MICHAEL HACKS ON
Halloween Kills (18)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Review: Dave Stephens
After David Gordon Green's 2018 reboot of Halloween turned into a bona fide cinematic hit, no one was shocked when a sequel was announced. What was surprising was that two sequels were announced, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, making it a trilogy (or quadrilogy if you want to be pedantic and include the original film as the first entry of the story arc). Inevitably delayed by more than a year due to Covid-19, Kills has been much anticipated by genre fans desperate to know how the Shape managed to escape "certain death" in a house-trap built by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, obvs). Well, now Michael Myers has finally stalked back onto the UK's and American silver screens (and streaming in the US) just in time for the spooky season. Curtis and Green return as star and director again, along with Judy Greer and Andi Matichak as the next generations of the Strode final girls. But is Myers still on fire, and does the film live up to expectations?
Oddly enough, the story doesn't start at the burning Strode residence but somewhere else at the same time as two non-Strode survivors of Halloween 2018 cross paths. Then we get a flashback to THAT night in 1978 and find out how he was cornered and captured by Dr Loomis and the cops (remember that the events of 1981's Halloween II doesn't happen in this movie-verse), but not before being responsible for one more tragedy. Then … we finally get back to the Strode house inferno, and it turns out that Laurie left one big-ass death-star-exhaust-port-sized flaw in her trap. Way to waste 40 years! A group of well-meaning firefighters unwittingly allow Michael to escape his fiery would-be tomb, and the blood starts to flow again. Laurie is stitched-up and doped up in hospital (shades of 1981's sequel) and unaware of his escape. Meanwhile, the townsfolk of Haddonfield has had enough of this shit and decide it's time for them to fight back against the Shatner-faced psycho…
To be honest, after the superlative 2018 film (which could easily have been the conclusion to the story), Kills is something of a disappointment. Rather than being a breakneck journey through Michael's psyche or a continued evolution of the Strode family's shared experience of trauma, those two threads are mostly abandoned in favour of social commentary and references to the original "night he came home”, exploiting the possible effect it might have on Smalltown USA. This might seem like a clever idea in practice, especially when Laurie's original babysitting charges become involved. Little Tommy Doyle (played by Anthony Michael Hall, who now looks uncannily like Malcolm McDowell!) and Lindsey (played by the original actress Kyle Richards) are grown up and ready for some payback.
However, this actually translates into some heavy-handed semi-political analogies and some sub-Scooby Doo shenanigans. A mob of enraged American citizens storm into a public building, chanting a 3-word slogan ("Evil Dies Tonight!" in this case) and threatening to kill an individual. Sound familiar? It's just missing a Shaman. The gun-toting public also consists of people who have a worst aim than a short-sighted Star Wars Stormtrooper, forget to re-load their firearms, split up at EVERY (and we mean EVERY) available opportunity, and don't understand the cardinal rule of slashers; the bad guy ain't dead until he's literal mush! That might seem pithy and a little personal, but it often makes the film feel precisely what it is: a filler in a trilogy sandwich which is making up time and feeding details until we get the "proper" conclusion. Without spoiling it, the ballsy-but-divisive ending more than underlines this motif.
However, despite falling short of the first and not meeting expectations, HK is far from a bust. There are some tremendous gnarly kills, most of which involve open neck wounds, ocular trauma, or cranial catastrophes. It fully earns its "R"/" 18" rating for "strong bloody violence". It also spotlights the sheer brutality of The Shape (nicely personified by a triumvirate of actors, including the original Nick Castle), who becomes Jason-like in his near invulnerability and inventiveness for survival. There are a couple of moments that are genuinely spine-tingly in their presentation. The scene when an empowered Michael stands off against a group of firefighters, holding a blood-dripping pick and framed against a roaring fire, is slasher imagery at its most significant, as are the next 30 seconds. The 1978 flashback is also nicely handled, as are the nods to Halloween III (spoilt in the trailer, natch), a re-enactment of Michael's original assault on a car from his 1978 escape, and a ton of visual and audio Easter-Eggs.
There is also an interesting shift in Michael's nature on two fronts: his simplistic "motives" and his actual "being". There's a lovely moment where Laurie FINALLY realises, with the help of an old friend, that it is literally "not all about her" (actual quote). She later comments on The Shape "transcending" with every kill. Otherwise, though, the Strode girls get little chance to shine or dominate the proceedings, which is a little surprising and unwelcome. Some stagey and clunky lines of dialogue don't help matters either. It's always good to see gory adult slashers with some intelligence on the big screen, but this experience falls short of what it could have been, in all honesty. Enjoyable, but let's hope it "Ends" on a better note.