Wednesday, April 17, 2024

‘Halloween Kills’ is a Brutal Slog

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Halloween Kills is a mess of a slasher movie. It’s clear the movie wants to say something, a lot of something, but the film is too scatterbrained to get any of it across effectively. But the worst thing about Halloween Kills isn’t the deaths, which ooze a brutal nihilism, but that it’s boring.

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Jamie Lee Curits is back as Laurie Strode

David Gordon Green has given us a Halloween sequel with more Michael Myers while also attempting to say something about how trauma can infect and warp our psyche. But none of it is particularly well done, and there’s so much brutality that after a while, it becomes tiresome. Even if all that were well done, we’d still be stuck with a movie that gives much of its screen time to Michael Myers, here played by James Jude and Nick Castle, which considering Myers was initially referred to as “The shape” by John Carpenter himself, doesn’t bode well for us.

It’s not that I don’t, on some level, admire what Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems are trying to do here. But, despite how I feel about the movie, I must admit that Halloween Kills attempts to hold a mirror up to its audience. The people of Haddonfield are meant to be us, overworked and overburdened and surrounded by ineffectual systems and officials incapable of offering us any hope or help that we so desperately need.

Poor Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends all of her time in the Haddonfield hospital, coming to terms that Michael will never be gone. You can’t escape your trauma, but instead, live with it and hope it doesn’t kill you. Halloween Kills is possibly one of the darker slashers I’ve seen simply because of this underlying theme.

Tommy Doyle leads the people of Haddonfield, here played by Anthony Michael Hall, one of the kids Laurie babysat. Tommy gathers the people of this small midwestern town who have for almost 40 years suffered the terror and trauma of Michael Myers. He riles them up with speeches, plans of violent action, and inflammatory rhetoric. “Evil dies tonight!”

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Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle

Green and his writers try to stuff all of this into Halloween Kills while still making a slasher film. Meaning, characters make stupid decisions, some of them darkly comical, others cliche and irritating. Not to mention, throughout the film, Halloween Kills tries to pay homage to its legacy by amassing characters and actors from previous Halloween movies. Notably, Charles Cypher’s Leigh Brackett, the sheriff who lost his daughter to Michael, Kyle Richard’s Lindsey, Tommy’s friend whose babysitter was murdered by Micahel, and Nancy Stephens, the assistant to Dr. Loomis from the very first Halloween.

But it all felt so empty to me. Halloween Kills is a direct sequel and a precursor to the next Halloween. Typically, the movie that addresses the history of the franchise is either the end or the beginning-not a sequel to a reboot.

Then there are the needlessly “quiet part out loud” way characters talk to each other. Laurie is conversing with Deputy Frank (Will Patton) about whose fault it is that Michael is back. These scenes felt odd to me, considering how little of the film is concerned with the “why” of anything. If I remember my Halloween movies correctly, and I admit this is one franchise where the ins and outs of who was where and who did what gets sketchy, but most of the events that Laurie and Frank talk about as if the other wasn’t there were events where-they both were present.

Halloween Kills is a movie that is bereft of hope, yet at times because of its genre, can’t help but be silly. The two forces pull at each other and, by the end, leave the whole experience feeling as if I had been sitting in the dark listening to people tell us about events I’ve already seen but in a way that is neither interesting nor informative. A scene where the townsfolk surround Michael Myers and take turns beating him should incite some emotion, whether it be cathartic or derisive laughter knowing their actions are doomed. Instead, I sat there on the verge of nodding off.

Judy Greer as Laurie’s daughter Karen is left to be the Laurie by proxy while her mother recovers. But neither the script nor Green has any meat for her to chew on. So instead, the film allows Tommy and others to fill the run time with their personal Michael Myers stories. There’s even a scene where a mob chases down one of the escaped patients from the institution, thinking he’s Michael. Karen tries to help, but Halloween Kills is nothing but not committed to the bit, meaning no matter what happens, death and sorrow will follow no matter who is on the screen.

Andi Matichak as Karen’s daughter, Laurie’s granddaughter, gets slightly more to do, but only barely. Halloween Kills is too busy recycling its themes over and over to the point that “Evil dies tonight!” or “I’m going to be the one to end this!” become almost punchlines, only no one realizes it’s a gag. 

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Michael Myers returns home

Halloween Kills is tedious, yes, but worse, it’s ugly to look at. Michael Simmonds, who has shot gorgeous movies before and will doubtless do so again, is mired in Green’s cinema of the rudimentary. Despite being aided with a score by John Carpenter, his son Cody, and Daniel Davies, Simmonds and Green continually give us frames that deflate the eerie and at times rousing accompaniment. Nevertheless, Simmonds rises above it all at times, and we get moments such as Michael Myers emerging from a burning building.

But these moments have little impact and are worth mentioning only because so much of the movie is visually drab and unremarkable. Halloween Kills is a movie that tries to be meta while also reflecting the insanity and cruelty of the times but fails to do either. It is a movie where characters come very close to saying something asinine like, “Maybe we’re all Michael Myers.” But, sadly, it doesn’t stop short enough.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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