“Halloween Kills” is the third sequel, second threequel, 12th Michael Myers feature and 13th installment in the “Halloween” franchise. This franchise has always been a mess, and yet the undeniable impact of “Halloween” (1978), aided by its iconic killer and score, as well as two or three pretty good sequels has kept the series relevant for forty years. “Halloween Kills” may put an end to that relevance.
“Halloween Kills” takes place immediately following “Halloween” (2018) with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) recovering in the hospital, Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) still on the loose, and a town full of unimportant characters from the original “Halloween” thrust to center stage. The film follows the townsfolk of Haddonfield, Illinois in their hunt for Michael Myers as the famed antagonist delivers a record-breaking killing spree. This excitement is broken up by scenes of two old people in hospital beds quietly reminiscing about the first massacre.
A large body count is rarely a bad thing in a slasher film, and Halloween is no stranger to capturing 10-plus deaths per film, but the 30-plus body count in “Halloween Kills” was both excessive and ultimately uninteresting. Michael Myers’ profile as a serial killer revolves around stalking isolated targets, not massacring groups of people. He acts like a predator, subtly taunting his victim and then blitz attacking when the moment is right. This formula is what makes him so terrifying and the movies so tense. It also means, when faced with a group of 12 firefighters or a half dozen weapon-wielding civilians, Michael Myers should not escape victoriously. It is not in his nature unless the fight is stacked in his favor. Michael never runs and his only defense is his strength; when faced with more than one or two people, they should be able to subdue him. “Halloween Kills” curbs this issue by taking a page out of every ’80s action movie and choreographing large angry groups to attack the serial killer with superhuman strength, one person at a time, thus ensuring the mob does not stand a chance and preventing the scene from having any realism or gravity.
On top of the ridiculousness of Michael Myers killing large groups of people, the amount of people that die in this film strips every death of substance or memorability. No specific death stands out from the rest when the body count climbs this high. They blur together no matter how important or established a character was. None of Michael’s murders are even interesting. There are a lot of neck and face stabbings with a few strangulations but no head explosions or unique stabbing implements. If the murders a slasher film is built on are neither fun, unique or emotional, it is not a good slasher.
When looking back on what makes Michael Myers such a compelling killer, nothing stands out more than him standing in the distance, staring. An omen of gruesome death whose silent existence has cost over 150 lives, Michael plays off of subtlety. A simple uniform, a butcher knife and three staccato piano keys were all he needed to be immortalized. “Halloween Kills” disregards Michael’s reputation in favor of scenes akin to a low-quality action movie. Michael does not get the chance to quietly hunt in this film. There are too many plots pulling focus: main characters are bonding and developing while the mob of townsfolk are looking for Michael, and all the while, Michael’s random victims need scenes before they die to give them some humanity. This movie could have used a lot less time creating a backstory for Michael and the citizens of Haddonfield and a lot more time showing Michael just standing and staring.
No one asked the 13th Halloween movie to feature a moral grounding. While films like “The Purge” or “Get Out” are built on their deeper meanings and political statements, slasher films have no such requirement. Mindless serial killers who encapsulate evil do not need to be metaphors for anything. Nonetheless, this film chose to make a statement on mob rule, an ancient concept that remains relevant to this day. It did not do a particularly good job at making its statement. Forty years after a group of teens was slaughtered by Michael Myers, the people of Haddonfield band together to take down the serial killer. In the process, the mob that forms makes some rash decisions. There is a case of mistaken identity, a few people get trampled and large groups find themselves dangerously in the vicinity of Michael Myers.
The ultimate point the film tries to make is, in hunting the monster, we become mindless monsters ourselves. The problem with this moral conclusion is, well, Michael is still the bigger monster. He needs to be hunted down and killed, preferably by a large mob. He is not a confused man with a mental illness, he is the epitome of evil who will kill as many people as he is able. All signs point to him being extremely difficult to kill or even slow down, so a big angry group seems like the best option. Maybe in real life, a thoughtless mob blinded by anger hunting down a criminal is a bad thing, but in the Halloween franchise, that is basically the only option.
In the grand scheme of the Halloween series, “Halloween Kills” will be a small footnote in a series wrought with failure and poor movie-making. Not schlocky enough to be fun nor clever enough to be memorable, I would not recommend “Halloween Kills” to anyone besides die-hard fans.