Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Halloween Kills’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Most folks, myself included, go to certain movies around the holidays. However, my favorite holiday, Halloween, did not gain a film that genuinely celebrated it until 1978’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick is rightfully considered one of the best horror movies ever made. It gave us an icon of modern horror in Michael Myers. More than that though, it created a franchise spanning 12 movies, 5 continuities, and 44 years. A franchise that I’m returning to as I review Halloween Kills (2021)!
When frequent collaborators David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones) continued the Halloween franchise by softly rebooting it with their partners at Blumhouse, I thought it went about as well as it possibly could have. Well, at least at the time anyway. Three years later, I still dig Halloween (2018) because, frankly, it’s still one of the best legacy sequels I’ve seen to date. At the same time, the 2018 film is not as memorable as it should be in the overall scheme of this franchise. Since its release, Halloween ‘18 seems to have gotten by on the goodwill of the fanbase; thanks in part to taking the material seriously, and of course, bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold. More importantly, though, I don’t find it to be a very rewatchable flick. Nevertheless, the new trilogy — which is a quadrilogy if you think about it — continues with the recently released Halloween Kills!
Just like the original Halloween II (1981), Halloween Kills picks up where its immediate predecessor left off. Laurie Strode (Curtis), along with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), have been rushed to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Unfortunately, these three generations of strong women do not know that the nightmare isn’t over! That’s right, Michael Myers/The Shape (James Jude Courtney) survived the fiery inferno the Strode women left in their stead. Now, Michael if free to slice-and-dice his way through the small town and the majority of its residents. But, this time around, the notorious killer will face opposition in a mob led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), who has vowed that they will end this reign of Hollow’s Eve terror once and for all!
Since its $50 million opening two weeks ago, Halloween Kills has quickly become one of the most divisive films of the year, especially among horror genre and franchise fans like myself. One quality of the movie that cannot be debated is that it lives up to its title. As you most likely discerned from the synopsis above, this flick doesn’t have much of a plot. But does a movie entitled Halloween Kills need a plot? Yes, it needs a minimal plot or at least more of a story than this sequel has.
See, the previous installment in the current iteration of this franchise made a point of being grounded. To achieve this goal, Halloween (2018) went out of its way to abort any supernatural trappings which came with the previous sequels. But Halloween Kills embraces The Shape as an unkillable force. This installment essentially revokes the thesis of its immediate predecessor in favor of letting us witness the cinematic equivalent of a kill floor for cattle. In doing so, the film dispenses with supporting characters who could have been colorful and entertaining. Alas, what little entertainment value viewers will get from the townsfolk is short-lived as they’re either dispensed with too quickly or are simply not likable.
The worst among these new characters is, without a doubt, Tommy Doyle. Hall is terrible in this role as he spouts poorly written monologues, with the core point of all of them being, “EVIL DIES TONIGHT!” It’s almost as if Hall is playing the older, alcoholic version of his character from Edward Scissorhands (1990). Worse yet, Tommy fuels this movie’s mob mentality subplot, which includes a tasteless subplot involving a fellow escaped mental patient. Mind you, this storyline is essentially nicked from Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988), but Hall’s performance sticks out, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Alas, the same cannot be said of Curtis, who returns as Laurie Strode for the sixth time in the series (if you take all the different continuities of the Halloween franchise into account). The otherwise talented actress and legendary scream queen is absolutely wasted and somewhat annoying this time around. Laurie goes from being a survivor to a paranoid narcissist here. Thankfully, though, there are some standouts in the cast, despite the fact that the majority of all the dialogue in this movie is quite bad — and I mean first draft terrible.
At the same time, this entry does find a way to redeem Cameron Elam (Dylan Arnold). Moreover, this film also introduces us to Cameron’s dad, the notorious Lonnie Elam (played by the exceptional character actor Robert Longstreet.) Last, but not least, there’s Kyle Richards, who returns as Lindsey from the 1978 film and delivers a strong, albeit nearly wordless performance. I must also give props to James Jude Courtney, who understands the physicality of Michael, even if he’s written more like Jason Voorhees or Victor Crowley in this movie.
I don’t want to trash Halloween Kills completely, so please, allow me to point out its few positive attributes. This film is very well made (except for the editing by Timothy Alverson, who also cut together the previous installment despite evidence to the contrary). More importantly, the visual continuity and holiday atmosphere shared between Halloween (2018) and the movie in review are impeccable. But, at the same time, this continuity makes the drop in quality all the more noticeable. But hey, at least the score by Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, and Daniel Davies is on point!
A movie called Halloween Kills should be a lot more fun. But ultimately, I found this movie to be a miserable experience that feels more like a dull version of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009) than a sequel to the 2018 legacy sequel. Halloween Kills is a Franchise Implosion because it attempts to eat its pumpkin pie and have it too. In other words: these filmmakers claimed they wanted to disown all the previous sequels, but nonetheless embraces those trappings.
They essentially pull from those follow-ups in this flat middle chapter in their trilogy. If you dig Halloween Kills, great! These past couple of years have been challenging, and I hope folks find joy wherever they can. I, however, have not been this disappointed with a sequel in a while. For me, Halloween Kills is a mean-spirited and empty follow-up which attempts to compensate with flashbacks that pander to fan service.
I hope to the druids that the forthcoming Halloween Ends (which is expected for release this time next year) is better than Kills. It will reportedly will take place several years later and will “piss people off,” according to Jamie Lee Curtis. Well, that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it? But hey, as long as they don’t remake the immortal classic Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982), it’s all good. Plus, let’s face it, as a hardcore genre and Halloween fan, I’m going to be there no matter what.
Halloween Kills is currently playing in theaters & is available to stream on Peacock (with a paid subscription.)
You can also treat yourself to the other Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) Reviews in the Halloween series
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)