Tuesday 19 October 2021

Halloween Kills (2021)

Here's a bit of a shocker. I wasn't a big fan of Halloween (2018). Despite my problems with it, however, it was impossible for me to deny that it was an attempt to set right a franchise that had so often gone off into choppy waters, to put it mildly. Halloween Kills is worse than the film that preceded it. The big surprise is that I think it is arguably worse than every film that preceded it. 

Following on immediately from the end of the previous film, Halloween Kills is the tale of Michael Myers getting out of a burning house and killing a whole load of people on his way to wherever he may want to be heading. Is that wherever Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is? Is it his childhood home? Is it somewhere he can face off against an angry mob who rally around the chant that "evil dies tonight"? Wherever it is, events are interrupted by numerous flashbacks to scenes that show the aftermath of that fateful night all those years ago. The night he came home.

David Gordon Green is back in the director's chair again, and he co-wrote the script with Danny McBride and Scott Teems (the former also returning to the same role he had on the last film). So let me start by saying what this film gets right. Entertaining scenes of mayhem and death. This feels like the Halloween movie with the biggest bodycount yet, and the kills have a decent mix of variety and brutality. Michael Myers is as unstoppable as ever when he's all revved up for a major killing spree. 

The other thing the film gets right is the score, making plenty use of classic music cues in the right places.

That's it. That's all this movie gets right, and that's why it manages to do what I thought was impossible, become a new low point for the series.

Now let's go through the many things that the film gets wrong. 

The cast. They're either not that good (Andi Matichak still fails to make much of an impression as young Allyson, granddaughter of the legend that is Laurie Strode), unceremoniously sidelined because they need to be held back for the next - final - instalment (Jamie Lee Curtis), or forced to make one bad decision after another on the way to an ending that treats them as badly as any minor supporting character. This applies to Judy Greer, Robert Longstreet, and Anthony Michael Hall, among others. The fact that Hall is playing Tommy Doyle, joined here by Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards reprising her role), makes the misuse of his character arguably more egregious than the misuse of any other characters.

The many nods to other movies that everyone wants to pretend doesn't exist in this timeline. This has been a pet peeve of mine before, but it's even worse this time when so many details seem to have been included for fans to point out as nods to previous visits to Haddonfield.

Leading on from the previous point, there is almost no scene in Halloween Kills that doesn't highlight either some dialogue, character, or scene from the 1978 movie. It makes up what feels like the majority of the runtime, and it's bloody infuriating. This is a film that shows a flashback of Michael Myers clambering over a car just to allow the film-makers to feel smug when they show a near-identical shot of Michael Myers clambering over a car. There is a big difference between dropping in references to please fans and making your film little more than a collage of those references.

The many scenes that are supposed to show the events of Haddonfield in the 1970s generally look well, but they are a) totally unnecessary, and b) full of choices made by people who wanted to recreate certain moments and characters without considering whether or not they should. This leads to intrusive camerawork and some terrible audio that can take viewers out of the movie.

Any commentary on trauma and mob mentality is undermined by the weak script. Why bring so many characters back if you’re only going to use them to make the same mistakes that everyone makes in these movies? They even mistake someone else for Michael Myers, which I think it the third or fourth time that idea has been used in these movies. There are individual moments that have characters showing how affected they have been by the night that terrified the entire town, but they are disappointingly brief. And none of the mob mentality stuff works, with no real feeling of “angry villagers with torches” ever coming close to actually causing a problem for the monster they want to drive away.

Halloween Kills has worked for a hell of a lot of people, and it seems to have been a big hit at the box office already, so you may end up at the opposite end of the spectrum from me. Some people have heard the film criticised and wondered what viewers were expecting. I’ll tell you. All this had to do was be true to the characters, true to the idea of making it a worthwhile story branching directly from the events of the original movie, and full of good kills. At least the kills are good. 

Sadly, any other film in the series manages to do what it sets out to do better than this, which even keeps our favourite scream queen so far away from most main scenes that it’s akin to watching a cut of Aliens re-edited to keep Ripley in stasis for most of the runtime.

Worst. Halloween. Ever. (so far)


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