Halloween Kills, David Gordon Green’s follow up to Halloween (2018), continues the night of terror for the Strode family and the people of the town of Haddonfield, with additional flashbacks to the past, revealing to viewers more about that night in 1978 and its impact on the lives of the residents. The movie also brings back some familiar (and not familiar) faces – Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Marrion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyhers), Lonnie Elam (portrayed by Robert Longstreet), and Tommy Doyle (portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall).
As I left the theatre this week, I was left with one word on my mind to describe this film: violent. Having seen the entire series several times (including Rob Zombie’s versions), I do not believe that Michael was ever portrayed with as much silent rage as in this film. The title of Kills really lives up to it in this film, as Michael amasses a body count well exceeding any of the previous films. His methods of violence are also very raw, which is what I would expect from a person described as the essence of evil. It is very easy to sit back and simply enjoy the rising body count in a slasher film, but there was something about this film and the way the director presented each character that made some of the deaths feel sad. Perhaps it was due in large part to the superb acting in this one. Too often we see a character in a film witness the death of a loved one, only to be perfectly calm minutes later. This is not the case in Halloween Kills, as many characters emote absolute devastation at what they experience.
Speaking of the violence, it was interesting to see this week that a petition to pull the scene of Michael killing firefighters from the film. This had me very interested in how this scene would play out, as I do not recall any movie having a scene removed regarding killing police, children, or any other particular groups. So why the problem with firefighters? Without spoiling anything, I can say that the firefights did not just sit back and accept their fate. Michael did not purposefully seek out firefighters as a target. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the scene is fucking brutal!
Another element to this film that stood out to me was how inclusive the film was in regards to representation. The film features well-developed characters that are in inter-racial or homosexual relationships without falling into any type of stereotypes or tropes. Many of the more important supporting cast are also people of color. What I appreciated about these characters is that they did not feel like they were just put into the film for the sake of being “woke”. These people mattered, and felt like actual people.
In regards to the main characters, this is a film that does not just rely on the old staple of Laurie versus Michael. In fact, due to her injuries, Laurie is not nearly as important in driving this plot as others. This was much more of an ensemble film, which again helped develop fully realized characters. I enjoyed the character growth in people like Karen Nelson (Judy Greer) and Cameron Elam. I suppose this is one benefit from a second film continuing right where the last one left off. There were also opportunities for background characters from the previous film to shine in their own scenes.
Without giving away too much, the film also tackles the role of trauma – on the individual as well as the community. We see the way Halloween night in 1978 has not just affected Laurie Strode but also the other survivors of that night. With Michael’s reemergence, the entire town is thrust back into a frenzy and a mob mentality begins to take hold. I really thought that perhaps the director or writers were inspired by what transpired at our nation’s capital this year, but this was not the case as this film was completed well before the insurrection attempt. This could have easily become a simple mob-hunts-for-Michael (similar to what occurred in Halloween 4 when the bar patrons jumped into their pickup trucks and tried to stop the shape), but what transpired in the film was more about the unintended consequences of our well-meaning actions.
The score in Halloween Kills was also something I looked forward to experiencing. John Carpenter and his son Cody returned, providing an intense atmosphere to the film. Many scenes played so well due to the score. My favorite track had to be Unkillable, a slowly building track that plays like a fallen hero rising back up for one last battle.
Even with all this good, there were still some issues I had with the film. While I thoroughly enjoyed the brutality that Michael imposed on anyone around him, he was truly unstoppable, well exceeding what a human being could withstand. David Gordon Green spoke years ago about bringing the story back to basics, but I felt like this film started to veer into the Michael seen in the sequels that follows the 1978 original. This is not to say that this is a bad interpretation for The Shape (in fact, this portrayal may rank right behind Nick Castle), but for a director speaking about being more grounded in reality, this seemed to violate that. There is no way that you can convince me after seeing this film that Michael does not possess some supernatural power.
Another issue with the film is one similar to a problem experienced by The Matrix Reloaded in that the film felt like the first half of a story and left me wanting to see more. Knowing that this was the second film of a trilogy left me waiting for that cliffhanger moment. They delivered on that. But many questions were left unanswered in this film, and many characters still have so much to do. I guess that is not a bad problem to have, with viewers wanting more, but it just did not feel like the film ended. Again, maybe this was intentional, as the next film will be titled Halloween Ends (coming in 2022). Hopefully fans like myself will spend the next year theorizing what is going to happen.
While it’s still early to say, my general feeling is that this is one of the better Halloween sequels, ranking behind Halloween 2 and Halloween 4 for me personally. It was a brutal film, and you rarely had a moment to just relax. The characters were well developed, the score lent itself to the atmosphere, and the kills were on brand for a man known lovingly as “The Shape”.