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Review: Maybe skip ‘Halloween Kills’ this October

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It’s the most wonderful time of year again, which means there’s a deluge of horror-themed media to watch, preferably in the dark and with headphones.

In preparation for the newest addition to the “Halloween” franchise, I watched the original 1978 classic, “Halloween,”as well as the 2018 sequel, annoyingly also titled “Halloween,” which ignores all of the movies that were released in between. If you’re looking for a movie filled with murder, any of these films will do, but if you want to follow along with what’s happening, I recommend watching those two, especially since the continuity has been streamlined dramatically.

With that being said, I believe the newest release, “Halloween Kills,” follows the trend set in motion by the 2018 film by looking for a way to continue escalating the slasher formula without completely leaving the relative quaintness of the admittedly tame-by-modern-standards original. 

“Halloween” (2018) asked what would happen to Jamie Lee Curtis’ character if she had spent the real 50-year gap between films traumatized by the original attack, and “Halloween Kills” picks up right where that film left off without missing a beat. It’s still the same night, and the town is reeling from the news of the return of serial killer Michael Myers.  

This leads to one particular storyline that I never expected from a movie of this type: The entire town knows there’s a serial killer running around and they want payback. If the long-running protagonist of the franchise, Laurie Strode, growing up and raising a family of Myers doomsday preppers was surprising, then seeing the entire town adopt that same mentality is a sight to behold. 

Unfortunately, I feel like the scale of the events prompts several logistical questions that make it difficult to suspend disbelief. The way most of the town is enthusiastic about having teenagers with shotguns accompany them to hunt for a masked murderer is maybe one of the shining examples of horror movie protagonists doing something ill-advised, leading me to roll my eyes at the screen. 

That isn’t to say the mess unfolding isn’t entertaining to watch. While the gore is certainly not up to par with movies like “The Thing,” the sheer panic gripping the small Illinois town leads to many of what I can only describe as Myers fight scenes. Not him killing some hapless teenager, which Myers does do, or someone struggling to escape his grasp, which also happens, but scenes that depict the horror icon battling entire groups of armed suburban warriors. 

This is simply not a thing I ever expected to see in this franchise. The original film is straightforward in retrospect, but somehow this makes sense within the fictional setting the film has created. This is a small community that has been besieged by a seemingly unkillable entity, maybe evil itself, multiple times now, through a series of freak accidents or, potentially, even fate.  

This moment betrays the film’s nihilistic view of people, however. It’s the naivety and sheer clumsiness of Frank Hawkins that gets his partner killed and almost allows Myers to escape after his initial killing spree. In this sense, Myers isn’t just portrayed as a killer, he’s a force of nature that destroys everything in the immediate vicinity and poisons everything outside of that radius. But to what degree is he culpable for any of that? The film says over and over again that Myers is evil, that he is a monster. Yet, he is relatively unkillable, no matter the damage his body takes. 

Additionally, the increasingly common phenomenon of completely opposed audience and critic reactions manifests with “Halloween Kills.” Audiences seem to be enjoying it, while critics are trashing it

I think “Halloween Kills” is a fun movie to watch. I’m particularly a fan of the original director and composer, John Carpenter, returning to write the score as well, but I still find myself hesitant to embrace what I feel the movie is trying to tell me beneath the surface. Horror movies being nihilistic in tone is not a new thing, but even if I noticed something similar in the previous two films, I don’t recall it being so holistically integrated into the story. 

In “Halloween Kills,” people die for almost no reason, and while that can make for an entertaining Halloween movie night, especially with how bombastic some scenes are, the film struggles to be anything more than that. 

I suppose even if the film itself didn’t scare me, there might be something existentially uncomfortable about a piece of art that doesn’t seem to think there’s much point in trying and that we’re all rotten anyway. 

Reach contributing writer Logan Cloud at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @LoganattheDaily

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