Cinema Dispatch: Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by David Gordon Green

It looks like the only thing that could stop Michael Myers was a global Pandemic as this was supposed to come out last Halloween, but I guess any October is a good time to release a new installment of this series.  The 2018 film was a breath of fresh air in a franchise that went off the rails in several different ways, but the ending left me rather cold as it was clearly there to make room for a sequel instead of giving us a definitive end to the story.  Now that sequel is here so it’s time to find out if it was worth undercutting the dramatic conclusion to the last film to get one more story out of this new continuity.  Is this the proper conclusion we were hoping to get in the last movie, or should they have ended the series then and there?  Lets’ find out!!

Continuing where the last movie left off, Laurie Strode along with her daughter and granddaughter Karen and Allyson (Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) are speeding away from her burning house with Michael Myers (James Judy Courtney and Nick Castle) trapped inside; a plan that seemed dubious when we saw it three years ago and now we can see exactly why as Michael manages to survive the fire and kills a bunch of firefighters in the process.  Over the course of the evening, it becomes clear to the whole town of Haddonfield that Michael Myers is still on the loose and wreaking havoc wherever he goes, so it’s up to the people of that town including a fully grown Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) to lead the charge and put an end to this murder once and for all!  While all this is going on, Laurie is in the hospital recovering from Michael’s attack and Karen is doing what she can to keep her family together despite Allyson being in the throes of grief and seeking revenge wherever she can find it.  Can this town put an end to this shadow that has been hanging over them since that fateful night in 1978?  What will it take to put Michael down once and for all, and is it something that can be done without losing more lives and perhaps even the soul of this town?  Seriously, Laurie.  You couldn’t put two in the head for good measure before lighting the house on fire?  Heck, you could have at least thrown a bit of gasoline on him!

If we don’t learn that Michael is actually a Highlander, I’m gonna start questioning the seriousness of this series!

Roger Ebert gave the original Halloween a perfect four-star review while its follow-up in 1981 got half as many.  I always felt a bit mixed about that kind of reaction to horror sequels.  I mean sure, in most cases they aren’t as good as the original but a lot of them are genuinely enjoyable with Halloween itself having a slew of solid slasher sequels to pad out its absurdly long shelf life.  Well I guess I’m now realizing that I’m the old man screaming at clouds to the next generation who will end up feeling the same way I did to my film critic elders, or perhaps the better way to view is that I’m coming around to what their experience was like because while this is NOT the worst Halloween movie I’ve seen it is probably the one that infuriated me the most; the most useless and mindless movie that’s crimes are exacerbated by just how pleased it is with itself.  It’s ambitions to meaning end up being pretentious about being taken seriously, and the continued lack of any sort of closure for this series and its characters leaves the whole thing feeling like a waste of time with no purpose other than to stretch things out as far as they can go.  I guess it was foolish to think the last film was anything but another cash grab for this worn-out franchise, but even then it’s sad to see it fall so far so quickly with this travesty of a movie.

“WHERE’S MY AGENT!?”

We’ll start with what generally works about this movie which include its production, effects, and performances; all of which are carried over from the first film so it’s nothing to write home about, but it’s there and keeps this movie from being completely unwatchable and at least still better than Resurrection.  Judy Greer is definitely the standout here with the most moments to shine and even if her story is as jumbled and confused as everything else in here, she at least does a decent job of grounding her character and her scenes.  Anthony Michael Hall as a grown-up Tommy Doyle is also a bright spot here as I really did enjoy what they were doing with his character and how he was trying to control the situation, but he succumbs to the terrible plotting as well and unlike Greer, he doesn’t quite manage to rise above it; yet another thing that disappoints in this unnecessary film.  Sorry, this is supposed to be the good stuff.  Let’s see… I guess the deaths are well-executed if nothing else, though whether they actually serve a purpose in the movie is another matter entirely… and there I go complaining again.  Seriously, is there anything I liked that can’t be turned into a backhanded compliment?  Oh!  Okay, they’re a bit of a cliché and are just there to be comic relief targets for Michael, but there is a gay couple living in Michael Myers’ house played by Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald, both of whom are fun to watch and are probably the most human characters in the whole thing.  They aren’t bogged down by ridiculous plot twists are mindless pontifications (things we’ll talk about soon enough) and instead are just being PEOPLE on Halloween night with their little ups and downs as the night wears on.  I guess the fact that they ARE pretty extraneous to the movie means that they can just BE there instead of trying to carry this miserable plot along and frankly I’d have rather spent the evening over at their place than all the nonsense that was going on in the rest of the town.

I mean I certainly wouldn’t have bought the old Myers’ place, but it’s still better than buying a house on Elm Street!

The question I keep coming back to is why THIS particular horror sequel bothers me so much more than a lot of the others out there.  I guess it could be the expectations set by the last film being as good as it was, but we’ve seen drop-offs in quality like this before, and the fact is that I was expecting something worse simply because of how blatantly they had sequel baited at the end of the last one.  I think it’s something a bit deeper; not just that this is worse than the last one, but the ways that it just fails to find ANYTHING worthwhile to do despite all the same people being involved.  Same actors, same writers, same director, continuing right where the last movie left off… and yet it just doesn’t work!  It’s almost impressive how much this fails to capture even a fraction of the 2018 film’s magic, but let’s not get bogged down in generalities and get to the nitty-gritty of the plot.  Where the last movie was about a small group of people within the town scrambling to find and deal with Michael Myers, this movie expands its scope to include more or less the whole town that is now after Michael and is terrified of what he could do or discovering what he’s already done.  There are a lot of great ideas to work with here and the first act seems to be pointing us in that direction with Tommy Doyle leading the charge and organizing groups to search for him.  It’s too bad that the movie never delivers on this promise and instead just uses it as an excuse to pad out the body count.  I’ve been trying to focus less on singling out contrivances in my reviews to justify my negative reactions to a movie, but there’s just no getting around the fact that none of these vigilantes are using their freaking cell phones.  It’s not just goofy horror movie logic that I would accept in a movie that I was enjoying more; it comes off as pulling back on what the movie had already promised us.  No interesting angles with regards to groups searching for the killer (I could picture a Searching style found footage movie running with this premise), it’s just the same slasher movie we’ve gotten a hundred times before.  That disappointment, that lack of follow-through on what SEEMS to have been a sense of ambition, is what got me to really turn on this movie; and yet even then, there are still worse things about this movie that we still need to get to.

“Quick question Tommy. I forgot my phone.” “First, that’s not a question. Second, HOW COULD YOU FORGET YOUR PHONE? Go back and get it!” “Tommy over here! I’ve got a question too. I need a weapon.” “Again, not a question, and again HOW COULD YOU FORGET THAT!?” “Tommy!” “I swear to… WHAT!?” “Did you bring any snacks?” “NO, I DIDN’T BRING ANY SNACKS!” “Geez, dude. Kinda dropping the ball here.”

Perhaps what hurts this movie the most isn’t how convoluted and frustrating the story is, but the limp attempts to imbue a sense of meaning to all this nonsense.  The last movie had its moments where characters would pontificate on the nature of Michael Myers, but it always felt like characters within the narrative trying to justify it to themselves; not the movie itself saying one way or the other what his story is.  This movie on the other hand spends a lot of time talking about Michael and doing it in such as way as to be delivering a more definitive coda; an explanation that the movie itself wants to steer you towards.  If that’s what they want to do, then fine; Rob Zombie certainly didn’t shy away from getting inside Michael Myers’ head and answering questions that were left ambiguous.  What I object to is that the speeches characters give about Michael in this movie are nothing but word salad; completely incoherent ramblings that don’t MEAN anything!  It’s so wishy-washy with its messaging despite making it so much more prominent in the movie either of the two endings (the fake out and the real one) were supposed to be “good” or not; and don’t even try with the whole shades of gray thing here!  They lost any claim to that with the hospital scenes that are about as blunt as a baseball bat to the face.  They don’t seem to know what they want to say but are saying it as loudly as possible which starts off obnoxious and never gets any better throughout the movie.  This all leads to one final issue I have with the movie and it’s the deaths themselves.  With so much in this movie that just feels off base and completely missing the mark, the deaths feel utterly pointless and therefore especially cruel.  Sure that’s KIND of the point as slashers aren’t good guys or anything like that, but there is an art to making a proper body count so that the audience can follow along engaged with the story instead of just rotely ticking boxes off the murder checklist.  I always like to go to the 2009 Friday the 13th movie when constructing a story via its deaths as each one serves a specific purpose for a specific point in the movie’s narrative; culminating in the final death that sets up the stakes of the final confrontation.  Here, they all just feel like filler with no real effect on the story, and they mostly come off particularly gloomy and grim because of that.  Horror movies ride a fine line with me in regards to balancing its cruelty with its catharsis so this is probably something that not everyone is going to have a problem with, but for me, it was just the cherry on top of an already lousy experience.

I get stringing up his victims in a ghoulish display, but there’s NO excuse for bringing Halloween III into this!!

Say what you will about the other films in the series, or even most horror sequels, they didn’t pretend to be more than what they were and actually delivered on what they said they would do.  For that, even the less than solid entries out there like Halloween four and five get my respect.  This on the other hand?  It’s ugly like Rob Zombie’s movies with the commitment or the genuine vision, it’s all over the place like four and five without Jamie Lloyd to tie it all together, and unlike the movie that preceded it, there’s no sense of purpose behind it all.  No loose ends being tied up, no closure for the characters that started it all, and no excuse to keep this shambling corpse of a reboot going for yet another movie.  I’ve seen worse in the genre and have even seen worse in this series, but you should still avoid this movie like the plague!  We’re all better off just pretending this one didn’t exist and the first one ended with a giant explosion like the one we got in Jason Goes to Hell!  Oh, look at that!  Another movie that’s better than this one!  Whatever went wrong here, I don’t think is going to be fixed by giving us an ACTUAL ending to the story in whatever third movie they want to release.  That bridge is pretty thoroughly burned here and I can’t see anything short of yet another reboot to get them out of the hole they dug themselves into.

1 out of 5

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