It is Tuesday, October 31st, 1978. As Halloween night bounds the small town of Haddonfield with tragedy, Michael Myers lurks the empty suburban streets to find his way back to his childhood home. Despite the carved pumpkins and ghoulish costumes, nothing sends a chill down Haddonfield’s spine like the news of the babysitter murders that had just occurred a few hours prior, filling the town with a harshly cold wind that struck the heart with unease. As the cops locate Myers in his childhood home, he steps out to find himself surrounded, recreating the disturbing shot from the 1978 classic. As the camera slowly pans out, Michael’s surrender almost feels like a promise of return to finish what he once started. Forty years later, he returns to haunt Haddonfield and after a fiery showdown, Myers needs to let off some steam.
major spoilers for ‘Halloween (2018)’ and ‘Halloween Kills’ are featured in this review.
While it seems that director David Gordon Green was finding his voice in the ‘Halloween‘ franchise with the 2018 soft-reboot/ sequel, his directorial efforts feel much more assured and confident in his follow-up, ‘Halloween Kills’. With a more sinister tone, this grisly sequel feels more akin to the original 1978 slasher, even bringing some of the lesser-known characters from that movie to the forefront here to explore Michael Myers’ impact on his survivors. However, while it packs some effective nostalgia and some truly gruesome murders, it has proven to be quite the divisive entry. Back in 2018, I compared the first movie in this trilogy to ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, another soft-reboot/sequel that felt quite safe but ultimately pleasing enough to be accepted by the legion of fans before it. This comparison only grows stronger as ‘Halloween Kills’ is in the same exact position as the infamously divisive ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ a few years ago. A sequel that took the story to unexpected places reaching new territory and bringing new concepts to the ever-growing lore of ‘Halloween‘. David Gordon Green seems to be following this rocky formula with his own trilogy as ‘Halloween Kills’ seems to twist everything we’ve come to expect from this franchise, even down to the Michael and Laurie dynamic. It plays around with the concepts evoked by the original and in turn creates some very new and exciting ideas exclusive to this trilogy, making it already stand out from this twelve-movie franchise. The 1978 flashback opening was masterfully executed and added new layers to both this trilogy and the original which was quite the impressive feat. Once the John-Carpentian synths echo through the theatre speakers, the audience is instantly transported back to the heavy atmosphere the original so expertly dons. As a massive fan of the original, seeing this movie in theatres was incredibly crucial. This was my first ever ‘Halloween‘ movie in a theatre, I was finally of age! I went with a group of friends on Halloween night, it was raining and everything! Seeing this flashback and then cutting to the new and updated pumpkin credits put the biggest smile on my face.
While the 2018 movie touched on the effects of generational trauma with Laurie, Karen and Allyson Strode, ‘Halloween Kills’ explores rage and the many forms it takes as Haddonfield erupts against The Shape. Despite there being a burning fire in every character featured in this movie, it doesn’t originate from the same place. Laurie Strode and Tommy Doyle (who both encountered Myers in 1978) grew similar attitudes towards that night as both are hellbent on hunting him down. However, while Strode doesn’t underestimate the Boogeyman, Doyle almost feels a sense of responsibility to protect Laurie and the town just like she did forty years ago. He takes a page out of ‘Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston and rallies together a furious mob. This collective rage is born from both fear and frustration and it leads to just as sad and horrific an outcome as Myer’s attacks do. When blinded by fear and rage, the town manages to drive a mental institute patient to suicide in a horrific and emotional scene, making it arguably the most tragic death of the night. Haddonfield’s rage is well contrasted to Michael’s rage which evokes a stronger need for gore and violence making him truly terrifying to behold. Since Myers is a mute character, it’s all the more impressive how much personality came through in his sadistic kills. The sheer brutality and creative execution in his murders make this feel crucial for Myers as if he needs to kill to feel better. While the firefighter sequence was nothing short of tragic, it’s his second attack in this movie that speaks the most. Despite having killed this elderly couple, the wife watches as Myers continuously grabs knives from the kitchen and stabs the husband in the back. As disturbing as it is, it’s the viewer’s interpretation that truly makes this a standout scene. Is he just getting a grip of the knives to upgrade his weapon or is he just letting off some steam? Either way, it’s a great scene of indirect characterisation, something ‘Halloween Kills’ nails on the head.
What makes the original 1978 classic work so well is that despite it being set on the most evil of nights, there is a contrast between Michael’s Evil and Laurie’s Innocence. No other sequel has quite achieved this balance and ‘Halloween Kills’ throws it out the window, to a certain degree. While the original movie portrayed Myers as a stalker, purely searching to kill Laurie Strode, this new trilogy reinvents his motives. As revealed in the 2018 film, Myers doesn’t have any particular attachment to Laurie anymore. In ‘Halloween Kills‘, it’s revealed that he just wants to slash his way through the town and go home. My theory to this change in Michael and Laurie’s dynamic is contrast. With Myers being the ultimate embodiment of pure evil, he needed a counterpart to kill. In 1978, it was the innocent hearted, virgin Laurie Strode. He stalked her almost as if he was drawn to her innocence. However, because of his attacks, he has more or less infected her purity with trauma, paranoia and a need for revenge. She lost the light he so passionately wanted to snuff out. This new trilogy is seemingly building up to this concept with ‘Halloween Ends’ which is set up to be the final showdown between these two fated characters. It’s actually an insane feat to evolve both Myers and Strode to such a level despite them not being constantly on-screen. They added depth to Myers by essentially making him an entire set. This movie connects his legend to his house and his mask. Without one or the other, he loses a bit of that intensity and intimidation. They give him a potential weakness and add to his lore in new ways. Despite becoming a side-character, Laurie is also explored in a new light. There is this sweet scene between her and Officer Hawkins whom she reveals an affection for and just for one scene, we get to see a Laurie Strode that is separated from Michael Myers. A Laurie Strode that envisions a future for herself where she can move past the trauma. This movie is at its best when it’s exploring these characters and I hope that ‘Halloween Ends’ finally brings these two to the forefront. There’s even this new element to their relationship which is introduced in ‘Kills‘ that makes it all the more tragic. While Strode has dedicated her life to bringing him down, Myers probably doesn’t even remember her. This doesn’t change the fact that she has to be the one who kills him. While the story goes beyond Laurie in this new trilogy, it has to boil down to her and Michael at the end because now she has to avenge her daughter, Karen who was arguably the counterpart to Michael this time around.
Seeing as the Strode women are essentially the beating heart of this trilogy, it was a true punch to the gut to see Karen meet her demise (supposedly) at the end of this movie. Karen reminded me of 1978 Laurie whereas Allyson reminds me of current Laurie. They portray Laurie’s conscious to an extent because their approach to Michael is so drastically different. Karen is fully aware that Michael is more than meets the eye. She carries the traumatic knowledge passed down onto her by her mother and actually manages to trap him at the end. She is smart but very careful. Her daughter Allyson however acts much more naively, she can relate to Tommy Doyle in that sense as they think they’re invincible because they survived an encounter with The Shape before. Allyson embraces her family name and entertains the animated nature of this story. She very much acts like a cartoon character just like the mob. It’s over-the-top but in its own slasher way, she played by the rules, she survived. Karen took a more rational approach and bit the dust. Think about that. Seeing Michael’s “payback” at the end of the movie was as shocking as it was defeating. Then again, no one thought to cut his head off so I can’t be too heartbroken. Seeing Michael’s face against a blank, black screen as blood spurts and splatters was actually terrifying. It felt like the movie was reluctantly giving him his victory as it imprints that goddamn mask into the audience’s mind.
In my mind, ‘Halloween Kills’ reigns supreme as the best sequel this franchise has to offer, even upping ‘Halloween II’. The menacing score matches the nostalgic aesthetic to create that iconic atmosphere and truly bring Haddonfield to life. Michael Myers was undoubtedly in top form here which is saying something and even though Laurie took a backseat, they still found new concepts to explore. That being said, this movie definitely has its flaws. I, for one, didn’t really like how poorly they handled the legacy characters, especially Marion. Tommy Doyle’s entire character was way too over-the-top at times and the script really fell apart in the second act. The town constantly repeating “Evil Dies Tonight” got old insanely fast and whenever the movie took away from Michael or The Strode family, it felt like it was grasping for ideas. However, flaws and all, ‘Halloween Kills’ is a movie I can talk about for hours, it’s a solid middle chapter, a hell of a blast and it manages to find the missing ingredient the 2018 movie so desperately needed. ‘Halloween Kills’ is most definitely a treat, not a trick.
‘Halloween Kills’ is available to watch in theatres and to stream on Peacock right now.