Movie swings between scares and ‘who cares?’
October 20, 2021
All things considered, horror movies aren’t dissimilar from comedies. Both benefit greatly from the element of surprise and suffer most when redundancy renders story beats predictable. One has setups and punchlines; the other has tension and release.
Scary movies and funny movies tend to perform better in movie theaters than their dramatic counterparts, most likely due to their ability to draw spontaneous reactions from a crowd.
For the same reason you don’t see many consistently great comedy trilogies, outstanding horror triptychs aren’t very common either. The latest Halloween entry Halloween Kills is further evidence of why that’s the case. It’s a middling middle chapter of a three-part saga that is still struggling to find purpose outside of furthering a franchise fronted by an unstoppable force.
Picking Up After 2018 Movie
Those who have yet to watch 2018’s Halloween or haven’t rewatched it since its initial release would do well to remedy that before going into Halloween Kills, as it picks up the action right after its predecessor.
Michael Myers survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being rushed to the hospital by daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) as the masked murderer stays trapped in her burning home.
Unfortunately, firefighters didn’t get the memo about basement-bound Michael and are taken out one by one after unwittingly freeing him. After hearing the news of Michael’s escape, town local Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) rounds up a posse to put an end to Michael’s 40-year reign of terror.
Fans of the Halloween franchise will recognize the setup of Halloween Kills mirrors the now incontinuitous Halloween II, which also takes place primarily in a hospital where an injured Laurie Strode hides from Michael Myers. However, the pace and atmosphere of the two movies are vastly different.
Eschewing the cat-and-mouse tactics of that 1981 sequel, this new film favors a much more chaotic and vicious methodology when deploying its narrative. The inevitable slayings at the hands of Myers are curiously absent of the kind of suspense that John Carpenter built up so flawlessly in the original 1978 Halloween. Instead, returning director and co-writer David Gordon Green seems especially fixated on the bone-crunching and blood-squelching brutality exhibited towards Myers’ victims.
Of course, this is a slasher movie, and I can’t exactly begrudge its impulses to stack up bodies, especially when some of Myers’ murders are admittedly well-staged and well-lit. Additionally, the camerawork and editing during the film’s climax are more compelling than most of the aesthetic choices Green made previously in 2018’s Halloween.
Another welcome diversion that he makes to the traditional formula for this series is the exploration of themes like herd mentality and the insatiable desire for revenge. When Tommy Doyle leads an angry mob chanting, “Evil dies tonight!” past security guards protecting the hospital, its real-life parallels are truly scarier than anything in this film.
A Middling Middle
When Green conceived of this new trilogy (which will “conclude” with Halloween Ends next October) with co-writer Danny McBride, he seemed to have a beginning and end in mind but not quite as much for the middle. Asking myself the questions, “Where is Michael and why?” at various times during the movie, I struggled to produce satisfactory answers.
If Michael’s sole motivating force is to kill Laurie Strode, as it would seem to be, then this film is nothing more than a collection of particularly gruesome detours.
Perhaps Green and company will have something more profound to say about Myers and Strode in their final chapter. But until then, Halloween Kills will have to suffice as a halfway decent time-killer during the spookiest of seasons.
New Movies Coming This Weekend
Playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max is Dune, a sci-fi epic starring Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
Coming exclusively to theaters is Ron’s Gone Wrong, an animated comedy starring Zach Galifianakis and Jack Dylan Grazer about an awkward middle-schooler and his new robot friend whose malfunctions send them on a journey of self-discovery in the digital age.
Streaming on Netflix is Night Teeth, a horror thriller starring Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney about a Los Angeles chauffeur who picks up two mysterious young women for a night of party-hopping but soon discovers that they’re actually centuries-old vampires.