Venice 2021: David Gordon Green's Horror Sequel 'Halloween Kills'
by David Mouriquand
September 8, 2021
It's back to Haddonfield we go, where Michael Myers is still not done trick-or-treating… At the end of the 2018 update of Halloween, we left with three generations of the Strode family (Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) as they escaped a burning home with the boogeyman trapped inside, burning to a crisp. Presumably. However, all of Laurie Strode's prepper plans were in vain, as "The Shape" only got his mask singed and didn't meet his demise. Let's cut to the chase: 2021's Halloween Kills is an almighty mixed bag that's ultimately more filler than killer. Director / writer David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems clearly have a healthy appreciation for John Carpenter's source material but they still can’t conjure up a satisfying second installment to their planned horror trilogy.
Halloween Kills starts with a weak pre-credits opener that is both a direct continuation to the original 1978 Halloween and confusingly-handled extended flashback. The post-opening credits scene is a much stronger starting point, and from there, things do pick up. A first responder genocide is perfectly filmed, with some fireman helmet POV that is truly terrifying. David Gordon Green starts as he means to go on in this respect, as the main draw of this new installment is the violence: well-shot and appropriately gory. A triumphal tick for nominative determinism: Halloween executes its kills brilliantly.
That’s sadly the only tick it gets.
The action of this sequel to the rebooted franchise flip-flops between a hospital where Laurie is recuperating from her injuries and the angry mob that has decided to take matters into their own hands and hunt down Myers. This means we’re robbed of a sphincter-tighteningly claustrophobic hospital showdown reminiscent of 1981's Halloween II and get more of the usual suburbia lurking. This lack of surprise is countered by the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis is left on the sidelines, a supporting player while Judy Greer gets much more screentime. Greer is great, but you can't help but feel a bit cheated when you can see the gears turning so clunkily: Green clearly sets things up in this Part II so that Curtis’ badass fighting ways are front and center in the upcoming Part III (Halloween Ends due out in 2022).
To be fair to Halloween Kills, there are some promising ideas about the guilt inherent to inter-generational trauma, as well as food for thought regarding collective hysteria and how the true curse of Michael Myers is the fear he parasitically spreads into the heart of communities. "The more he kills, the more he transcends into something else," we're told, and that something is the terror that divides good people. Defeating the boogeyman was never about brute force; conquering evil is about finally embracing the fear we seek to repress. Somewhere, Freddy Krueger is calling his lawyer.
What a shame that these interesting themes (which could have timely value) are handled with the subtlety worthy of its leading man: a 6-year-old mind in the body of lumbering lump. Granted, no one comes to a Halloween film for subtlety of theme or dialogue. The snag is they should: both the 1978 & 1981 chapters managed it, as did Steve Miner's criminally underrated Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (from 1998). Had the screenplay for Halloween Kills been as decent as theirs' – and not included on-the-nose lines like "Now he's turning us into monsters" and the howlingly naff repetition of "Evil dies tonight!" – then 2021's slasher vintage could have been terrific. As it stands, Kills only feels like an obligatory second chapter, that awkward middle bit that saves most of the good stuff for the final showdown. Bring on Halloween Ends, I guess.
David's Venice 2021 Rating: 2 out of 5
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