Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills ★★★½

Night #27 of Hooptober VIII.

All the divisive takes (generally skewing lower it seems like) had me a little bit anxious going into Halloween Kills. I enjoyed the 2018 film back when it came out, and got a chance to view it again at the theater thanks to a secret screening just a week or so ago, so I was hopeful that I would enjoy this film as well. And I did, a little less, but I'm surprised to see so many people have come down so hard on the the film.

On the downside, there are certainly some questionable, even dare I say dumb, character decisions made from time to time, but at the same time it was nothing I couldn't take with a grain of salt in a slasher series a dozen films deep. Maybe it's a matter of expectations, but most of it felt a natural enough mixture of movie tropes and the genuine ineptitude of an average person thrust into a impossibly volatile situation.

I also think, perhaps most troublingly, that the film does in the end try to convert itself into something more...thematically profound, I suppose you could say. Clearly it builds out these themes of mob mentality, the cycle of violence, etc, but it comes out as a sorta word soup monologue that feels like its working too hard to imply what the original film way back in '78 managed to get across with a few empty rooms and the sound breathing.

Those things aside though, Halloween Kills otherwise nails its presentation. The flashback sequences are grainy and eerie, the Loomis shots shocked me how well they were done (a combination of a look alike on screen, and a sound alike behind it), and the classic style Shape costume looked wonderful. While I'm sure the grainy film texture of these scenes was a digital filter, it still gave me the warm feeling I wanted.

In the present day, the film is still gorgeous. Fantastic use of light and shadow, great sets that really make the town feel alive and connected. Michael is, quite frankly, I think the most terrifying he has ever been in this film. It may not be my favorite film in the series, but damn is he frightening. You see so, so much of him, but he never ceases to seize all your attention, like a force of nature. Unmoving, unknowable, unstoppable. Nothing but praise for the costuming and performance, it's just fantastic.

Of course this leads into the kills, which are insanely brutal. I knew going in that this was going to be a focus of the film, a high body count and more visceral kills had been touted regularly in promotion, but damn they were not kidding. It's honestly a huge departure from the 2018 film, where most of the kills on screen weren't especially graphic (though they certainly packed plenty of weight), and what gore we were treated to usually came in after the fact reveals. This is one thing that I can appreciate will divide an audience, because much like the previous film, each character is treated to a fun and sweet sequence introducing them, making you care or like them, and that can give the film a cruel sort of energy. Not only does this film go harder on the violence, but I think he draws back on some of the comedic elements too. I was able to roll with it, but at least once I felt bad for a character who was treated to an over the top, gory death, that felt a little more mean spirited than it did fun.

Of course the fact that this is knowingly going for a sequel means that the ending isn't exactly that either. I can shrug that off a bit, but the 2018 film felt like it had the kind of naturally ambiguous ending that could go any number of ways, and even held a snippet of the thematic ambiguity from a visual cue that this film further tries to stumble through, so I walked away from it, even knowing a sequel was a week away, thinking "that could just be a standalone film". This one, not so much. So I do hope that we'll get a conclusion that satisfyingly builds on this, as I'm a little concerned about the direction it seems like it could be going. But at least for now, if you want a genuinely intimidating slasher with a high body count, I think this hits the spot.

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