting questions raised about mob mentality and what fear does to a community, but the script never fully decides whether to condemn or celebrate it.
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Even if he has the entire town looking for him, Michael Myers is in no way the underdog. If anything, this is a much angrier, darker, and more violent film than 2018’s Halloween, and it includes some of the most shocking and disturbing kills in the entire franchise. Where often the Halloween movies would cut away right as Michael gets the jump on someone and only reveal the aftermath of the crime, Halloween Kills fully displays Michael’s brutal butchering of his victims.
Seriously, these murders are gory. The shock value is best exemplified when Halloween Kills gives us our first proper look at Michael’s sadistic artistic expression via his grandiose and campy staging of mutilated corpses, which is more disturbing than any Silver Shamrock product. Even John Carpenter’s score is darker, slower, and more dramatic than any of his previous Halloween efforts, building up to what can best be described as the Empire Strikes Back of the Halloween franchise.
That’s not to say that Halloween Kills is completely devoid of fun. It still knows when to balance the scares with moments of levity, including two new comic relief characters, played by Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald, that steal the show every time they’re on screen, much in the same way Julian Morrisey (Jibrail Nantambu) did in the 2018 film.
Most of the problems with Halloween Kills come from it being the second chapter in a trilogy that was announced prior to its release. Some characters sit out most of the action for seemingly no reason, while several themes and reveals are introduced and then dropped rather quickly, including some allusions to The Curse of Michael Myers that are sure to spark plenty of conversations among fans. Much of Halloween Kills is just table setting for the final confrontation, including an abrupt cliffhanger ending that makes this feel like half of a movie.
As far as horror sequels go, especially sequels to reboots, Halloween Kills does a lot right. For one, it honors the original in a way that feels not like empty fan service, but as a compelling companion to the material. The film’s darker tone instantly sets itself apart from its predecessors, diving more deeply into the themes of trauma and how it affects a community while delivering some truly gruesome kills. Sadly, it doesn’t really stand on its own, being too dependent on a conclusion that is still a year away, one that could either fix some of the holes in this movie, or expose even greater flaws. Because of this, it’s hard to recommend Halloween Kills as a standalone experience, but rest assured that when Michael is out on the hunt, Halloween certainly Kills.