©Universal Pictures

‘Halloween Kills’ review — Legacy killers

This 'Halloween' sequel benches Laurie for an anti-mob, ACAB side trip at the expense of its legacy characters.

©Universal Pictures

The Halloween films have always stood immovable in their insistence that Michael Myers is an evil force. So, when Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), the young boy Laurie Strode was babysitting that fateful night in 1979, calls on to Haddonfield to mob up and vanquish The Shape, it makes sense. Or at least it should. Except, in Halloween Kills, it doesn’t. Post-Capitol, it’s hard to take anyone calling for a riot seriously, especially when the matchup is as grossly uneven as it is here. Contrary to the internet adage, I don’t think anyone ever wakes up to choose violence.

Because let’s face it: the only real match is between the bogeyman and the babysitter. David Gordon Green’s Halloween made it the case. The story has always been about Laurie literally destroying the cause of her decades-old PTSD. That was vividly clear when the first film tentatively closed and even clearer when the trilogy was first laid out. Making a second film that veers away from generational trauma is a detour that feels tough to make peace with, especially one in which Laurie Strode barely gets any screen time.

For admittedly superficial reasons, I hate, hate, hate that Laurie got benched, fastened to a hospital bed as nothing but a mouthpiece for exposition. See, at this point, Michael is no longer the only ‘star’ of the franchise. Jamie Lee Curtis, both onscreen and off, had Laurie Strode metamorphose into a bona fide titan, worthy of having equal billing as her murderous contemporaries. However, in hindsight, that move might have been to give way to an entirely different experience, one that leaves anyone willing to look past its seemingly mindless murder spree perturbed and positively challenged.

©Universal Pictures

The story picks up right after the events of the 2018 film. The tri-generational heroine squad — Laurie, her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) — is in the home stretch of their vengeance lap. They have successfully detained Michael in a house that, without hesitation, they burned down. Customary to any Halloween sequel, Michael survives, emerging against a hellish backdrop and a pile of dead firefighters behind him.

What follows, per usual, is a bloodbath. Michael goes door-to-door, incidentally(?) making quite a diverse murder pool. Let’s just say that, if you belong to a typically othered group of people (think LGBTQ+, interracial spouses, good-doing black nurses), you’re not safe. The difficulty doesn’t lie in the fact that these are people already systemically oppressed and are undeserving of violent ends. It’s because of the film’s flashbacks, which reveal Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) to be the reason why Samuel Loomis didn’t pull the trigger on Michael when he had the perfect chance. All of which implies that the whole chain of events — including the murder of minorities — is because of a white policeman’s self-righteousness.

©Universal Pictures

This turns the film into an ACAB horror I wasn’t prepared to get behind. Especially not when there are no real repercussions for its characters in blue. Not unlike Nia DaCosta’s explicitly ACAB horror, Candyman, the aversion towards by-extension-corrupt cops feel regrettably detached here.

Elsewhere, Tommy, his childhood friend, Lindsey (Kyle Richards), and Michael’s then-attending nurse from Smith’s Grove asylum, Nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens), catch wind of Michael’s escape. It took about ten seconds for Tommy to whip out his call-to-arms speech, and soon enough, he has about a pub-full of vigilantes with pitchforks at the ready. They manage to flub everything, leaving corpses in their wake and pushing a psychiatric patient over the edge when they, without any logical reasoning, mistake him for Michael Myers (even if he clearly didn’t have the same body type).

Halloween Kills’ message, ultimately, is one of non-violence. This is ironic, coming from one of cinema’s most violent horror franchises ever. It’s a welcome response to everything that has been going down in the aftermath of some of humanity’s greatest civic movements. The question I’m left asking, however, is if it’s a trip worth taking when it relegates its best characters for what is, at best, feels like a blanket stance.

Armando Dela Cruz

Editor-at-large and co-pilot of this crazy project. A self-proclaimed scream queer out of the '90s, I like writing about horror and cinema. Apart from Unreel, I write for Rappler, Screen Anarchy, and other places.

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