MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Robert Longstreet, Charles Cyphers, Dylan Arnold, Jibrail Nantambu, Omar Dorsey, Brian F. Durkin, Haluk Bilginer, David Lowe, Carmela McNeal, Michael Smallwood, Diva Tyler, Lenny Clarke, Salem Collins, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald, Ryan Lewis, Timothy Gill, Mike Dupree, Thomas Mann, Tristian Eggerling, Airon Armstrong/ Runtime: 105 minutes
We think it should be said right off the bat that, with a few exceptions, we have always had a soft spot in my horror-loving heart for the Halloween series. Maybe it’s because it was among the first horror films one of us was introduced to growing up, maybe it’s because we watched them when we were not supposed to (sorry Mom), or maybe one of us just finds people being killed by a man in a William Shatner mask more amusing than they really should. Any way you choose to account for it however, there is no denying that we have always tried our very best to embrace every new entry that the land of movie magic has sought fit to give us (even if we would later toss Resurrection from 2002 and Halloween 6: When Druids Attack or something like that on the proverbial bonfire where they belong). The reason we bring this up is because we find ourselves faced with quite the intriguing situation with the latest installment in the Halloween franchise aka Halloween Kills. Indeed did we like it? Honestly we don’t hate it dear reader. In fact, we think it’s appropriately brutal with some of the more gruesome kills this series has seen in a while, the direction is fairly solid, the cast does good work by and large in their respective roles, and the movie does actually have something to say about the nature of collective trauma driving a community to finally take action against the source of their pain and terror. At the same time however, we do also understand why a fair majority of critics are taking issues with this movie since things do seem to be just a little bit off with this film especially in light of how its immediate predecessor did its kitchen knife wielding business back in 2018. Thus we are fairly inclined to say that whilst Halloween Kills is not a bad slice and dice of cinematic pie by any stretch of the imagination, we should still point out at the same time this is one that was clearly made for those who can stomach the brutality on display. If so we promise you’ll find a fair bit to enjoy here. If not…..well there’s always other options.
The plot is as follows: Picking up in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 Halloween, we see that this slice and dice of horror cinema begins with our favorite boogeyman assumedly being burned alive in the basement of Laurie’s house and Laurie, with daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson, headed to the hospital with a severe stab wound to her abdomen. However while Laurie and her family are going through their own trials, we see that word has begun spreading like wildfire throughout Haddonfield that local spook story Michael Myers has at long last come home. However, it is only when word gets to a local watering hole of sorts that we see this spark turn into a roaring inferno. That’s because at this local establishment are some of the other survivors from Michael’s 1978 night on the town including Tommy Doyle, Lindsey Wallace, Dr. Loomis’ former assistant Marion Chambers, and Lonnie Elam to name but a few who, in this take on the story, have every year since that fateful night gathered to support one another through their collective pain and trauma from that night all those years ago. However this year we see that things will be different. That’s because, having been inspired by Laurie and her family’s stand against the demon that has long haunted their town, we see Tommy and the others in this unofficial support group decide that they too are tired of living their lives simply as Michael’s victims. Rather, they want to now rise up, hunt down Michael, eliminate him once and for all, and at long last take back control of their lives. Suffice it to say therefore that usually on this night Michael has always been the hunter and all of Haddonfield his prey, and a blanket of blood comes to envelop the town, but now we see that for the first time the line between who is hunter and who is prey is about to become a lot more dangerously blurred than ever before and the blood might just flow a bit more freely than ever before….
Now right off the bat we are just going to come out and say it: this slice and dice of horror cinema is downright brutal with a capital B R U T A and L for emphasis. I mean it’s almost like someone at the studio went to the filmmaker and said “well we like what you did with the 2018 film don’t get us wrong, but at the same time we kind of felt like Michael at times was holding back and throwing a few punches here and there so is there any way you can fix that?” Well congratulations studio executive who asked for that because you got your wish. We say this because this is easily the most brutal Michael has been this side of the pair that Rob Zombie helmed though when you get trapped in a basement and left to die in a terrible house fire…..I guess that really does make you rethink your strategy on how to deal with people quite a bit. Jokes aside, Michael literally is out for blood this time. I mean from an encounter with a group of firefighters that by the end of it are probably wishing they’d asked for the night off to his sadistic utilizing of nothing more than a collection of kitchen knives and a light bulb on a helpless older couple all the way to his moments with various characters that we won’t spoil here, it’s safe to say that this one easily takes the R-rating in terms of violence and pushes it almost to the level that Rob Zombie did. We say almost because we are still convinced that Zombie’s pair of Halloween films could easily have been slapped with NC-17’s. Yet along with all of the brutal violence on display, there is also a surprising degree of commentary on display in this film in regards to the effect violence can have on a community especially when said violence goes on longer than it really ought to. Indeed if a town comes under siege from a wickedness for a long time, what would be the breaking point for those who have been effected in some way by the violence to just say “to heck with it!!”, pick up their baseball bats, knives, guns, or whathaveyou and decide to handle things themselves? Yet just as crucially this is a slice and dice of horror cinema that also asks the question of “what are some of the possible repercussions that could ensue from violence deciding to meet violence in such a brutal, determined, and head-on manner?” It is this question that we feel best answers why the violence in this is so brutal. That’s because rather than just being brutal for the sake of brutality, it also feels like the violence in this is brutal because that’s how violence in this situation would be under the circumstances thus giving this horror film a surprising degree of relatability all things considered.
We also think it is fairly pertinent to note that the cast that has been assembled for this slice and dice of horror cinema also manage to do fairly good work in their respective parts. This again starts with franchise matriarch Jamie Lee Curtis in the role of Laurie Strode and she once again gives a fairly good performance. Yes you should know that she is mostly contained to a single location in this, but thankfully this film makes sure not to treat her arc in this the way the franchise did the last time she was in the hospital with 1981’s Halloween 2. The big surprise is the arc that this movie gives Judy Greer who returns as Laurie’s daughter Karen. Indeed without going into spoilers, it is fairly exciting to see this character lean more into the warrior side she showed near the end of the 2018 film whilst also worrying more about her mom and daughter’s wellbeing as the chaos going on quickly and horrifically begins spiraling out of control. We also think Andi Matichak does good work here as Allyson. Indeed whereas in the 2018 film she was way more of a bystander in her grandmother’s feud with Michael, in this one we get to see Allyson pick up where Laurie left off and embrace her inner warrior and decide to go out with some of the other characters to try and find Michael and finish him off for good. Suffice it to say it’s really incredible to see Matichak take this new shade of her character and just roll with it and make it work to the best of her ability. Now, as stated previously, there are a handful of returning characters in this from the original film from 1978 (even if a pair of them have been recast with different actors), but honestly we don’t plan on going into them too much. Not because we thought the performances were terrible, but rather because we think it’s best if we say as little as possible about their arcs in this movie so you can see for yourself just where the film winds up taking them. Suffice it to say that each performance does a great job with the screen time they are given and it really was a welcome delight to see these actors reprise their various parts in this movie.
All in all is Halloween Kills a perfect slice and dice of horror cinema? Not even close. Indeed it’s admirable for this film to have the message about violence that it does, but it’s fairly odd to see such an anti-violence message displayed in a horror film where a monster in a mask turns someone at one point in time into a kitchen knife-size pin cushion. It also doesn’t help that the level of brutal violence in this might be a bit too much for even some hardcore horror fans to handle. Plus that’s not even going into the fact that by and large this film in many respects feels like a tease for the 3rd film that is supposed to be coming next year and is fairly divisive with some of the character choices it makes. However, if you are able to look past these highly apparent flaws we think you might find a horror film worth enjoying. Indeed the cast, including the returning veterans from the 1978 film, but especially Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak all do fairly good work, the helmsmanship is good but not great, there is a smattering of Easter eggs for franchise fans sprinkled throughout, the soundtrack is appropriately chilling, and there are some fairly well-staged and sure to be signature kills to be found herein. Thus no Halloween Kills is not a top-flight slice and dice of horror cinema, but this is still not a bad film and still leaps and bounds better than thankfully than some of this franchise’s more embarrassing outings. Make of that therefore what you will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 we give Halloween Kills a solid 3.5 out of 5.