Halloween Kills review

For F*** Magazine

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 105 min
Opens: 28 October
Rating: M18

True horror icons never die. You can stab them in the heart, shoot them in the head or even give one of their movies the subtitle “the final chapter,” but you know somehow, some way, they’ll be back. Michael Myers, the masked, knife-wielding villain of the Halloween franchise, is one such horror icon. Just when it looked like it was over, the terror of Haddonfield returns to his old stomping grounds.

At the end of the previous movie, it seemed like Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle), had finally been defeated. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) trapped Michael in the basement, setting him on fire. He manages to escape, and has his sights set on other survivors of that fateful Halloween night in 1978. These include Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), whose babysitter was one of Michael’s victims, Tommy’s friend Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), the former assistant of Sam Loomis, Michael’s original psychiatrist. As the nigh-unstoppable killer continues his rampage through Haddonfield, generations of the town’s residents must rise in the face of evil.

The 2018 Halloween film received generally positive reviews. Director David Gordon Green returns, bringing much of the reverence of the original movie along to this one. There is a sequence set in 1978 in which Green attempts to meticulously replicate the style of original director John Carpenter, who is also involved in this film as co-composer with his son Cody and Daniel Davies. For fans of the franchise, there are many specific call-backs that will appeal to them. If the 2018 film focused on the long-lasting effects that the events of the first film had on Laurie Strode, then this is a film about collective trauma. Laurie survived the night of Halloween 1978, and so did Haddonfield itself. The movie’s depiction of a community uniting against a spectre that they’ve never been able to shake is sometimes hokey, but also sometimes genuinely moving.

This trilogy of Halloween movies is set to comprise three movies – 2018’s Halloween, this movie and next year’s Halloween Ends. This movie suffers from a lot of the problems that plague many middle instalments, and often feels like it’s spinning its wheels until we get to the big confrontation in the final film. While Jamie Lee Curtis is top-billed, and her return to the series was the 2018 movie’s great coup, Laurie Strode is barely in Halloween Kills, spending most of the movie’s runtime laid up in hospital. The filmmakers are intentionally withholding the big confrontation, but because of that, it can feel like the events of this film are almost entirely inconsequential. Yes, there are plenty of kills – this might in fact be the Halloween movie with the highest body count – but because Laurie is so removed from much of the action, it’s hard to feel the emotional impact of the kills, even when the movie really wants audiences to. Yes, her daughter and granddaughter are still a big part of the movie, but even then, in trying to be about the residents of Haddonfield at large, Halloween Kills is often unfocused. Michael’s unkillable nature is meant to make him otherworldly and intimidating, but this reviewer couldn’t help but think of Will Ferrell in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery going “I’m still alive, only I’m very badly burned”.

The Halloween franchise is a storied one, and like any horror series that’s been around long enough, has had its ups and downs. To put things in perspective, there exist two separate sequels to the original Halloween that ignore the intervening films: Halloween H20 ignores all but the first two, then Halloween (2018) ignores all but the very first movie. Halloween Kills is about legacy in that it centres on characters who were also there. Tommy Doyle and Marion Stephens have appeared in other Halloween films, but this is the first Halloween sequel that brings back Lindsey Wallace, with Kyle Richards (now better known as a Real Housewives star) reprising the role she played as a child. While Anthony Michael Hall gives a spirited performance as Tommy, the effect of things coming full circle is somewhat undercut by the role being recast – Brian Andrews played Tommy in the original film. While hardcore fans might appreciate the specific references to the original Halloween movie, and the way the film catches up with certain characters, there’s not a lot here for general audiences.

Summary: Halloween Kills is wholly unsatisfying in the way many middle instalments are. There is plenty of blood and gore, but it never really feels in service of anything. It is especially disappointing given how this movie’s immediate predecessor breathed new life into the franchise and brought Jamie Lee Curtis, the series’ heart and soul, back. However, there are intense, thrilling set-pieces, and several characters whom fans will recognise from the first movie return in interesting ways. The intent was to make a movie about collective trauma and about the town of Haddonfield reckoning with the long shadow cast by Michael Myers, but Halloween Kills is mostly killing time until we get to Halloween Ends.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Halloween (2018) review

HALLOWEEN

Director : David Gordon Green
Cast : Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees, Toby Huss, Haluk Bilginer
Genre : Horror
Run Time : 106 mins
Opens : 25 October 2018
Rating : M18

Halloween-posterOctober 31, 2018: the night he came home again. It has been 40 years since the events of the original Halloween film, and masked serial killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney) has been safely locked away under the watchful eye of prison psychiatrist Dr Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). True crime podcasters Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) plan on interviewing both Michael and the survivor of his murderous rampage, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

Laurie has spent the last four decades in constant fear and paranoia of Michael’s return. This has put a strain on her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who is married to Ray (Toby Huss) and has a daughter of her own, Allyson (Andi Matichak). When Michael escapes and returns to his old stomping grounds of Haddonfield on Halloween night, Laurie’s worst fears are realised. Even though Laurie has prepared to face Michael again, there’s no telling what terrors will unfold with Michael back on the loose.

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The Halloween franchise has a storied, messy past. John Carpenter’s 1978 original is considered one of the finest horror films ever made, and kickstarted a wave of slasher movies in the 80s. Through multiple instalments, the Halloween films tended to lose sight of what made the first one so good. This movie ignores all the sequels, functioning as if it were only the second film in the series. This has been done before: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later ignored the films after Halloween II.

Any franchise that’s been around as long as Halloween has, especially a horror franchise, will eventually find itself wading into silliness. What once was terrifying devolves into self-parody, and eventually martial arts fights with Busta Rhymes ensue. Director/co-writer David Gordon Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride strip Halloween back to basics in a satisfying, terrifying entry that stays true to the spirit of the original while having a propulsive energy of its own.

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Green nails the sense of foreboding, the fear of what might be lurking around every corner, in every doorway and corridor, that is a key factor in establishing the nail-biting tension a good Halloween movie must possess. John Carpenter returns to the score the film alongside son Cody and Daniel Davies; the iconic Halloween theme remaining one of the best pieces of film music ever written. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds employs light and shadow to dramatic effect, while Tim Alverson’s editing ratchets up the tension that much more. This looks and feels like Halloween, but there’s an urgency to this movie and it doesn’t come off as an artefact or a hollow exercise in nostalgia.

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In revisiting the Laurie Strode role in Halloween H20, Curtis wanted to explore the effects that the trauma of Laurie’s run-in with Michael would have. She gets to dig even deeper here, and Laurie in this movie is essentially Sarah Connor, a woman who has dedicated her entire existence to preparing for Michael’s return, at the expense of her interpersonal relationships. The film’s depiction of post-traumatic stress disorder is compelling and heart-rending, and Curtis doesn’t phone this in at all. It’s a Halloween sequel worthy of the character, and a lot of the film is about Laurie’s arduous personal quest to reclaim what Michael stole from her. There’s also the implication that in fighting a monster, Laurie has become something of a monster herself, with some shots mirroring ones from the original film, but with Laurie and Michael swapping places.

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While many Halloween fans might bemoan Danielle Harris’ absence from the film, and how Laurie’s daughter from Halloween 4 has been overwritten by a different character, Greer puts in a great performance. She’s disarming and naturally funny, but Karen is hurt and, in her own way, traumatised by what her mother has put her through – Greer conveys this ably.

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Matichak might well be a breakout star after this film. Allyson is a believable teenager but never annoying, and it’s interesting to see what traits she might have inherited from her grandmother. The film is at its best when grandmother, daughter and granddaughter play off each other. This is a film about legacy and an entry in a franchise with a legacy all its own, so the device of Michael tormenting multiple generations is a potent one.

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Castle returns as Michael, sharing the role with stunt performer James Jude Courtney. This is Michael as horror fans remember him, and just like in the original Halloween, some of the most terrifying moments are Michael just lurking in the corner, standing still. There are several exceedingly brutal kills, but the gore never takes precedence over the sense of dread.

Bilginer’s performance is a little broader than some of the others, but it works, since he’s playing a man whose obsession with serial killers has perhaps spilled over from being purely professional.

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2018 is the year in which Jim from The Office directed and starred in one of the finest suspense horror movies in recent memory, A Quiet Place. Now, 2018 can also lay claim to being the year in which the team behind Pineapple Express, Your Highness and Eastbound & Down brought the Halloween franchise back to life in a big way. Now just don’t muck it up with further sequels.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong