The very first rated-R movie I ever saw was John Carpenter‘s “Halloween” during its original run. It scared the crap out of me- I was 8- but it did start me down a road of having a deep fondness for horror as a genre. Fast forward 11 more films and 43 years, and we get “Halloween Kills.”
And one thing is certain, it will not be the vehicle by which anyone will feel fondness for anything.
“Halloween Kills” is a jumbled mess of nonsense, void of any particular story thread, motivation, or interesting characters. 2018’s back to basics “Halloween,” with returning lead Jamie Lee Curtis, had a point, and characters you could at least cheer for. This time the film lacks any sense of horror or excitement. It feels like it might have been conceived as a series of vapid vignettes setting up ways for various individuals to be offed in not-too-creative ways.
Picking up immediately following the events of the previous chapter, within ten minutes, the film jumps around timelines in an effort to tie into the original installments, including Dr. Loomis (the late Donald Pleasence), Tommy Doyle (with Anthony Michael Hall standing in for Brian Andrews), and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards, reprising her original role). The latter two now hanging out on Halloween night with a self-help group for town locals dealing with survivor’s trama. Then, there’s word of Michael Myers’ (played for a third time by Nick Castle) escape and slaughter from earlier in the evening, and the townsfolk band together to hunt him down.
The film jumps from house to house, without the shallowest setup or connection to anything or anyone else, showing the residents having a happy evening just before Michael shows up to start stabbing. Some of the kills are so over the top dumb (at one point Michael pushes a car door back against one hapless soul who is holding a pistol, causing the gun to spin around in their hand and shoot themselves through the head), that the film seems to be aiming for a satire of itself rather than anything to be taken seriously. Which if that was actually the aim, the film still fails because it’s clearly trying to have some level of gravitas.
After all the amazing buildup around Curtis’ Laurie Strode in “Halloween” 2018, she goes from a massive gut wound (after having been critically stabbed by Michael previously), into surgery (with graphic visuals of her being opened up on the operating table), to being stitched back up and back out driving on the hunt…in the.same.night. That’s rather the perfect example of how far afield the internal logic has gotten.
Horror films by their nature generally require some substantial suspension of disbelief for their stories to work. However they still need some internal logic, or at least some character to root for (even if it’s the villain). Here, Curtis seems mostly disinterested in being back once again; Hall is clearly thinking he’s in a far more serious film than it wound up being; and every single kill has Michael appear, stand there, then walk forward (optionally grabbing a convenient sharp and/or blunt object), and bash the brains out of the next victim. When a film has a huge body count, lots of gore, and the audience is still trying to find a reason to keep on watching to the end, something has gone fundamentally wrong.
While there will of course be yet more sequels (number 13 “Halloween Ends” is due in 2022), hopefully the time between this one and finalizing the script, the studio will consider if there’s anything left artistically that could be done to revitalize the franchise.
“Halloween Kills” is rated R and can be found in theaters and streaming on Peacock TV.