There’s no way to be wrong or right about how you feel about this movie, but tell that to the sycophantic fanboy audience that has already told people to kill themselves if they didn’t like this movie. Yes, after a lifetime of dealing with hard knocks, the thing that finally kills me is a bottom-of-the-barrel slasher that wouldn’t even place in the top fifty films of this genre that came out in 1981*.
First off, that’s not fair, as a metric ton of slashers came out that year. But also, a lot of really great ones did that did at the time weren’t thought of as being all that great, but in retrospect — and with the law of withering slasher quality — seem like bona fide classics in 2021.
I debated just sharing with you my alternate titles for this film** instead of my thoughts, but that seemed like a cop-out.
So…if you haven’t seen it yet…spoiler warning.
About a decade ago, I had the feeling coming out of Pineapple Express that was, “Yeah, so…what did I miss?” And I’ve continually felt that feeling with nearly every movie that David Gordon Green has made.
The one thing that people seemed to agree on about the last film — Halloween — was that it worked best when it was when it let the Strode women — Laurie, Karen and Allyson — kick some ass. This film takes a cue from Halloween II — and not the one that works — and basically keeps Laurie*** and her family out of the action for a large chunk of the running time, instead of devoting its running time to a group of doomed survivors led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and including fan service**** character Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), Lindsay Wallace (Kyle Richards) and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) as they drink in a bar and remember the night that they all almost died, ruining the worst talent show ever so that Tommy can remind us that nothing bad has ever happened to him since forty years ago and generally bumming everyone out.
Somehow, Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton in 2018, Thomas Mann in 1978) survived being stabbed in the throat by living plot device Dr. Ranbir Sartain in the last film, which leads him to remember all the things we didn’t see at the end of the original movie, like him screwing up and shooting a cop in the throat instead of The Shape, followed up by him having all the marksmanship of a Cobra trooper or clone of Jango Fett and then, finally, stopping Dr. Loomis (Tom Jones, Jr. under a load of makeup) from shooting Michael right in the head.
Halloween Kills is a movie that simultaneously wants us to remember it as the one true sequel to a film that’s had more timelines than most slashers have quarts of blood while also having its cake as well, showing us Leigh Brackett in footage from the second film in the series which it has conveniently retconned out.
Speaking of that, the new reason why Michael kills people is so hilarious that I laughed out loud to the point that you may have heard me, wherever you are. He likes to look out the window all the time into the darkness in his soul, so whenever he’s done killing, he just likes to look out that window and if anyone gets in the way of him and his window, they die. Kind of like the mirror in Boogeyman but somehow in no way better, which is beyond a crying shame.
Yes. All these years of murder and dread and sorrow and fear and it was all about a window.
I really don’t even know if I want to go on after that. By that point, I was borderline enraged in the theater and upset that we challenged a global health crisis instead of being smart and just watching this on Peacock.
Anyways, let’s soldier on.
After Michael raises the ire of first responders online — hey, I’m still mad about him eating dogs, which I’m reminded of again in this one, so get in line — with a massacre of the very firemen sent to save him, The Shape is loose again like some kind of apex predator or Jaws with his burned up face and out and about and randomly killing comedy geek favorites like Lenny Clark and Michael McDonald (making him the only person I know to get killed by Michael Myers the actor and Michael Myers the killer in a movie).
For all the critiques of just how rough Halloween II is — and yes, it is, but it’s also a movie not even in the same breath as this one — the violence in this movie goes beyond even what my usual slasher dreams entail. There’s a saw to the face. A light tube to the throat. Multiple knives in Uncle Teddy’s back. A cheese knife to Stewart’s heart. And yet, in the midst of all this grand guignol, something hit me.
The moment that makes Halloween stand out is when Michael murders Bob and takes a moment to step back, cock his head and admire his handiwork. It shows how detached that he is from the human race. He does that move exactly one time in the original film. He does it six times before I lost track in this film. And that’s one of the many issues here: this is a bloated film, losing the plot of more than one story while overdoing it. It isn’t enough to have one person yell “Evil dies tonight!” It happens over and over and over when someone should have said to Nurse Chambers, “C’mon, inventing that tagline is as bad as picking your own nickname.” But everyone follows suit and before you can say Q-Anon, we have Tommy Doyle drunkenly taking the streets and making perfect charisma rolls to convince the town of Haddonfield — which no doubt has the worst kids ever between the jerks in this one and the bullies of the fourth one which does not exist — to come together in the beautiful dream of surrounding one man and beating him to death.
Haddonfield’s citizens are themselves turning into monsters! Why, as Laurie later says, this is Michael’s masterpiece! But didn’t we just also learn that Michael had nothing to do with finding the woman who is not his sister as he was put in her way by Dr. Sartain and everything is a coincidence? If he’s a six-year-old child in the body of an adult — one nearing seventy mind you — how can he plan these things? Or perhaps is he supernatural and gains his powers with each person he kills, as Laurie later says? Is he flesh and blood? Or is he a demon? Are we going to cut to him having a Cult of Thorn tattoo just to confuse everyone?
Ah man, we still have Halloween Ends to get to, which Green has said is a “coming of age story” in which “some of the characters… have processed the insanity of the circus of the massacre of 2018. And not only that, but they’ve also processed the world as it’s spun so wildly in the last four years.”
So yeah. The crappy world outside that I ventured out into in the hopes of escaping the world outside by watching a slasher is now intruding into said slasher. Cool.
Again, for a movie that wants us to believe that it is the one and only timeline, the idea of a vigilante mob after Michael comes directly from the fourth movie. And the best parts of this only happen in flashbacks.
I mean, at least this movie didn’t have a long discussion of bahn mi sandwiches, instead deciding to show how quirky and cool it was by featuring a moment from Minnie and Moskowitz and characters listening to Pete Antell’s “Stop, Look and Listen, It’s Halloween.” It doesn’t feel like bonus content and something cool. It feels extraneous.
Actually, this whole thing feels extraneous.
Then again, it’s also the kind of movie that has The Guardian saying that it’s the new high in “horror renaissance” and has Variety critics saying that it’s a ripoff of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and then doubling down by saying Mario Bava was inept.
Much like the mob that’s created in the film, this is a dumb piece of nothing that creates more moments of absolute dumbness. And within said dumbness, there is no moment of joy, no love for craft, no escape. Halloween has become a commitment, a movie that you have to go see because you’ve endured all the others and there’s no way this can be worse than that time that Freddie Harris spin kicked Michael or when he had a neckflap.
But it is. Somehow, it’s worse.
*Off the top of my head, the 1981 slashers that are light years better than this movie include Absurd (which is my third favorite Halloween movie), Bloody Moon (yes, when Jess Franco makes a better movie than your Hollywood budget, get the axe), Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone! (which sucks, but I love, and it’s actually made with love unlike this), Madhouse, Just Before Dawn (I mean, that’s like comparing…actually in the future I will use the example “That’s like comparing Just Before Dawn to Halloween Kills), Madman, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, The Fan, The Funhouse, Happy Birthday to Me, Hell Night (the very best example of a movie people hated in 1981 that’s had forty years to suddenly seem pretty decent), My Bloody Valentine, Strange Behavior, Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker and two of the best slashers ever made, Halloween II and The Prowler.
**Those alternate titles include:
- Halloween: January 6
- Halloween: Make Haddonfield Great Again
- Halloween: Surprisingly Not a Fan Film
- Halloween: Just Wait Until You See These Guys Ruin The Exorcist Too
- Halloween: Did Someone Say “Evil Dies Tonight?”
- Halloween: Rob Zombie’s Redemption
- Halloween: Wherefore Art Thou, Busta Rhymes?
- Halloween: Cookie Woman Returns
- Halloween: Donald Pleasence Says Yes to a Role Beyond the Grave
- Halloween: Two Old People Make Funny In Adjoining Hospital Beds
- Halloween: Window Licker
- Halloween: The Kids Are Not Alright
- Halloween: Gratutitous Bob Odenkirk Stock Photo
***This is the only movie in the series where Laurie and Michael don’t have a scene together.
****To be fair, this is an entire movie of fan service that seems worse than many of the fan films of Halloween that I have seen. Oh cool, the Silver Shamrock masks, they want you to yell, while inside you realize that Carpenter was right and this should have ended with the second film and become an annual series of unconnected stories.