Halloween Kills... My Buzz!
Yay, Laurie Strode is back in the hospital
It’s the Halloween season, and you know what that means: some more meticulous depictions of brutal, motiveless murders!
MANY SPOILERS AHEAD, SO BE WARNED
I’m not a hardcore Michael Myers fanatic, but the original Halloween is one of my favorite movies. I’ll never be able to look at empty wire hangers in a closet without getting a chill down my spine. It’s just a great horror flick. I’ve seen a few of the sequels and mostly didn’t like them1, and I gave up on the series long before they brought in Busta Rhymes.2 It was obvious that none of the subsequent filmmakers had any idea what made the original so terrifying. Michael Myers isn’t a character that you can explore, because he’s not a character at all. He’s the shark from Jaws in a boiler suit and a white mask. When he sees a person, he kills the person. That’s it. He’s just there for everybody else to fear and despise. He’s credited as “The Shape,” and that’s all he is: a murder machine in the shape of a man. If there was ever anything human in him, he shed it the moment he murdered his sister as a child.
So I was the target audience for the 2018 direct sequel to the original, also titled simply Halloween. If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s Halloween but didn’t see any of the sequels (or just wanted to forget them), you can go straight from Halloween ‘78 to Halloween ‘18 without missing a thing.
I loved the idea that Laurie Strode, the teenaged babysitter who managed to survive Myers’ killing spree, spent the next 40 years becoming a single-minded survivalist, ceaselessly prepping for the inevitable return of her self-appointed nemesis. The last 10 minutes of that movie are so deeply satisfying, no matter how implausible it all is. Laurie had been waiting for her moment since the Carter administration, and she finally lured Myers into her trap and killed him. Her life’s work was complete. She wasn’t just a crazy old lady who wasted her life. She was a crazy old lady who wasted her life and won.
Except, of course, Michael Myers can’t die because there’s too much money at stake. So now we have Halloween Kills, a 100-minute movie where Jamie Lee Curtis spends the first 50 minutes unconscious in a hospital bed, the same night she was attacked by Myers. (Get it? Like Halloween II!) While she takes a little nap, we follow Tommy Doyle as he whips up a vigilante mob to hunt down Myers.
Who’s Tommy Doyle, you ask? He’s the little kid Strode was babysitting when Myers attacked them, way back when gas was 65 cents a gallon. Now Doyle is all grown up, portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall as a hulking, wild-eyed bruiser with a baseball bat, just itching to smash that stupid mask through the back of Myers’ skull. Apparently Doyle has done nothing for the last four decades but prop up a barstool and stew over that fateful Halloween night, and now he wants payback. If you’re old enough to remember Hall from Vacation and all those John Hughes movies in the ‘80s, it’s kinda bizarre to see the gawky nerd become a menacing barfly.3
For most of the movie, Doyle stomps around Haddonfield, IL assembling a mob to go after Myers. “Evil dies tonight!” is the refrain. This culminates in a riot at the local hospital, as the panicked townsfolk try to murder one of Myers’ fellow escapees from the loony bin. The poor fellow is completely harmless, but they’re convinced he’s the man behind the mask. They drive him to suicide, and the viewer is obviously supposed to feel horrified that Myers has infected the whole town with his evil. One character actually says: “Now he’s turning us into monsters.”
Now, there are things I liked about Halloween Kills. It’s beautifully shot, for one thing. If you’ve seen any of the previews, you’ve seen Myers standing on the porch of a burning house wielding a fireman’s Halligan tool, looking like he just crawled up though the mouth of Hell.5
It’s an amazing shot, but that’s as good as the movie gets. After that, it’s just Myers butchering a bunch of people because… well, that’s just what he does. If that’s all you want out of a movie, this will give you a fix.6 But it’s clearly aspiring to be more than just a schlocky slasher flick, and it’s not great even at that. There’s very little suspense and maybe one and a half scares. It’s just an endless abattoir of savage cruelty, punctuated by moments of ham-fisted social commentary.
Now, I’m trying to keep in mind that this is the second film in a trilogy. There are clear signs that writer-director David Gordon Green isn’t just making it up as he goes along. Characters who were shown briefly in the previous film have bigger roles in this one, before they’re inevitably murdered by the psychopath in the Capt. Kirk mask. And there are several flashbacks set in 1978, moments after the end of the first film, with a new character named Frank Hawkins (played in the present day by Will Patton). Hawkins obviously has a key role in the whole thing, even beyond what we’re shown in this movie.7 There are hints that Hawkins and Strode have some sort of history, but we’re not given the details. Halloween Ends will wrap it all up, we’re told, so maybe it will explain all the stuff that seems pointless and confusing in this middle installment.
Oh, and Judy Greer is always great. Her whole career has been one thankless role after another, but I’ve always liked her. It’s funny that her character wears a Christmas sweater the whole time. She just wants Halloween to be over already.
And the music is good. Carpenter wrote and performed the score, which is the only part of moviemaking he wants to do anymore. The Swedish rock band Ghost also did a new song for the end credits, so that’s cool. Very ‘80s.
There are some weird, funny moments that remind you Danny McBride is the co-writer of these new Halloween movies. For example, two of Myers’ victims are a gay couple who call each other Big John and Little John. The thing is, Little John is much taller than Big John. You figure it out.
Another thing that amused me: Nobody even mentions the true-crime podcasters who Michael Myers had murdered just hours before. They’re the ones who kicked off the whole plot of this sequel trilogy! Slaughtered and forgotten. Seems like an appropriate fate for a podcaster.
So I did like some stuff. A few other things I noticed after watching these two sequels back-to-back:
Myers obviously emits some sort of probability-manipulation field, like Domino in Deadpool 2. In other words, he’s one lucky mofo. No matter what happens, the universe bends itself around him so he always wins. If you’re running away from him, you slip on the floor so he can catch you. If you shoot at him or try to stab him, you miss. (Or worse.) If you trap him in a burning house, the responding firefighters inadvertently free him. And even if you do manage to tag him or burn him or cut off a few fingers, he doesn’t feel it and heals up almost instantly. He can also teleport, so he’s always behind you when you least expect it. And even at 60 years young, he’s stronger than any human being who has ever lived. He’s basically a one-man X-Men. (Or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, I guess. Although he could probably find some way to murder even Magneto.)
Myers stages his kills to terrify anybody who finds the bodies, posing them into macabre tableaus. This started in the first film, when he somehow dragged his murdered sister’s tombstone into the house where he killed the babysitter, just so he could pose her corpse in front of it and freak out Strode. He’s also prone to cramming his victims into cabinets and crawlspaces for the next victim to find. Seems impractical, but everybody needs a hobby.
In these new Halloween movies, whenever two characters you’ve never seen before are having a conversation that has nothing to do with the plot, they’re minutes away from being horribly murdered. This worked well in the previous one8, but I’m kinda over it. Yeah, we get it, they’re nice, ordinary people and they’re about to die. I guess the screenwriters need to fill out the runtime with all this crap because “Michael vs. Laurie” is barely enough material for one movie, let alone 40 years of them.
I can’t really recommend leaving your house to see Halloween Kills, but it’s worth a $5 subscription to Peacock. Or you could just watch the previous one and pretend that’s the end of the series. Or you could watch the original and pretend there was no series at all. Or you could wait until this trilogy wraps up and watch them all at once. But as a standalone movie, this will be frustrating and confusing for anybody but gore freaks.
On a scale from 1 to 10, I give Halloween Kills a C+.
Thanks for reading! Hey, man, some days I just want to yammer on about the Halloween movies all day. This is what’s in my brain. Deal with it. Now hit the subscribe button or Michael is gonna get you.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with Michael Myers, it’s completely insane, and I love it beyond the bounds of reason. That’s a topic for another day, but if you cherish that dumb movie as much as I do, there’s a funny visual reference to it in this one. 🎶Two more weeks till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween…🎶
Apparently Paul Rudd played Doyle in one of the sequels I’ve never seen. Whatever happened to that guy?
Some people will probably interpret the “mobs are bad” theme as a reaction to the 1/6 riot or the George Floyd riots, but this was filmed before any of that happened. I’m not sure if David Gordon Green had any particular event in mind, but he’s right that mobs are bad in general. What the hell it has to do with Michael Myers or Laurie Strode or the price of rice in China, I dunno.
It cracks me up that when the firefighters see a man come out of a burning house, they don’t try to help him. They brace to defend themselves, because they know he’s Michael Myers and they're in a Halloween movie.
According to no less an authority than the Halloween Films Wiki, Myers killed five people in the original and 15 in the 2018 sequel. I wasn’t keeping count, but it must be twice as many in this one. It’s just a bloodbath. I don’t mind gore, but I like it with a bit more style and finesse. If raw mayhem is what you’re into, though, you do you.
No, Halloween II never happened. None of the stuff between the final frame of Halloween and 2018 actually happened. This series has more timelines than Marty McFly.