Halloween Kills review: This tonal mess has a serious ‘kills’ problem

The entertainment quotient of a horror film isn’t entirely dependent on a high body count. Many horror films are so violent that they leave enough dead bodies behind to make an Olympic swimming pool full. But there are plenty of movies without one death, which can cause nightmare-filled nights for many. Stacks of dead bodies in a movie don’t guarantee anything, beyond some extra carnage and cleanup. Halloween kills not only has “kills” in the title, it has the most onscreen deaths of any Halloween to date. That still doesn’t make it a worthy heir to the Michael Myers legacy.

The original 1978 HalloweenThis film is rightly one of most terrifying in American horror history, along with one of the earliest and best slasher films. It’s a tense cat-and-mouse stalking game between a babysitter, the boogeyman, and his doctor. Just the mere suggestion of the film’s stark score and its isolated piano notes are enough to make in-the-know horror fans stop whatever they’re doing and carefully check that no one is watching them from behind a hedge. Even with this dark atmosphere, the film is still very enjoyable. Halloween’s body count is a lowly five people. The roots of Michael Myers’ reign isn’t a numbers game.

For horror enthusiasts, watching bodies fall to the floor is a compelling experience. That isn’t always about gore — sometimes the sheer number of lost lives is the core of the tragedy in the film. Carrie would not have been as shocking if she hadn’t wiped out everyone at prom. Similar to the number of deaths that occurred in sequels. The Purge only emphasizes the disgusting dehumanization of the traditions in the franchise’s alternative America. In these cases, the films’ kills cumulatively contribute to the monsterization of the antagonists, and deepen the overall horror.

A bloodied woman wielding a knife faces a looming Shape in Halloween Kills

Photo: Universal Studios

But when horror fans laugh about death and destruction in a movie, they’re rarely celebrating that type of body count. Some enjoy on-screen revenge, while others delight in the earned punishment of horror characters. Some people love horror and enjoy the art of good murder effects. The natural fear of death can be disarmed by laughing at it and celebrating films that find humor in the inherent absurdities. A psychological way to become more confident and less fearful about the future is to look at terror and death straight on. It’s the equivalent of seeing the Grim Reaper trip over his own robes.

But that’s one of the major downfalls of Halloween killsDirector David Gordon Green is trying to be both. The director wants viewers to remember certain death and chide them for not grieving for others. He lets the series’ signature killer, Michael Myers, cut a swath through the town of Haddonfield, indiscriminately identifying certain residents for hilarious deaths, and others for tragic deaths. Whether they’re nameless, faceless canvases for Michael’s killing spree, or characters the film has emotionally invested in seems to have little bearing on whether their deaths are treated seriously.

Halloween killsIt starts just moments after 2018. Halloween ends, then flashes back to 1978, and the Halloween night of John Carpenter’s franchise-launching movie. The 2018 Halloween returned to that film’s canon, ignoring all the other sequels and reboots that followed. Flashbacks show what police officers were doing during Michael Myers’ hunt. Hawkins, a young police officer played by Thomas Mann, has a close encounter with Michael in the Myers home. This will haunt him for 40 years. This face-off doesn’t change anything franchise fans know about Michael, but it does provide additional framing for Hawkins’ attachment to Myers, and his preoccupation with vengeance against the masked slasher.

Michael survived, however, the flames at his 1978 home. Halloween survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and he’s thriving. After quickly killing all first responders, he then heads off to search for more victims. Laurie and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), along with Allyson, her teenage granddaughter (Andi Matichak), are taken to hospital. Karen is worried Laurie might die from her injuries and orders Allyson stay with Laurie. But, true to her teenage rebellion, Allyson would rather go on the streets to kill Michael than remain at her side.

A strained-looking woman holds up Michael Myers’ mask in Halloween Kills

Photo: Universal Studios

Allyson has been fortunate enough to have posses form that will go after Michael. It is a night of open-mic that brings together survivors from his murder spree in 1978. With a crowd of locals who were easily disturbed, survivors split up into armies and began to spread throughout the town looking for the killer.

Green and Scott Teems (his co-writers), spend quite a bit of money Halloween killsThis growing mob is viewed with a variety of perspectives. The mob may appear to believe that they are constructive. At other times, it is clear the film opposes any mob unwilling to listen. Introducing this morally indeterminate yet violent crowd muddles the franchise’s previously pristine line between good and evil.

While there’s plenty to be said about humanity being the true monsters on earth, that has never been the message of the HalloweenMovies. Michael Myers should be an unsentimental evil machine. The only thing viewers need is to witness his victims fight back. This mob isn’t about pure, satisfying retaliative justice. While there’s nothing wrong with moral complexity in horror films, Green and company go further with their muddied message, using the mob to hold a mirror up to a bloodthirsty audience, and condemn them for enjoying the kind of cinematic violence Halloween kills Available.

Horror films with a lot of gore, while intendedly humorous, tend to diminish the humanity and humanity of their victims. There’s no real emotional tragedy in the entire bay of munched-to-death spring breakers in Piranha 3D. No one’s asking viewers to contemplate the previously rich home lives of the infected crowd decapitated by a helicopter in 28 Weeks Later.Although it might sound cruel, most of the horror movie’s victims are not made into full characters. Instead, they can be watched as the crowd cheers and enjoy the therapeutic release of seeing heads turn. Halloween kills instead puts names and faces on the victims, making them the protagonists’ neighbors or friends. Then it still mows them down in an over-the-top way, signaling to the audience that all this is meant to be fun, while making sure it isn’t.

A similarly sloppy portrayal Michael Myers lies beyond the inept judgments that are made about the audience. This villain, who began the series as a six-year-old sister-killer turned out to be an imposing figure in the uncanny valley that is serial killers. Unlike the later, more humanized version of the character, Carpenter’s version, and now David Gordon Green’s, looks like a man, but doesn’t talk or walk like one. He doesn’t emote. As if humans were aliens, he studies them. He doesn’t even reveal his face. He hides his face behind William Shatner’s mask, and the tension between humans and monster is evident beneath his overalls.

Laurie catches her breath in the back of a truck in Halloween Kills

Universal Pictures Photo

This tension, however, is frequently lost. Halloween killsThe following is the list. Some of Michael’s kills are inexplicably played for laughs, and some are played with high drama, with little reason given as to why one life is made to feel more valuable than the other. Worst of all, there’s no consistency to Michael as either a masked person, or an inhuman force. Sometimes he toys with the bodies, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he taunts his victims. Although he may have been a previous victim, HalloweenHe is described by s as methodical and cold. Halloween killsHe is inconsistently playful. These tonal missteps, which are supposed to distract Michael Myers from being the only consistent element throughout the franchise’s history, do not reflect on his character or killing style.

Halloween killsIt has some merits. There were some good laughs. And there was a few clever kills. But those momentary bursts of entertainment can’t carry the weight of the legendary Michael Myers legacy. The monster that helped to kickstart the whole slasher genre is this guy. Those who loved those movies have high expectations for their favorite bad guys. While Michael Myers fans might enjoy seeing him again on the big screen, those who know him well will be disappointed by his inconsistent representation. Bloodthirsty gorehounds could perhaps feel indulged by the inventive kills sprinkled throughout, but will likely be turned off by some characters’ obvious morality and atonal losses. Halloween killsThe film never seems to settle on a tone, morality or killer. Despite living up to its aggressive title it feels lazy and hollow.

Halloween killsOctober 15th, debuts on Peacock and in Theaters

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