Halloween Kills (2021)
Written by Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green
Directed by David Gordon Green
Trilogies are tricky things. Often a first film is made and, if it does well financially, then a sequel will be greenlit. There are rare occasions like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings where the movies are shot back to back, but most trilogies happen because the first movie did well. David Gordon Green and his collaborators wanted to do a series of Halloween films but waited to see how their first entry was received before locking everything in for follow-ups. I am a fan of their take of the Halloween universe. As I said in my review of the 2018 picture, there’s some atmosphere lacking, but thematically I am right on board with the sort of story being told here. In some ways, it reminds me of my favorite comic books, where new creators build on old ideas to make new points. I prefer that much more than rebooting things and feeling as if you’re in stasis.
Halloween Kills has some non-linear moments that are really appreciated. After briefly catching us up on the last movie, this film flashes back to the night of the first movie. Because Green’s trilogy doesn’t acknowledge Halloween II, some narrative gaps get filled in here. Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton, younger self played by Thomas Mann) is part of the manhunt for Michael Myers after he escapes at the end of the first movie. Hawkins and his older partner Pete (Jim Cummings) find themselves at the Myers home. Horrible things happen, but the film seeds the idea of Michael looking out his sister’s bedroom window when he was a child, down at Haddonfield. That image and its thematic importance bookend the movie.
Meanwhile, Halloween Night 2018 erupts into pure chaos. Michael escapes the basement trap Laurie laid for him and slaughters his way through firefighters and townsfolk, with his final destination assumed to be the hospital where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being treated. Karen (Judy Greer) mourns the death of her husband and emphatically tries to keep her daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) safe in the hospital. Outside, the town erupts into vigilante chaos led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall). Tommy and other adults who were kids that night begin to organize to track down Michael and kill him themselves. It just so happens another inmate from the crashed bus is also running around town and gets mistaken for Michael.
The kills here are brutal and gory. There’s a kill with a fluorescent lightbulb that is horrific, an eye-gouging that made me squirm, and a vicious mocking kill done with Allyson watching that really underlines the viciousness of Michael. Part of the story in this second part is an attempt by the people of Haddonfield to understand what Michael is doing and why. Unfortunately, they end up being wrong about him knowing where Laurie is and tracking her, cutting away much of the supernatural nature assigned to the killer. Allyson reveals it was his crazed doctor that brought him to Laurie; Michael was headed somewhere else. That somewhere else ends up being his family’s home and precisely that window looking down on Haddonfield.
The picture presents a parallel to Halloween 2018. In that first film, Laurie is the epitome of preparedness. She has spent forty years training herself and perfecting her trap. And within minutes of this movie starting, we see how easily Michael escapes. So, for most Halloween Kills, we have characters fueled by a mix of rage & fear. They actually surround Michael in the grand finale, armed to the teeth. They beat him down and fill him with bullets; it seems clear that Michael will die tonight. But then we get a great monologue delivered in a voice-over by Laurie. Her take on Michael now is that he is something more than human; he’s inspired such a deep level of fear in Haddonfield that he’s made the city’s people become something horrible & rotten. There’s also a sense of self-reflection on how she pushed down her own humanity for so long with her mind caught up in the specter of Michael.
For most of the picture, Curtis is sidelined with the larger narrative belonging to Judy Greer’s Karen. I do think the scattered nature of the plot here does some harm to the pacing. We are introduced to so many characters whose sole purpose is to be killed by Michael that there isn’t as strong an arc for the film as I would have liked. Green and his co-writers are still fantastic about finding humor in these supporting and more minor roles. This is one of the few movies where I really felt Haddonfield was a living, breathing place. But the thematic arc belongs to Karen, a woman trying to make sure everyone feels safe (lying to Laurie about Michael dying, trying to keep her daughter in one place) that ends up putting herself in a dangerous position.
Curtis and Green have hinted at what Halloween Ends, the third and final film in this series, will be like. It jumps to Halloween Night 2022 and will touch on the pandemic and, as Green put it, “strange politics.” That makes me think he wants to touch on contemporary existential horror and put Michael in that context. For some fans of the series, I’m sure that is not what they want, but I personally am interested to see how it plays out. It feels like Green is trying to inject some Rod Serling social commentary into Halloween, and I’m a big fan of that idea. I also hope the film addresses aging and dying. Michael is old. So is Laurie. So is Haddonfield. How long can they all stay stuck in this cycle of violence?