Halloween (2018) is a pretty good movie; it finds a new angle for a tired franchise dealing with Laurie’s PTSD from the events of the original movie and it made Michael Myers scary again. So, how does the same team make one of the most hated sequels in the history of a franchise that has become synonymous with bad sequels? This is one of those cases where an expose may come out one day and reveal some ‘behind-the-scenes’ drama or difficulties that explain it, but for now, all we have to go on is what we experienced on the big screen. For me, I understand the baffled and disappointed reaction to the sequel, but I don’t agree with the intensity of it – Halloween Kills is a mediocre movie and a bad sequel to Halloween (2018), but it is not atrocious. It’s a disappointing attempt to add extra elements to the Halloween refresh that started in 2018 and it will frustrate, but as time passes, I don’t think people will have the same intense hatred for it as they do now, unless the already announced end of the trilogy (Halloween Ends) is so bad that it kills the franchise with the unkillable killer and fans direct the blame to the beginning of the downwards spiral that would be this movie.
Co-written and directed by David Gordon Green, alongside fellow writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems, Halloween Kills stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, and Anthony Michael Hall. It is a direct continuation of the last Halloween movie where Laurie and family are rushed to the hospital, while Michael somehow escapes the inferno he was left in and begins to terrorize the city of Haddonfield once again – this time though, the citizens want to fight back. Just like the previous Halloween, Halloween Kills has a credit sequence that pays homage to the original and also credits the Michael Myers actors (James Jude Cortney and Nick Castle) for their portrayal to The Shape, which in the previous movie was just a nod to the audience that the creators understand what made the original Halloween (which was the credit given to Nick Castle for the original as well) great; it was not about Michael Myers the man, it was about this entity that was purely evil – no remorse, no empathy, no motive, just pure evil, killing uncontrollably. This is the only thing that I feel Halloween Kills gets right this time around as well; he does have a goal this time, but that did not subtract from his menace and chilling nature. That is something the rest of the movie does in other ways, mainly by trying to add half-baked layers to the plot.
The movie’s beginning is actually a pretty good indicator of why the sequel fails to excite or satisfy. It jumps from directly after the last movie back to 1978 then to the previous movie then catches up to the present day, which is hours after the end of the last movie. It re-introduces characters from the previous movie, characters from the original, reminds us what happened in the last movie, and tries to set up the themes of this one; basically, a third into the movie and it is barely getting started. This over-complicated nature that seems to exist only as a cynical nostalgia-bait for fans of the original Halloween movie, distracts from what the focus should be: An unstoppable, unrelenting killing machine stalking and killing anyone who comes in his path. Instead, it switches focus on the turn of a dime; at times it’s about who’s at fault for Michael being alive; other times, its about his story haunting the town and whether the town can do anything about it; most of the time, it is about fear being bad and the boogeyman winning every time we feel fear; at points, it gets weirdly political with mob mentality, but then backtracks on that to deliver a twist, which makes it all the more confusing as to what the message is or what the point of all these threads are.
However, the biggest victim of this direction is the horror element of Halloween Kills; yes the kills are gory, violent, and vicious, but the focus seems off. I don’t think about the possibility of an entity devoid of empathy and filled from head to toe with evil, I’m still trying to remember who are these poorly-written characters and if there is a larger context I should be placing them in. I stopped feeling dread halfway through the movie, because I realized most of these characters only exist to die in a gory fashion and there was no connection with them, so what’s the point? Then, there’s the unintentional hilarity present in most scenes. Halloween has always been a concept where the simpler it is the more effective it becomes. Adding political or societal commentary isn’t inherently bad, but watching a mob storm a hospital shouting an incredibly corny line doesn’t make the movie thought-provoking or interesting; it made most of the audience burst out laughing. There are so many bad decisions too, like ending that hospital sequence with a character literally saying what the scene has been about, which is infuriatingly demeaning to the audience.
Just to reiterate though; these reasons are about why the movie is mediocre and, as a sequel, subpar. I don’t think people with no real interest in the Halloween franchise (simply looking for a spooky movie to watch on Halloween) will leave sorely disappointed as most fans would have. There is enough gore and visual impact in Halloween Kills to satisfy some and the presentation is very good; the music is pretty good and the visuals are a lot darker and “grittier”, but do pack a punch and are memorable at times.
As a mild fan of the Halloween franchise (love the first, liked the second, didn’t really care for the rest as my schlocky franchise of choice is Friday the 13th), I felt that disappointment, and I was trying to put it into words why I felt that. I keep coming back to the respective endings of the 2018 and 2021 Halloween movies; the 2018 one had a definitive ending that completed the arc and trajectory of the characters and the story; 2021 ends with a cliffhanger and if it had a point or a theme, I think it is pretty clear that I never engaged with it and it would have been relegated to the “final” part of this trilogy. Considering the other choices we could have watched in the theater (Dune, Venom 2, The last duel), I feel like that was the biggest disappointment for me; the fact that I wanted to see a historical drama on Halloween more than the sequel to the Halloween franchise.