This initial preview of Halloween Kills comes from the film’s world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival. Halloween Kills will open in American theaters on Oct. 15. Stay tuned for a full review closer to the film’s release.
Producer Jason Blum is a big ol’ liar. That’s the first thing you need to know about the upcoming horror movie Halloween Kills, because Blum explicitly said last year that the sequel to 2018’s Halloween — which is also the prequel to the upcoming Halloween Ends — would not be half a movie. It “feels like a complete movie,” Blum told io9 in 2020. “There’s a first, second, and third act. It has a big end. You still know from the end of the second movie where the third movie is going, but the second movie ends in a totally satisfying way.”
Well, Halloween Kills, which just premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, definitely has three acts and a big final scene marking the end of the movie. But that doesn’t make it a satisfying ending to this chapter of the story.
Halloween Kills picks up immediately after the events of the 2018 film, which ended with three generations of Strodes — Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer), and Allison (Andi Matichak) — seemingly killing Michael Myers once and for all. Of course, The Shape survives yet again, and he’s as bloodthirsty as ever. But things are different in this film, because for once, Michael is the one being hunted, and the lines between victim and perpetrator start to blur.
Rather than delivering the same story beats as the original movie, but in a different setting, like 1981’s Halloween II did, Halloween Kills truly feels like the planned second chapter in a trilogy that’s meant to tell an overarching narrative. For one thing, the film focuses on the larger community of Haddonfield, bringing back fan-favorite characters from the 1978 franchise-launching film to show how Michael Myers’ original killing spree affected not only his victims and his survivors, but the community at large. Anthony Michael Hall plays Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting when she first encountered the Boogeyman, and he’s having just as hard a time as she is, unable to let go of the past, and always preparing for the day the Shape starts killing again.
So when news comes out that Michael Myers has escaped the institution that was holding him, Tommy starts organizing a mob to go after the monster before it comes after them, an idea that spreads around town like wildfire. Director David Gordon Green, who also co-wrote the script with Scott Teems and Danny McBride, and is helming this entire trilogy, places major importance on the idea of mob justice and how fear becomes hatred, which becomes violence. It’s an intriguing idea that could potentially comment on the slasher genre as a whole, especially its problematic history of portraying mentally ill people as violent killers. Unfortunately, this film backs down on all of its attempts at commentary, and the abrupt ending interrupts any final statement that could be made by the script, leaving behind a messy allegory for cancel culture and mob mentality, rather than anything insightful.
The same can be said about the way the film treats Michael Myers himself. In a way, where the 2018 Halloween was all about Laurie, this is Michael’s movie. The tone is darker, the deaths are bloodier and more brutal, and the audience spends more time with him than the previous movies normally would. Halloween Kills tries to explore the idea of Michael and the question of his nature, but never really arrives at any conclusion. Is he, as Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween argues, a scared little boy in the body of an incredibly strong man, with killer animal instincts? Or is he evil incarnate and a supernatural entity, as he is in 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers?
Given that Michael Myers is such a mystery, unpacking his nature is always fruitful for movies in the franchise, no matter how often filmmakers return to the same questions and answer them differently. The problem is that the film ends right before it can provide any questions. This is very much the Avengers: Infinity War of the Halloween franchise: It brings back beloved characters for a grand chapter where evil is at its strongest, it has a more dramatic undertone than other movies in its franchise, and it asks big questions that could change the shape of the narrative. But Halloween Kills uses all that as mere table-setting for the sequel, hoping audiences will stick around long enough to learn the answers by paying for another movie.
It is curious, then, that a movie that was planned well in advance as part of a trilogy, yet isn’t being advertised as one, fails to work as a standalone piece of media the way Dune does — even though Dune literally has a Part One title at the beginning. Where director Denis Villeneuve found a good place to end his first Dune chapter in a satisfactory way that pays off themes and plot points while introducing new ones to keep the audience engaged, Halloween Kills is just half of a complete film. There is a third act that builds up to a natural place to end the story, but instead, the script keeps going, until it suddenly stops because the credits start rolling, not because the story is over.
Halloween Kills presents thought-provoking ideas about the nature of serial-killer-focused slashers and mob justice, with a bigger, darker chapter that pays homage to the past while looking toward the future. But the film is so focused on that future that it neglects its present. In that io9 interview, Jason Blum promised Halloween Kills would avoid “that Lord of the Rings issue” where audiences might feel like they “weren’t getting the full story,” and promised to avoid that issue with the middle chapter of this trilogy. Turns out he did avoid it, because The Two Towers is more of a self-contained and satisfying story than this movie.