Review: ‘Halloween Kills’ (evil dies tonight)

Habeas corpus like there’s no tomorrow.

After trapping Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), a wounded Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to Haddonfield hospital with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) — passing firetrucks along the way. The first-responders unfortunately discover someone still inside the burning home. Meanwhile, local Haddonfield survivors from years ago hear about the grisly fate of the firefighters on the local news. Feeling justified, townsfolk loosely organize under Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) into vigilante groups to hunt The Shape, but nothing goes according to plan as the truth about Michael becomes apparent.

Picking up where the Halloween 2018 left off — still shunning every sequel except the original — trailers promise The Boogeyman is looking to pad his numbers (Jason Voorhees still has the higher body count). More importantly, what does Michael Myers want after being prodded back into killing? The worst-kept secret in Hollywood is a third film entitled Halloween Ends in the planning, meaning there are limits to what can be done to he who (supposedly) can’t be killed. Is there any red meat to be had, or is this just an extended trailer for the unlikely “final” course?

Similar to the 2018 reboot, the sequel embraces tropes while also flipping them on their head. Kills cleverly mines the original film not only for fresh victims but also new meaning behind Michael’s behavior. This is highly effective until the abrupt ending, one that may leave many viewers feeling shortchanged. The teaser nature of this is akin to Back to the Future 2 or The Matrix Reloaded, both of which ended abruptly and, while giving audiences more of what they craved, fell short of promises made. If the filmmakers do have something devilishly clever planned for a final chapter to satisfy fans new and old, they’ll pull off a trick few have managed to succeed at.

With all previous incarnations removed from canon, the reboot failed to answer a key question: how and when was Michael Myers caught and returned to Smith’s Grove to set up his escape? Kills not only answers that question but uses it to further story effect, creating flashback footage effective enough to make new audiences wonder when it was shot (it’s new) and older fans wonder why they don’t remember it (same reason). The ending does seem like a cheat, but the trade-off may be something unique to effectively close out the trilogy… fingers crossed. While the cast is effective, surprising standouts are Anthony Michael Hall as an impromptu mob organizer, plus Halloween-enthusiast home owners Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald as Big John and Little John.

Undermining any Blumhouse attempt at closure is what horror fans know: movie monsters never die while fans demand more. Fortunately, filmmakers may get their cake and eat it, too; there’s already talk of redoing Halloween III, a movie shunned at release that has gained a cult following all its own… and with built-in marketing and merchandising at the ready (cue the Silver Shamrock jingle). Michael Myers will eventually come back, of course — hopefully after another forty years or so.

Halloween Kills is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, grisly images, language, some drug use, and The Shape of things to come.

Three skull recommendation out of four

Speak up, Mortal -- and beware of Spoilers!

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