Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills ★★½

Fan response on this one has not been positive on balance, but it has been interestingly divisive, like, apparently The Discourse is all angry and toxic and shit? I've been staying away from it. Is it going The Last Jedi on us? After ten previous movies that are all about a white-masked, untalkative man stabbing people to death in Haddonfield, how can it hurt if it does? Who the hell knows, man...I'm just some asshole seeing it before work on a weekday because it's not getting weekend time between The Last Duel and Dune.

Okay, so I've seen it now. Its title does not lie – a lot of people get killed in this Halloween movie starting with possibly the entire Haddonfield fire department, which is hilarious. They're getting ready to do their firefighter job and Michael Myers steps out of the burning house. And what do they do? They get ready for fucking battle.

Now, it's not really a battle, you saw how it shook out in the trailer. But this movie frames it in an interesting way; forty years ago, about this many armed cops were able to take him (this movie makes for two picks-up-immediately Halloween II's in one), and none of them had power saws or were held to 2018 firefighter fitness standards. We might miss this point because we've had all these now-disregarded sequels helping us take it for granted, but Michael Myers has drastically stepped up his murder game in his 60's.

It's a little moment, but it's underlined in doomy slo-mo, and Halloween Kills does fine with straightforward thrills like that. It also keeps going with the previous movie's emphasis on giving its stabbin' fodder a lot of character. Like the aims of Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, this gives us very charming characters with a ton of personality that are probably going to be killed by Michael Myers, and that's one way to do your job as a horror movie – don't let me get too jazzed by all that mayhem. When the moment comes it's squirmy and leaves me with the genre-rare thought that I would've liked to have seen more of these people in a non-slasher context, but I'm not going to, because they got slashed.

Isn't that a good thing though? Doing good enough character work that you really feel it when they're killed? Sure I guess, and it doesn't stop there; slain characters get a bit more memorializing than usual, not just with currently-in-fashion grief and trauma but with fond anecdotes and one of the better needle drops I've heard in a while.

That's great for supporting characters, but this movie will give no one a satisfying Laurie Strode fix. She spends almost all her time in the hospital, and not in a cool hospital-horror context. If you want to see Curtis up and about, she tries once and immediately nopes out because this is not the kind of movie where anybody but Michael Myers is going to get up quickly from serious injury. For now, we're expected to continue to roll with the implications of there being no particularly special connection between Laurie and Michael, at least not on Michael's end. Laurie might be traumatized for life, but what does Michael care? This continuity's Laurie is an interesting tragedy case because she went generational-trauma paranoid when she didn't have to; she let her trauma define her life when the source of her trauma lost interest in her almost immediately. If this trilogy is the “it's really about trauma” horror series, this entry is the one that essentially tells its traumatized characters to suck it up.

Without her as a central lead, this movie is more of an ensemble, which gives people a nice anything-goes expendability and probably defaults the leading role to the middle-generation daughter, a returning Judy Greer. She has an interesting arc here; she does what might be the single most humane thing I've ever seen a slasher heroine do. It is a showstopper of a “holy shit, give this lady a medal” scene, like Wonder Woman climbing out of that trench. Her arc is not over. Things go sour. A lot of things go sour in this movie.

This town has at least three characters who think it's entirely encumbent upon them and only them, as if anointed by destiny, to be the person to finally put an end to this Michael Myers shit. Two of those people are sidelined, so that leads us to the third, who so badly wants to be the guy who puts the punctuation mark on Haddonfield's newly-current dark history, lumbering around town with a baseball bat, maybe not a danger to anyone as much as to himself but looking like he's definitely going to make the world a worse place tonight. I don't know what's gone on in Tommy Doyle's life over these 40 years, but while he has friends (tied to him through their 1978 Halloween trauma), he doesn't seem to be in a relationship or have a job or have anything else going on, but at least tonight he's literally dining out on telling his story. In his way he's as much of a blank as Myers, and Haddonfield is receptive to him just as much; if this town can get a lifelong boogeyman out of a quadruple murder in the 70's (nobody remembers the tow truck guy!), they can get whipped into a frothing mob by this guy, complete with insipid sloganeering.

It doesn't bother me that this has been done before. Halloween 4 made its points (vigilante mobs are bad, they'll probably get the wrong guy, but maybe they'll be handy at the end of the movie, so maybe they're not bad?) a lot less laboriously than this movie does. This movie goes for a sort of anti-twist which just falls back on something we've been taking for granted for a lot of Michael Myers movies – he'd been functionally bulletproof before now because the people who are shooting at him kept missing, and that works for a stalk-and-slash villain. But once you've got organized mobs trying to kill him with pistols and baseball bats and one lady has a fucking clothes iron which we lamentably do not get to see her use by swinging it around by its electrical cord, that's kinda gamebreaking.

This does not get resolved elegantly. The conversation spelling it out is creaky as shit, but I liked how violence is revisited back upon the panicking people who chose it, when this movie had already established such a baseline of graciousness in one character and the consequences of the mob just doesn't really get anybody to give their head a shake. Surely this town has had other problems in the last forty years, I can't imagine Michael Myers has killed more Haddonfielders than prescription painkillers or drunk drivers. But the myth is too alluring; these people want the rage it gives them. You want evil with a capital E, a larger-than-life boogeyman to obsess over with your neighbours? You got it, baby.

Brian J. "Tyrannorabbit" liked these reviews