Wartime president Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Not in Haddonfield.
The idyllic Illinois suburb has been the subject of Michael Myers’ rampages for more than four decades now. As vicious as it is incoherent, Myers’ terror knows no bounds. Halloween Kills is the latest outing for horror’s most iconic slasher and, though it tries and fails to speak profoundly about the nature of Fear Itself, will be far from a disappointment for the millions of genre fans for which the Halloween franchise has become canon.
Following directly on from 2018’s straight reboot Halloween, …Kills is a continuation of the gruesome October 31 three years ago in which Myers (Nick Castle and, for the physical stuff, James Jude Courtney) inflicted his rage on Haddonfield once again. Halloween Kills does a nice job not only of summarising the events of its 2018 predecessor and the incredible 1978 original, but sets the scene of just what a Myers melee feels like quickly enough too. John Carpenter’s unmistakeable score helps.
As far as familiarity with the 11-movie series goes, Halloween Kills requires little. If you’ve only seen the ‘78 classic (as I had), you’ll be fine. If you’ve seen none at all, you probably won’t. That’s not because these movies are particularly intricate, but because they’ve grown to something so self-referential and enclosed that the language, norms and laws of the universe are essentially Halloween’s own. In genre terms, the franchise is basically Star Wars.
One key difference being there’s a single day of the year in which these films work best. And much like 2018’s Halloween was a striking return for the franchise in commercial terms as much as artistically, Halloween Kills might do fantastically well on the days around October 31. I’m tempted to say it’ll do as much to “save cinemas” as Tenet did last year.
And, like Nolan’s most recent film, Halloween Kills puts style first and substance second. David Gordon Green seems to be making a concerted effort to correct some of the earlier films’ thorny approaches to mental illness and diversity. Another, innocent mental hospital escapee is on the loose and falsely targeted. Haydon field looks very different to its 1978 self, with gay and interracial couples among the white heterosexuals who predominate. Halloween Kills even goes as far as to make statements about what Myers’ legacy is after all this time, and how serial killers’ worst crime is to make us scared of each other.
Noble, perhaps, but not on anyone’s wish list for this one. When it focuses on its beloved central characters Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), Halloween Kills flies. But Laurie spends most of the movie in a hospital bed and Karen in the waiting room. Just like Myers behind the mask, we see too little of them for the central trio to last in the memory.
Yet, also like Myers, the Halloween movies just won’t die. For slasher fans and everyday moviegoers alike, Kills is a long-awaited entry to a franchise like no other. But if it was just a bit more like the others, perversely, it might be better one.