David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018) was a compelling reinvention of an iconic but floundering slasher franchise that had gone wayward with too many, poorly received sequels to keep track of. Apart from bringing back cinema’s favourite boogeyman (Freddy Krueger fans are free to disagree), the film was also a none too subtle metaphor for trauma and its generational impact.
It worked not just because watching Michael Myers slice through Haddonfield’s inhabitants was morbidly entertaining, but also because its themes resonated with long-time fans of the franchise.
Halloween Kills is another beast entirely. In many ways, it is a thematic continuation of the last film. For instance, the generational trauma that we saw in Halloween transforms into collective trauma here — extended over an entire community.
But sadly ‘Kills does not feel as focussed and the climax falls pretty flat, though it does have a substantial thing or two to say about society’s grotesque obsession with serial killers, perils of mob justice, vigilantism, and gun violence.
Halloween Kills begins where its predecessor ended. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being rushed to the hospital after being stabbed by Michael, and she loses her cool when she spots fire engines rushing the other way. Michael, if you recall, was left for dead in her basement after she set the house ablaze in the climax of the last film. And firefighters may inadvertently save Michael and unleash him on Haddonfield again.
And to nobody’s surprise, this is exactly what happens.
This time, there are no pretensions as to Michael’s nature. Fans have suspected for a long time he is not just flesh and bones. He is inhumanly strong and is invulnerable — at least to an extent. The film makes it patently clear when he stands up a minute after being pierced by a dozen bullets. An evil incarnate, he is treated in the film as a demon from hell that cannot be brought down by any weapon devised by mere humans (I added the last bit, but you get the gist).
As always, Michael goes on a rampage throughout the town, killing everyone he encounters. However, in ‘Kills, he is particularly nasty. Even by the standards of the franchise, this is a brutal, brutal film. It appears as if Michael is no longer the poker-faced killer we know, but a fiend with scores to settle. Wherever possible, he forces the loved ones of his victims to watch as they are stabbed, sliced, impaled, or choked.
But it is not just Michael. The film itself is pretty mean-minded, almost nihilistic in nature. The first half offers a few glimmers of optimism but the final half hour dashes all hopes. With better direction and pacing (the final act feels rushed), the film could have been a keen examination of our worst impulses. It certainly is brimming with a lot of interesting ideas, but it is not able to cohesively bring them together in the story. The underlying themes do not get room to breathe.
But all that would not matter to staunch fans of the franchise. If you just want to see Michael Myers dispatching those unfortunate enough to be in his way with ease for 100 or so minutes, Halloween Kills should be right up your alley.