Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Trouble With HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

Note: This article/review/bitch fest/whatever is full of spoilers for HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021). If you don't want these movies spoiled for you, stop reading now.

Still with me? Okay...

John Carpenter is my Horror Hero(TM). Growing up, I'd say THE THING (1982) and HALLOWEEN (1978) were two of "The Big Four" Horror films that turned me into a lifelong Horror fan (the others being INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981). I loved HALLOWEEN II (1981) and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1983). What can I say? I've considered myself a big HALLOWEEN fan from an early age.

I was in High School when HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS came out, and of course I absolutely loved seeing Michael Myers back behind the mask. Other films in the franchise followed, some better than others. I saw them all in theaters. I really thought H20 was it: a perfect swan song for the franchise. Jamie Lee Curtis came back and took care of business. It was all over with a nice bow on it.  It's a shame they couldn't leave well enough alone. They produced a sequel, and let me tell you: the first 10 minutes of RESURRECTION were so bad I wanted to walk out of the theater. (For the record, the rest of the movie was actually pretty okay).

I wasn't a huge fan of the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films. I felt like they gave too much back story on Michael Myers. I had no desire to see him as a child, pulling the wings off of flies. I didn't care about his broken home. I didn't like Malcolm McDowell as Loomis. The mystery of Michael being "pure evil" was no longer a mystery. Yes, these films were brutal and Tyler Mane made a menacing bad guy, but I could honestly take these films or leave them. Zero attachment whatsoever.

Then, years later, along comes HALLOWEEN (2018). 

Hollywood stoner goof (or "that EASTBOUND & DOWN guy, if you prefer), Danny McBride, has somehow convinced the studio to hand him the keys to the HALLOWEEN franchise. Frequent McBride collaborator David Gordon Green (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, EASTBOUND & DOWN) is in line to direct. Jamie Lee Curtis, whose star power has cooled substantially since 2000, is set to return as Laurie Strode (even though she's died once, and faked her death once in this series). Carpenter, of course, doesn't give a f***. He's going to get a nice check for "consulting." For obvious reasons, I'm skeptical from the word go. 

HALLOWEEN (2018) is going to be a direct, 40 Years Later sequel to Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978). Say what now? Yes, the plan from the word "go" is to ignore all of the other films. Even HALLOWEEN II. That means that Laurie Strode is just a random victim and babysitter, not Michael's estranged sister. That means Michael's endless body count is wiped out, as are most of his superhuman feats of survival and Hulk-like strength. Basically, they're going back to the beginning to try to give the franchise a proper end. Again, I'm not liking this idea, but they didn't really ask me, did they? Let's see how this goes.

HALLOWEEN (2018) opens, as promised, as a direct sequel to the OG. Michael Myers has been locked up in a sanitarium for 40 years. Two British podcasters (what?) show up at the Smith's Grove sanitarium looking for Michael. They want to do a story about "whatever happened to that guy?" After all, at this point, he killed his sister some 55 years before. I guess no one but podcasters would really care after 55 years (or 40 years for that matter).

Somehow these two dopes have managed to get their hands on Michael's original mask. How? On eBay? Should that not be locked up as evidence somewhere? Is it a copy? I doubt they still manufacture them 40 years later. This is absurd. Plus, how did they talk their way in here and arrange to see Michael? And not get searched beforehand? They just meet up with Michael, standing around chained to the ground, and show him his old mask. Okay, sure. Whatever.

Later we find out that Loomis is dead and Michael's new doctor isn't exactly tightly wrapped. That explains some of it, but regardless, this whole beginning is just off to an epically D-U-M-B start.

So what has Laurie Strode been up to all these years? Apparently she...hasn't left the area at all. Hasn't moved to a new town. Hasn't changed her name. She just hung out and built her home into a survivalist compound (some serious Sidney Prescott vibes here). Had a kid. Did her part as the town recluse. She was attacked 40 years ago and is still extremely traumatized and apparently she has let that "lifetime ago" attack govern every decision in her entire life. 

But why? 

HALLOWEEN II (1981) and all the sequels don't exist, so Laurie and Michael aren't related. Why does she feel compelled to stay around and keep an eye on Michael? I could see feeling responsible if he was her brother, but he isn't. He's just a loon. And he was locked up before the Internet, so how would he ever be able to find her if she moved away? And why would he even want to find her? Because she's no longer his sister, that makes the 1978 attack random. He was out killing. She got in the way. If he got out, what possible motive would he even have to try to find Laurie again? 

Sure, he might make a beeline for Haddonfield again like he did in '78 because that's where he grew up and that's where he killed his sister, but you know what? If you don't want to get killed by the killer who attacked you in Haddonfield, JUST MOVE AWAY from f***ing Haddonfield!  But nope...she's in it to win it. Even her own kid is telling her to move on. That just serves to drive home how f***ing stupid this whole thing is.

Now that we've met Laurie again, let's get down to business. Michael escapes from the Sanitarium and the film heads off into fan film territory. The escape scene is a mashup of the original HALLOWEEN and PART 4 and the ensuing hunt down and killing of the podcasters steals the bathroom scene from Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN (2007). None of the sequels exist, yet let's just start lifting things from them wholesale while pretending this is a direct sequel. Podcasters dead? Check. Michael has his mask back now. Good thing the rubber hasn't disintegrated in 40 years. Myers does kill a little kid here, which is not something I expected to see. Points for shock value and "originality," I guess? Bold.

The movie meanders now and introduces a bunch of teens and kids and random townsfolk that we really don't give a flying f*** about. But hey, Michael is home and we need to up the body count. Let's get this baby rolling. What year is this, by the way? This whole section of the film looks right out of the 70s, from the home decor, to the lighting, to the fashion. I get they're going for nostalgia, but it just feels sloppy. Oh, and it's a shame they ruined the "open up the door and Michael is in the closet" scare because that would have been a real pants-shitter of a scene if the trailer reveal didn't ruin it. 


Here's where we find out that Laurie Strode, who's given up her entire life and dedicated it to protecting the world from Michael Myers, has...never met the Doctor who took over for Dr. Loomis after he died. What? want to stick around "just in case" Michael breaks out, but you don't want to actually get in touch with the person who's treating him and who is the absolute best person to tell you about it if escape were to actually happen? Ridiculous.

Remember when I said that Loomis's doctor wasn't tightly wrapped? At this point in the film, we find out that the doctor is the one who allowed Myers to escape. He wanted to study Michael out in the wild, apparently, so he let him out. We find this out after Police Officer Hawkins runs Michael over with his SUV and Sartain stabs Hawkins and tries to drive off with Laurie's granddaughter and an injured Michael in tow. Confused? Me too. It's pretty shark jumpy.

Remember that Myers is a 70'ish-year-old man here. HIT HEAD ON BY AN SUV! But he's apparently been training, saying his prayers, and eating his vitamins, brother, because not only does he survive getting run over by the aforementioned SUV, he Hulks out in said SUV and manages to crush Sartain in the front seat by ripping up and pushing the steel-reinforced seats and cage into him in the most superhuman way possible. How is this? Superhuman Michael was primarily a staple of the sequels. In the OG HALLOWEEN, Michael lifted the one guy a few inches off the floor when he stabbed him and somehow managed to move Judith's tombstone into a house. Impressive, but explainable.

This isn't supposed to be the guy who breaks shotguns in half, presses his thumb throgh a guy's skull, and goes Terminator on an entire Police station or any of a hundred other ridiculous things we saw as the sequels unfolded. Nor is this Rob Zombie's Myers who was purposely made Superhumanly massive and strong. Nope. This is a direct sequel to the 1978 film, remember. There's a frustrating lack of consistency and we're caught again doing fan-filmy, fanboy things that pretend the sequels' canon exists, even when it doesn't.

Laurie is going full T2 Sarah Connor now. She's at her compound. She's loading up her weapons. She's ready to rock when Michael finally makes his way to her. Michael keeps busy here, killing a bunch more random people and cops, giving this film a pretty damned respectable body count. Sure, they're all random people that we don't really care about, but it keeps it from being boring, anyway.

Myers arrives at Laurie's fortress and a cat and mouse game ensues. There's some good tension here and some great nods to the original film. This is probably the best part of the film because it features Survivalist Laurie (channeling Nancy from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) using her traps and guile to beat the boogeyman. What is SUPER farfetched, though, is that Laurie winds up GRAPPLING with Michael here. The same Michael who 15 minutes earlier ripped a solid steel wall out of a Police Car and crushed his old doctor with it. But sure. I guess Laurie's been lifting, too? Whatever. We've jumped the shark like 5 more times at this point.

When all is said and done, Laurie traps Michael Myers in a safe room in the basement of her fortress and sets the place on fire. The nightmare is finally over. Michael Myers is dead. Or is he? The post-credits breathing (and the fact that sequels were already announced) says "No." They couldn't just let it burn.

Along comes HALLOWEEN KILLS. The movie opens with a flashback to 1978 that's really well done. It has a great look and feel, and you get a few surprise appearances, but the most important thing is you get to find out the back story of Officer Hawkins and how he was on site when Myers was originally captured after the events of 1978's HALLOWEEN. You get insight into Hawkins' history and you establish some great motive for Hawkins wanting to hunt down and kill Myers himself, 40 years later.

So where's Michael?

The house still burning and Michael comes out of the safe room and escapes the blaze and makes short work of the firefighters here. People started a petition to remove this scene because they didn't think firefighters should die. They should have removed the scene because it was junk. Instead of being directed like a horror scene, you have what is essentially Michael Myers killing a bunch of dudes like a Wal-Mart Great Value John Wick. It's just...well, awful. These firefighters, by the way, turned a full-force fire hose on 70-year-old Michael. Did it slow him down? Knock him down? Break ribs? Nope. He just shrugs it off and keeps killing. Escaping from the fire is one thing, but this whole scene is just ridiculous.

Laurie's off to the hospital. She's hurt pretty bad. Gotta check in on her and fam here before we move back to what's going on in town. Okay? Okay. 

Enter Tommy Doyle who, like Laurie, apparently has spent his entire life obsessing about Michael Myers. Why? Yeah, Michael technically stalked him at the same time he was stalking Laurie back in 1978, but Michael didn't kill anyone he really knew or was related to. Not even his babysitter (Laurie). He was just a little kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet here he is, 40 years later, saying they commemorate the night of the attacks every year. This isn't Paul Rudd, by the way. This is Anthony Michael Hall, the quintessential "townie" who you get the idea is probably Anti-Vax and probably voted for Trump. And what's with his baseball bat? This all feels like yet another fanboy nod: this time to Stephen King's SILVER BULLET.

This is yet another problem with making a direct sequel to HALLOWEEN. Michael Myers at this point killed his own sister in 1963. Then he killed a random truck driver in a different town. Then he killed 3 teenagers and tried to kill Laurie. But that's it. He gets locked away for 40 years and THE GREATEST EVIL THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN has basically killed 4 people that the Haddonfield townsfolk would know or care about.

So what is it with these people? Why commemorate 1978? I could understand if all the sequels were canon, but this point, Myers is just a loon who went to the sanitarium for 40 y ears. No one really knows he's is on the loose or that he's killed a shit ton of people earlier this same evening. All of this obsession and pomp and circumstance is not from an endless chain of murders throughout all the sequels, it's from Michael Myers killing 4 people 40 years ago (pretty tamely, I might add) and then getting arrested (in another really well done flashback in this film).

How big is this town? There are always like 30 cops around, so it can't be a town of 100 people. This has to be a pretty sizeable town, right? City even? Look at the size of this hospital! This vengeance and hate all feels like something that would happen if 4 people were killed in a town of , say, 100 people. MAYBE. This is maddening.

Michael Myers is on the loose. He's killing people left and right. Random people. An old couple. He kills a bunch of kids wearing masks from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (which would have been a badass surprise, again, had they not shown it in the trailer). This is now a PURE SLASHER of the highest order, which I guess is just fine. It's mostly what people want to see. The kills are violent and creative and should be applauded. They got a few golf claps from me. Seriously. This might be the highlight of the film: the brutality and creativity of these random kills (none of which the townsfolk really know about yet).


Laurie's in the hospital. Hawkins is in the hospital. Hey, they have history together. They had a relationship once. Is Hawkins a baby daddy? It sounds like it. Okay. Finally. Some more insight into how this story is supposed to all come together. Maybe. At some point. I mean Laurie was and is the focus of this franchise, right? And she's been in this movie for all of 5 minutes at this point? I checked my watch. I guess Tommy's the hero? Or the town? Not really sure.

Further confusing things: there's another inmate who also escaped from Smith's Grove Sanitarium on the loose. He acts as a red herring throughout much of the movie. He is run down by the chanting horde in the hospital chanting "Evil Dies Tonight" and jumps to his death. "How do we know this isn't Myers? We've never seen him with his mask off?" I'm serious. They went there.

So Michael Myers is out and about, killing, and killing, and killing. This is called HALLOWEEN KILLS after all. It lives up to its name. So Michael is killing, and he's heading back to his childhood home. It's occupied by a gay couple. They die horribly (great use of Anne Murray's music, btw). There's a showdown looming. People die (brutally and coolly), and Allyson, Laurie's granddaughter is in danger. Karen, Laurie's daughter (Allyson's mother), stabs Michael with a pitchfork (not sure what a pitchfork is doing around) and takes his mask off. She runs away from the house, taunting the killer, inciting Michael to follow.

Here's where shit gets REALLY real.

Michael is unmasked at this point and they're showing his old, gray, bald head and face in HD. This seems like a colossal mistake to me (NEVER take the mask off), but I guess that's what we're talking about anyway: one colossal mistake after another. Maskless Michael follows Karen, trying to get his mask back, and finds himself in an alley surrounded by, like, 100 townspeople with weapons. Tommy Doyle is leading the charge. It's a lynch mob. This whole town, that is super angry about....3 people they didn't know dying 40 years ago...decides they're going to kill this motherf***er with blunt force trauma. Along the way, we get to hear "EVIL DIES TONIGHT" like a half dozen more times leading up to this. We get it. It's terrible. But whatever. 

Michael puts his mask back on and the crowd attacks.

Michael is on the ropes. The townspeople put him down. Karen grabs and bloody knife and stabs him in the back and then leaves to go take care of her daughter. He's getting the f*** kicked out of him. Stabbed. Beaten. Broken. This is really the end, right? Nope. This is called HALLOWEEN KILLS, not HALLOWEEN ENDS.

In the hospital, Laurie is telling Hawkins that brute force can't kill evil (even though that's how she's been trying to kill him for these past two movies and that's how Loomis tried to kill him, with a bullet to the head). This is apparently how they try to explain how Michael is Superhuman? I guess? All the shit I've been complaining about is being explained away with a throwaway voiceover line. Oy. 

This serves as the cue for Michael to start shaking his head and going full Hulk Hogan after taking this epic beating and, you know what? Let's KILL THE WHOLE FUCKING TOWN! Sure. And Tommy? Let's kill that fucker WITH HIS OWN SILVER BULLET BAT!!! I mean, great. If you've lasted long enough to accept all of the bullshit leading up to this, you're probably standing on your couch and cheering at this point. Me? I'm wondering why I paid $9.99 to watch this crap on Peacock premium. 

At least I didn't have to go to a theater and deal with COVID and teens on their cell phones the entire movie. Whee. So after killing the entire town, Michael somehow sneaks back into his own house (even though it's crawling with people and paramedics) and wait in hiding so he can kill Karen. Evil doesn't die tonight. Evil wins. Pretty convincingly. Roll credits.

So yeah, these movies are junk. They don't know what they want to be. They are essentially bad fan fiction that on one hand wants to ignore all the sequels, while on the other hand channeling endless shit from these ignored sequels. It's maddening. They want it both ways, and it's a all a big, hacky cheat.

HALLOWEEN (2018) is watchable, if ridiculous, and then HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021) just meanders unnecessarily while having basically no Laurie and no plot advancement. It does, however, have brutal kills that go to 11. So at least it's not a total loss. If you're curious, in my opinion, these are not the worst films in the franchise. PART 6 and RESURRECTION are worse. PART 5 is not great, either.

When this trilogy or whatever it is all wraps up in HALLOWEEN ENDS, I imagine what we'll have in retrospect is enough material to have made either one long movie, or possibly a movie and a single  sequel. The fact that this is a trilogy is ridiculous. Normally, when it comes to trilogies, I enjoy the middle film the most (EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, THE TWO TOWERS), but HALLOWEEN KILLS is just....well...meh. 

Let's hope that HALLOWEEN ENDS is not only better, but that it's the ACTUAL FUCKING END. I'm not sure how much more I can take. That said, KILLS made $50 million on its opening weekend despite streaming on Peacock and opening during a pandemic. I bet ENDS will only be the beginning.

Hopefully the beginning of something better for the franchise and for the fans.

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