Saturday, 20 November 2021

Halloween Kills (2021) - Movie Review

Something about this film’s mere existence is bothersome, without even getting into the content. After how cleanly the 2018 film dealt with the franchise’s continuity baggage, and how it managed to tell a story that felt just right when put next to the original, the sheer notion of continuing from there feels off. I don’t like the idea of this turning into the very clutter it trimmed out last time, and unfortunately, quite a bit of this feels like clutter. And yet, even with that in mind, I still can’t bring myself to hate, or do much of anything but be satisfied with what I got. Confused yet? Yeah, me too, so let’s try and sort this mess out together.

Starting with its place as a continuation of both the original Halloween and the 2018 feature, it actually has a firm footing in how it expands the material, looking at how the original rampage of the Shape affected the rest of Haddonfield, not just the Strodes. And the depiction we get is bleak, possibly more so than what we saw happen to Laurie, in that it shows an entire town trapped in that same trauma, that same soul rattle, and struggling to escape from its shadow. As led by Anthony Michael Hall as a grown-up Tommy Doyle, the urge to rid their town of this curse has resulted in an ingrained mob mentality, chanting “Evil dies tonight” as they proceed to let it infect them.

It basically turns the city of Haddonfield itself into both the main protagonist and antagonist, with Michael Myers taking on this Pennywise-esque role of personifying the darkest pits of fear and despair that these people are capable of experiencing. I mentioned in the review for the 2018 film that Michael is an evil so beyond humanity, both characters and audiences weren’t able to accept what he was at his core, and it’s here where that really starts to become apparent. An animal, a faceless creature, a lost child just trying to get home; whatever Michael Myers is, he’s not human as we understand it, and he might never have been in the first place.

As with the 2018 film, it’s with the thematic content that this manages to sink into my brain, so it wins points for that, and the genre thrills on offer are pretty solid too. There’s definitely some splatstick timing with some of the kills (like when Michael uses a car door to make someone shoot themselves in the head), but his brute force approach is intact and allows for plenty of carnage candy. Although with how it mingles with the larger ideas concerning mob justice and what it would really take to defeat Michael, it adds a certain uncomfortable voyeurism to the gore on display, as if the filmmakers are trying to put us in the shoes of the bloodthirsty mob that is only making things worse. If the tone was consistent, that approach could have worked (and even been in-step with the meta commentary of the previous film), but that is not the case here.

There’s also a far bigger problem to do with the narrative as a whole, and this includes everything good I had to say about the expansion of the Michael Myers mythos. This is the second part of a planned trilogy, and it goes beyond merely feeling like one and right into feeling like a very specific version of middle-chapter-itis. To put it simply, the main plot reads like world-building that would be in the background of the 2018 film, but stretched out into its own feature. It’s all fine and good as far as expanding on what has already been shown, like the desperation behind Tommy’s mission to find Michael, or Deputy Hawkins’ regret over his actions during the 1978 spree. But as its own narrative, one worth having its own feature-length production devoted to it, it’s a little too thin to be as effective as it could have been.

I get the feeling that this might get on the nerves of those who are far more invested in this IP than I am (for all my espousing about Michael Myers’ psychology and how much I liked the 2018 film, Halloween as a series has never really been my thing compared to others), but the way it treats the original film is also a bit sketchy. Specifically, in what characters are brought back from it. Quite a few make a return here, but outside of Tommy and Laurie, they mainly just end up as slasher fodder, which both adds to the general tragedy of the story while also falling short of what Green and McBride have already shown themselves to be capable of. And even then, Laurie ends up sidelined in the hospital for basically the entirety of the film, and while the scene between her and Hawkins was nice, it feels like another missed opportunity.

I am quite torn about this one. On one hand, it maintains a lot of what I liked about the 2018 film, and the world-building not only makes sense but helps further bulk this idea out into more than just ‘another’ slasher movie. But on the other hand, a lot of what happens here is ultimately setup for the next film, and even the better aspects of the production could have worked just as well, if not better, attached to a story with more actually happening beyond that setup. I’ll admit that I’m definitely hyped for Halloween Ends regardless of my misgivings here, and I still don’t think this is nearly as bad as I’ve been hearing from others. But it is a definite step-down from what has come before, and I can only hope that this is just a bump in the road rather than a warning sign of a head-on collision.

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