2018’s Halloween managed to be breath of fresh air for this lingering slasher franchise. The film managed to be more than just another series of murders featuring Michael Meyers. It actually touched the trauma of Laurie Strode in a unique way. So now we come to the sequel of Halloween Kills. But is there left to explore? The film suggests that maybe there’s a lingering hatred worth taking note of in the fear that Michael spread across a suburb.
Unfortunately, this film doesn’t have so much interest in this angle. It’s an aspect that is brought up and then rarely harped upon. What results from this jarring mixture is a mixed bag of sloppy horror and absurd violence.
Halloween Kills Review: Michael Lives
This sequel takes place mere moments after the previous film. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has succeeded in trapping Michael in a flaming tomb of her home. Or so she thought.
As Laurie is hauled off to the hospital, she witnesses the fire department heading towards her home. She screams out towards them to “Let it burn!” Of course, they won’t let it burn and inadvertently help Meyers continue his terror.
Meyers attacks the firefighters in a rather gruesome opening kill spree. He uses an ax to smash through their helmets. He uses their buzzsaw to make the blood spill out on the ashy ground.
There are more kills that follow but you already know that. It just wouldn’t be a Halloween without some vicious gore. Sadly, the film is a disappointment for what it promises and fails to deliver.
A Band of Survivors
Given that Michael previously killed a lot of people, there are some new victims we need to follow. In a creative stroke, the movie focuses on some survivors of Meyers who remember his 1970s rampage. When they take notice of the killer making the news, they decide enough is enough.
Those who grew up in this town come together to stop this nightmarish killer. Tired of being afraid and paranoid the same way Laurie was, they also decide to go on the offensive. Armed with baseball bats and guns, a mob moves about suburbia on the hunt for Michael.
Rather than vindicating the mob, there’s some mild reflection on the hated born from trauma. However, the film also wants to be a more traditional slasher and wants to lavish in revenge. Clearly, Halloween Kill will generate more of a reaction for making sure Michael Meyers dies and stays dead.
There’s certainly a mixed message at plays when it comes to not succumbing to fear. This is best showcased in how the survivors react to the killing spree of Michael. At one point, they come into conflict with one of the other escaped mental patients from the same institution as Meyers.
The problem is that this realization of hatred seems brief. There’s a brilliant scene where the survivors mistook the patient for Meyers and proceed to chase with intent to kill. The patient finds himself driven to suicide by such a mob.
There’s this brief moment when the people realize that they have become the monster. In a better film, that would be the endpoint. However, since this is a Halloween film, it needs to still feature Michael being defeated.
It’s for this reason that there’s a battle going on between reflection and revenge. On the one hand, revenge is shown to be an empty goal that doesn’t work in the war of attrition on evil. At the same time, the film keeps stressing Michael Meyers is pure evil and that he needs to be killed at any cost.
More Smirks Than Smarts
What really doesn’t help this angle is the tongue-in-cheek humor that permeates throughout. It’s not just the absurd kills, which are still darkly amusing. This mostly has to do with the silly throwaway characters.
After Meyers kills a bunch of firemen, his first stop on his Round 2 of Halloween killings is Laurie’s neighbors. The middle-aged couple speaks with some winks and nudges to horror tropes. They’ll still be killed but their reactions are designed for laughs.
Now there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of humor to balance out the terror. Sometimes an audience can even force that laughter to not feel as scared. It’s more about how long these elements linger that affects the film as a whole.
Consider the gay couple of Big John and Little John. They’re similar to the first couple in terms of their tongue-in-cheek antics. The problem is that they live in the former residence of Michael Meyers and their cheese-knife hijinks continue as Michael pays them a visit.
Lacking in Laurie
On a surface level, there’s going to be a lot of scrutinies for how Laurie is treated. She spends nearly the entire film in a hospital bed and continuously states that Meyers can only be killed by her. As the night goes on, she starts to realize that Meyers requires more than brute force to defeat.
Laurie’s reflection is the most intriguing aspect of the picture. This realization, however, comes after much straining and continuous calls for Michael’s head on a pike. As she keeps reiterating, Michael is a force of pure evil that needs to be terminated by her and her alone.
The film seems to focus less on this aspect of Michael’s effect on the community. Even with a darkly meaningful ending, there’s still this notion that it’s more about Michael and Laurie than anything else. Since Laurie is apparently the self-prophecied killer of Meyers, their match is delayed for some hallow introspection.
Some Great Kills
Despite my philosophical grievances with Halloween Kills, I can’t deny it has some quality kills. There are some great murders made with knives, glass shards, and even broken fluorescent lighting tubes. The kills are also exceptionally wince-worthy in their viciousness of bones cracking and flesh tearing.
Even the kills have moments of hilarity for their over-the-top nature. There’s a scene where a character tries to kill Michael with a gun (and isn’t the last). She ends up taking a bullet to the face when she misfires in a manner both brutal and silly.
The kills, thankfully, never favor more surface-level humor. Everybody on Michael’s list is given a cruel end and without some ridiculous punch line. Even the John couple are given some humanity in how they are stabbed and have their eyeballs torn out.
Halloween Kills succeeds at the basics of a slasher film but falls flat on its face when trying to offer something more. The few attempts this film makes to recognize the problematic messages of depicting the mentally ill are intriguing yet ultimately go nowhere. The final results are more of a standard slasher than the more reflective story of the previous film.
And that’s pretty disappointing for the series to go back into the depths of by-the-numbers slashers. If all the film wanted to be was just more Michael Meyers vicious kills, then it’d be fine. Halloween Kills, unfortunately, wants to offer something more introspective but really only pays mild lip service to a more fascinating film that is not present.
Halloween Kills is currently playing in theaters and on the Peacock streaming service.