Halloween Kills (2021)

Perhaps no film series has retconned itself as much as the Halloween series. Heck, three of the entries in the series are simply titled Halloween: the 1978 original from John Carpenter that started it all, the 2007 redo by Rob Zombie, and the 2018 version which was made to coincide with the original’s 40th anniversary.

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Along with the series’s killer Michael Myers, the most prominent figures in the series are Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode and Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Sam Loomis. Both of them appeared in the first two films of the series, while neither appeared in the anthology entry Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

When the original film turned 10, the series was reborn with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Pleasance returned as Loomis, but Curtis was, by this point, making her mark in blockbusters like A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies. This is why the fourth film and the following two sequels focus on Laurie’s daughter Jamie, played by Danielle Harris in parts 4 and 5 (The Revenge of Michael Myers), and by J.C. Brandy in part 6 (The Curse of Michael Myers).

Alas, that sixth entry proved less than popular with horror fans (and is even more of a letdown when you consider it was Pleasance’s final film), and the series seemed to be at an end. That is, of course, until the first film turned 20, and Curtis agreed to return to play Laurie in Halloween H20. That film, which was dedicated to Pleasance, was the first retcon of the series: it ignored all but the first two entries (à la Superman Returns) and erased Laurie’s daughter, replacing her with a son named John played by Josh Hartnett. The success of H20 was followed by the less-than-stellar Halloween: Resurrection in 2002.

Rob Zombie’s reboot came five years later, and cleverly cast Danielle Harris as Laurie’s best friend Annie. I must confess, the only Zombie film I’ve enjoyed is his first House of 1,000 Corpses. Basically, all of his others simply go through the horror movie motions without being fun to watch as well. This applies to his 2007 entry in the Halloween series, which actually has more in common with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Halloween. But it was successful enough to allow him to direct a follow up, 2009’s Halloween II, which proceeded to get its ass kicked by Final Destination 4 in 3-D at the box office.

Still, I wasn’t really surprised when the original turned 40 and another Halloween came out. This one saw Curtis return and with Carpenter as a producer, and it went even further than H20 by erasing 1981’s Halloween II from its narrative as well. Which means that the Star Wars-esque aspect of Laurie’s relationship with Michael that became a defining trait of the series (for good and for bad) was now gone.

Here, Laurie has a daughter again, but this one is named Karen, played by Judy Greer. Laurie is also a grandmother as well to Allyson, played by Andi Matichak. This entry became the highest grossing in the series and naturally led to the current entry, Halloween Kills, which saw its release delayed for a year due to the pandemic.

Like the original Halloween II, this movie picks up at the end of the previous entry. The three Strode women are being taken to a hospital after they trap Michael in Laurie’s burning home.

At the same time, Cameron, who broke up with Allyson in the last film by cheating on her, comes across the body of Deputy Hawkins, who was wounded and left for dead in the previous film.

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We then see a flashback of how Michael was captured after the ending of the original film. Hawkins was one of the cops who cornered Michael in his old house, but before Michael is surrounded by Dr. Loomis and the police, Hawkins fatally shoots his partner while Michael has him at knife point.

After the title sequence, we’re back in the present at a local bar, where we learn that a few alumni of the original film—Loomis’s colleague Marion Chambers, Cameron’s father Lonnie, and the kids Laurie used to babysit, Lindsey (Kyle Richards) and Tommy (Anthony Michael-Hall)—are toasting Laurie.

Firemen arrive at Laurie’s home and surprise, surprise, soon find Michael in the burning building. He proceeds to rip them all to pieces with their firefighting gear before making his way over to Laurie’s neighbors, where he kills them and obtains a knife.

Michael’s escape quickly makes the news, and one of the bar’s patrons is spooked when she believes Michael is in her car. Tommy, Lindsey, and Marion lead everyone else to the parking lot, only for the car to drive off and quickly crash. The driver is nowhere to be found, but this prompts Tommy to form a mob to hunt him down, while Lonnie goes to get Cameron.

At the hospital, Karen and Allyson learn that Michael is still alive. This leads to Allyson going to Cameron and his dad to hunt down Michael, which is championed by Sheriff Brackett, who still wishes he had killed Michael for murdering his daughter Annie in the original.

We then learn that Michael’s home is now owned by a couple who go by Big John (Scott MacArthur) and Little John (Michael McDonald). They manage to scare off a trio of annoying kids before Michael forcefully takes his home back from them.

As Laurie and Hawkins recover, Lindsey and Marion, along with Vanessa and Marcus, the couple who lost their car, find those kids at a playground. The kids say they aren’t scared, but quickly dart off when they realize that Michael has killed their friend. Michael quickly dispatches Marion, Vanessa, and Marcus, although Lindsey manages to hide.

Allyson, Tommy, Cameron, and Lonnie find the bodies and recover Lindsey. While she recovers at the hospital, Tommy’s mob arrives and becomes more angered and panicky. So much so that they mistake Lance, another inmate from Michael’s sanitarium, who also managed to escape in the previous film, for Michael. Laurie and Karen deduce that this isn’t Michael, but that doesn’t stop Tommy and most everyone else in the hospital from chasing poor Lance through the corridors.

Laurie is injured in the ruckus, but Karen manages to protect Lance from the mob by locking him in a hallway. Alas, all this leads to is Lance throwing himself out of a window while the mob smashes through the doors.

Karen agrees to hunt down Michael with Tommy, and they deduce that he’ll return to his home after he kills, just as he did in 1978.

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But Allyson, Lonnie, and Cameron arrive there first, with Lonnie telling them to stay put while berating himself for involving them in this hunt. A few moments later, gunshots are heard, which prompt Allyson and Cameron to follow his dad inside. They soon find the bodies of Cameron, Big John, and Little John. Michael quickly pops up and breaks Allyson’s leg as she falls down the staircase, and breaks Cameron’s neck.

Allyson dares Michael to kill her before her mom rescues her by shoving a pitchfork into Michael’s back. Karen snatches his mask and leads Michael into an ambush headed by Tommy and Brackett. After retrieving his mask, Michael gets his ass kicked by the mob, culminating with Karen thrusting Michael’s own knife into his back.

But as she returns to comfort Allyson, Michael revives and picks off the mob, including Tommy and Brackett.

The film ends with Laurie pondering how Michael represents evil while Karen wanders into Michael’s old bedroom—only to be stabbed to death by him.

Like the previous entry, this film certainly has some nice nods that fans will appreciate. I especially liked the Halloween masks that resembled the ones in the aforementioned Season of the Witch. Kudos also should go to the makeup job on Tom Jones Jr., to make him look like Pleasance in the flashbacks, which is as nice a tribute to him as Rouge One was to Peter Cushing’s Tarkin.

But the film is weakened by its focus on the lynch mob, with its constant chanting of “Evil dies tonight.” The sequence with the mob hunting down Lance doesn’t really add anything. I also didn’t like how Karen was dispatched at the last minute. It would’ve been much more moving if she sacrificed herself for her mom and/or her daughter.

Still, there’s a nice atmosphere to the movie, and I appreciate that it explains just how Michael was taken back into custody after the end of the original film, whereas the previous movie just left that unexplained. The scenes between the three Strode women are also nicely done.

Overall, the film is much like its immediate predecessor. It’s pretty routine with some nice moments. It’s those moments that will make me want to see the next film, Halloween Ends, which is due out next year.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is Ailurophobia, available now from Amazon.

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