Halloween has come and gone, and we’re now entering the season of thankfulness—and then Christmas! But I figured I’d squeeze in one more movie review related to the holiday, as my girlfriend and I saw—perhaps, it’s better to say, “endured”—2021’s Halloween Kills.
Halloween Kills is the sequel to 2018’s Halloween, itself a sequel to 1978’s Halloween (here’s a handy chart of all twelve Halloween films, and a diagram showing the different continuities within the bloated series). Like Halloween II (1981), which starts immediately following the events of the original, Halloween Kills takes place on the same night as the events of Halloween (2018). Confused yet?
Well, none of that much matters, besides the characters repeatedly mentioning the Michael Myers murders “forty years ago.” Really, most of the movie is a sad attempt at making a statement about a mob mentality, itself muddled by the fact that the mob—which keeps chanting, “Evil dies tonight!”—is actually right about the necessity to annihilate Michael Myers once and for all.
Needless to say, it’s not a very good movie. The 2018 Halloween was a great follow-up to the original (even taking into account that horror movie sequels are almost never good, or justified), and explored the theme of complacency in the face of a real existential threat. Lori Strode’s character correctly understand that there is evil in the world, and Michael Myers is the relentless embodiment of it. She therefore wisely takes major precautions to protect herself against the inevitable return of the man in the mask.
The second film, however, largely confines Jamie Lee Curtis’s Strode to a hospital bed, where she ineffectually mumbles and shouts about Michael Myers. Instead, the focus of the film shifts to some of the obscure minor characters from the first movie, including the now-grown children that Strode babysat on that fateful night. These characters are not particularly compelling or interesting, and the film’s flashbacks to the past don’t do much to make the audience care about them.
While the film had some impressive kills—if you’re into that kind of thing—it was mostly boring. That’s pretty much the one thing a good horror movie cannot be. Sure, there were some moments of tension, and given that Michael Myers can seemingly phase in and out and space at will, the viewer can never be sure when he’ll pop out, or if the closet a character is poking into will be empty. But besides those slow-build jump scares and Michael’s sheer ferocity, there’s not much driving interest.
Granted, I was tired after the Spooktacular, but even so, I caught myself nearly dozing off during the long middle section of the film. There’s an entire scene in which a mental patient who escaped with Michael is hunted down by an angry mob. The mob leader—one of the children Strode babysat in 1978—insists that no one knows what Michael really looks like, so the escapee must be Michael.
Never mind that the escapee is wearing his prison jumpsuit, as opposed to the dark blue coveralls that Michael favors. Never mind that the man is fleeing from people, the one thing Michael never does. Neither of those points matter, because the movie is trying to make a statement about… something—mob hysteria? Halloween Kills was filmed in late 2019, but Jamie Lee Curtis has stated retroactively that it’s a statement about the 6 January 2020 protests, as well as Black Lives Matter. It can’t be the former, as filming was completed by November 2019. If it’s the latter, and the film is trying to make the point that “mob rule is bad,” that doesn’t seem very flattering to BLM (another related thread in the film is that the system has failed to apprehend and detain Michael Myers, so the people must do so; maybe that fits the BLM ethos more, but the film still is not an endorsement of mob violence).
Regardless, this whole section of the film is asinine and booooring. It took away from the fun and thrill of a Halloween movie—which are all, at their heart, about a relentless, soulless killing machine—and tried to shoehorn in an incoherent message.
One thing the film seemed to do well was to restore to Michael Myers that faceless, reasonless quality, the very thing that makes him so terrifying—no one knows why he kills, they just know he does. Even here, the scriptwriters seemed confused about what to do. At one point, a character mentions that Michael is pure, implacable evil, but another character describes him almost sympathetically as a six-year old in a man’s body with an animal’s mind. That attempt to psychoanalyze or rationalize Michael’s behavior could be one character grasping at straws, but it felt like the screenwriters trying to explain Michael’s drive to kill.
What made the original 1978 Halloween so effective—as many commentators have noted before me—is that no one knows Michael’s motivation. Indeed, the events seemed to be set into place because Laurie Strode knocks on the front door of the Myers house and skips away laughing. Michael just happens to see her, and his night of terror begins.
In essence, the script tries to do way too much with introducing obscure characters that only die-hard Halloween fans will remember well, if at all, and completely muddies the waters of who Michael Myers is. Laurie Strode is sidelined, and there’s even a whole conversation about Michael not wanting her, but simply wanting to go back home. Doesn’t that undermine the premise of the last movie entirely?
One amusing note, as a coda: a gay couple has moved into the old Myers house and fixed it up. These two men playing house—Big John and Little John—are the quintessential gentrifying gay men: listening to weird jazzy Halloween records; making a charcuterie board on Halloween; wearing silk robes around the house; and fixing up a distressed property that was abandoned for decades. To the film’s credit, it treats them like any other of Michael’s victims, rather than giving them a pass to score easy identity politics points.
That aside, Halloween Kills is a muddled, slow, shambling mess. It’s okay for Michael Myers to be those things, but not his movies.