Halloween Kills (2021) Review – The Mistakes of the Past

I’m going to come out and say it right off the bat; Halloween Kills was a big disappointment. After Halloween 2018 gave a solid, if quite derivative, attempt to return the franchise to form by honouring the best of the originals, Halloween Kills undoes that by repeating the mistakes of the original series’ worst movies; Primarily Halloween 4 and 5, although there is some influence from Halloween 2 (1981) here as well.

Surprise, surprise, it turns out Michael Myers survives and escapes the deadly, unescapable trap he was put in at the end of the last movie. Some firefighters put out the flames and Michael kills them all before returning to Haddonfield to kill even more people. Just like in Halloween 2 (1981) it picks up right after the end of it’s predecessor and we get to see the town react to the breaking news of Michael being free on the streets. In response, just like Halloween 4, key residents of the town decide to hunt down and kill Michael. These residents include people who survived Michal’s 1978 attack (remember this series of films ignores all of the originals other than the first movie), including the nurse who was driving with Doctor Loomis, a kid Laurie had been babysitting and the Sherriff from that film.

I will say that I did like the inclusion of these characters, but not because they did anything meaningful at all. What I did enjoy was that the film introduces them as a big deal and then Michael kills them so unceremoniously and without any effort the moment he sees any of them. It’s the one and only thing this film does to try and subvert our expectations of this now predictable franchise – introduce a bunch of people still haunted to this day by Michael’s initial attack, in what initially feels like nothing but a way but to pander to fans of the original, only to contrast it against Michael himself who doesn’t give a single crap about any of them and have him brutalise them as though it’s nothing.

And I will say that Michael feels more malicious in this film than the last one. There’s a neat scene where he keeps stabbing a corpse with multiple knives to see which one is best for him. A handful of other moments that showcases how he puts the bodies of his victims on display also make the man himself feel like a real threat in ways much of the original sequels to the 1978 film failed to capture.

The rest of the movie focuses on characters from the 2018 movie who aren’t as strong here as they were in that. Previously they all had arcs of coming together and overcoming their complex relationships to Laurie, but in this film they don’t get any development at all aside from them each stating in their own words “I used to be scared of Michael, and now I’m not so I’m going to kill him.” Laurie spends the entire movie in a hospital (again) not doing anything at all. I suppose she fills the role Loomis would have filled in the older films, since she goes on and on about how evil Michael is. But then again, most other characters in this film also do that, so there’s no real purpose for her to be here other than the fact Jamie Lee Curtis is probably under contract. Laurie was a bit a of a weirdo in the last movie always irrationally, and slightly unbelievably, putting her fear of Michael Myers above everything else, but here it’s taken to a whole new level; she comes off as an actual insane person.

Meanwhile everyone else is driving around trying to kill Mr Myers. Speaking of Myers – His costume and mask are still very threatening in this one and he remains creepy from a visual standpoint. But the way he behaves just isn’t; Like in Halloween 4 and 5, he’s as predictable and generic of a killer as any old slasher villain. It’s almost as though the franchise was never designed to go on this long. Even if they found something fresh to do with him as a character, it wouldn’t be as surprising as the fact they found something new to begin with. Like sure, he has some behavioural quirks that are fun, but in terms of how he preys upon his victims… It’s just cliché; People split up to look for him and then a violin cue plays when he stabs them from the shadows. At least Halloween 2018 tried to spice things up; there’s that moment with the motion sensor spotlights where he stalks a kid, and we get those extended shots of him stealthily entering people’s homes. Here there’s nothing but Michael killing people very anticlimactically.

So what do they do with Michael in this movie? Well in a flashback scene to 1978 we have it explained that the whole time Michael just wanted to return to his childhood home and stare out a window. I guess they were going for what Rob Zombie had aimed for in his 2007 movie, that being the idea that some remote part of Michael is still human and that part of him just wants to go home. The problem is that this makes no sense and doesn’t line up at all with how he’s depicted in the 1978 film. The 1978 film makes a point of showing us Loomis and the Sherriff wasting their time waiting for him to show up at his childhood home, while what Michael is actually doing is murdering a bunch of people down the street. So the 1978 flashback, taking place after Loomis shoots Michael, trying to push this agenda that Michael just wanted to return home was kind of stupid. Personally, I thought that Michael’s desire to return to Haddonfield was some twisted mixture of the fact that it’s the only place he knows, having being incarcerated at 6 years old, and that he thought he had some unfinished business there after killing his sister.

Another feature of this film that (sadly) reminds me of Halloween 4 is how Michael is once again more of an action movie villain than he is a horror killer. He is in the wide open for the majority of the film, fighting in choreographed ways against massive groups of people who should be able to overpower him. If those firefighters attacked him all at once at the start of the movie and then cut his head off, H20 style, the movie would end after 20 minutes and I wouldn’t even find it that unrealistic. I mean, Laurie blew two of his fingers off single handily in the previous film, so eleven firefighters should have torn him apart.

Near the end of the movie Michael is lured into a trap where Tommy Doyle and a bunch of townsfolk beat the ever living crap out of him to the point he’s desperately crawling across the floor for his weapon, only for someone to impale him with it. And, honestly, this would have been a great ending to an otherwise unremarkable and generic slasher film. However, the film feels the need to continue for no distinguishable reason aside from sequel bait. Michael gets up and slaughters everyone without breaking a sweat, which makes me wonder why he had such a hard time when he was initially attacked by them… Oh wait, it’s because the first time they attacked him he was jumped by like 2-3 people at a time, whereas in the final montage he’s only attacked one at a time, as though everyone’s queuing up for a chance to fight him. If full strength Michael couldn’t kill a single one of these guys in his first brawl, why would ass-beaten Michael be able to do anything?

After the montage it is then overtly stated that he becomes more powerful the more he kills. But the thing is, Michael kills no one between getting his ass beat and suddenly becoming a martial arts expert to whoop everyone into the next movie’s morgue. Also, the person who says this is Laurie who is so delusional and psychotic – as well as unable to verify that claim – that it comes off as a bit of edgy Loomis-Esque dialogue rather than a fact of the film we need to acknowledge, which I think is how it was intended.

I get it; Immortality is a big part of Michael’s allure, but he always seemed to have limits. In the 1978 film he reacted realistically to injuries. Bullets sent him flying and Laurie stabbing him with a knitting needle put him out of commission. And for a film that’s so concerned with choreographed action, it is also unconcerned in showing the characters try to come up with innovative ways to fight an immortal person. In Halloween 2 (1981) when Laurie realises she can’t kill Michael, she shoots him in the eyes because she figures his immortality is worth nothing if he’s actually blind. In Halloween Kills they just hit him in the torso with bats and shoot him in the chest – Is no one going for the lethal headshot? A decapitation? Removing his limbs so he is immobile or unable to wield a weapon? I mean, in the very film this is a sequel to, Jamie Lee Curtis removed two of Michael’s fingers with a shotgun! He can be torn to shreds! What about hitting him with a car and parking the wheels right on top of him? Sure, Michael could survive all of this, but he would be completely unable to do anything to anyone ever again. Look, if you want me to buy into these people outsmarting and trapping Michael, have them fight him in a way that makes sense given the absurd power imbalance between them.

Speaking of Michael and big groups of people stopping him, this film opens with a big group of cops arresting him in 1978. Why didn’t Michael just kick their asses as easily as he did to everyone else later in the film? I don’t know, and I’m not entirely sure the writers did either.

And it’s not like this movie has nothing to say – It wants to be about how the very fear of Michael causes the worst to come out in people. This is mostly expressed in a subplot where people mistake a second escaped inmate for him, even though Michael is tall and skinny, and this inmate is small and chubby. The problem is nothing in the film is executed very well at all. I don’t buy that in a world where kids are having school-shooting drills in classes, and one-hundred-and-one other tragedies have happened across the country since, that the new residents of Haddonfield care anymore about four people who died forty years ago. There might be a memorial in a town, and I’d even buy into services held by the families of the victims… But Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie protected forty years ago, of all people, ruining karaoke night at a bar to talk about how evil Michael is to the patrons is just ridiculous. Watching a bunch of people, who were either too young to be alive when Michael initially killed or only recently moved into Haddonfield, chase down some small chubby guy because he might be a serial killer just comes off as lame and stupid.

I’d also like to address something that is slowly edging it’s way into modern movies as of late; The reconstruction of dead actors through special effects. Although, as I understand, the resurrection of an actor in this film may have been done so through practical effects. Anyway, in this film we get to see Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis during the 1978 flashback sequence. It’s undeniably cool to look at, but it’s also a bit eerie. I’m not sure it’s entirely ethical to be doing that sort of stuff with the image of dead people – It all started in Star Wars where the reconstructed Peter Cushing into a CGI monstrosity, and then Carrie Fisher too. They were all good actors, but their time has passed. Let them be and bring in more talent if you must.

Finally I want to point out that Red Letter Media gave a much better, simplistic pitch for this movie in their review of it. They said that during the opening credits we should have seen rain start to extinguish candles in a bunch of pumpkins and eventually the fire in Laurie Strode’s house too. Then we see Michael’s hand come out of the ruins and he crawls out. They then propose that a combination of his defeat at her hands in the previous film and the fact that she was the one who got away in the 1978 film should give Michael some motivation to target Laurie and her family. And even as someone who much prefers a Michael without a motive, I’d much rather watch this hypothetical film than the one we got. You could even still work in the mob element; Maybe all the trick-or-treaters have to go home because of the rain, but some families notice that the people killed in the previous film aren’t returning, and others go home to find relatives dead. This causes people to go out organising search parties while the cops hunt Michael as he kills a handful more people on his way to find Laurie at the hospital. Then, instead of some fifteen-minute elaborate trap and martial arts beat down to fight against Michael, we get a short, five-minute chase sequence finishing with Laurie pushing him off the hospital roof or running him over in an ambulance. Sure, the hospital crap would be derivative of Halloween 2 (1981), but they should have thought about that before mortally wounding Laurie in the first film of their trilogy.

To be honest, anything more simplistic and realistic than every character talking like they’re the new Doctor Loomis, mentioning the fact that 40 years have passed every five seconds and then declaring that they want Michael dead at any opportunity would be preferable to what we actually got.

So, would I recommend Halloween Kills? Not really. If you want to watch a modern Halloween film, then watch Halloween 2018 and just imagine that Michael either burned to death or inhaled too much smoke. I will say that when I rewatched this at home, back to back with Halloween 2018, it did feel like a slightly better movie; In 2018 you notice characters who are prominent in this movie in the background of shots, almost foreshadowing their presence here. Characters also mention the fact Loomis tried to execute Michael but that he was stopped in that film before we get the flashback of it in this one. 2018 also mentioned how five people died in 1978 movie (rather than the original four) to account for the flashback in this film showing us the additional death of Hawkins’ partner. So, if nothing else, I am willing to give this movie some extra points for clearly having a plan laid out for what it wants to do. But does that increase the overall quality of the film? Not really. We can only hope that the final movie in this trilogy – the yet to be released Halloween Ends – is another step up that the franchise desperately needs… Again. We may also hope all this Halloween nonsence finally concludes for good.

At the end of every Halloween review I rank the films I have seen so far from best to worst. Find the updated list below:

  1. Halloween (1978)
  2. Halloween H20 (1998)
  3. Halloween (2007)
  4. Halloween (2018)
  5. Halloween 2 (1981)
  6. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1983)
  7. Halloween 2 (2009)
  8. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  10. Halloween Kills (2021)
  11. Halloween Resurrection (2002)
  12. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

NOTE: This is going to be the end of Halloween reviews for quite a long time. Halloween Ends is due to come out this year, but predictably probably not until October. I’ll be writing a wrap-up for my time reviewing the series soon, but will certainly return to review the closing film of this new trilogy. For now, however, it’s time to put the masked killer to rest… And I think Hollywood would be wise to do the same.

4 thoughts on “Halloween Kills (2021) Review – The Mistakes of the Past

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      1. A lot of hubris goes into reboots like these. Get the old cast back, reimagine a dead actor and they think the nostalgia will be good enough. But its never really in service of anything new.

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