Saturday, October 30, 2021

Trick or Trailers: Halloween (2018) & Halloween Kills (2021)

Even though there'd been many times over the years when it looked like Halloween had as much life left in it as a rotting jack o'lantern, it was probably inevitable that in time the franchise would land in the hands of horror fans turned pros who would be primed to fulfill the series' promise in a way that previous filmmakers hadn't, that eventually Halloween wouldn't just be lurching clumsily from one film to the next. 

By rights, Dimension Films should have been an ideal home for Michael Myers but in the end it ended up yielding the usual uneven stretch of films, some of them the most reviled of the series. For all the bad luck the franchise suffered over the years, you'd think its namesake holiday was Friday the 13th. But in 2016 it looked like things might finally turn around once it was announced that the next Halloween would involve genre powerhouse Blumhouse Productions. 

In time for the series' 40th anniversary, Halloween continuity would once again be rewritten, with the new film now stemming solely from the events of the original Halloween, discarding everything afterward, finally untethering Halloween from its first sequel. 

For years, II was piggybacked onto Halloween, due its storyline picking up immediately from the end of the original. The two were seen as one seamless story, detailing the events of Halloween night, 1978. And because of that, every sequel had to contend with the misguided reveal in II that Michael and Laurie were siblings. Now, the series was free to forge a new direction that wasn't about Michael obsessed with killing his other sister and the rest of his bloodline. 

And with Jamie Lee Curtis back again as Laurie, there was a fresh chance for her to give the character a more fitting final bow than she received in Resurrection

The trailer was about as good as you could possibly ask for:

   

Right off the bat this looked like the best return for Michael since H20 and upon its release, the consensus was that, yeah, for the most part they nailed it. Director and screenwriter David Gordon Green and his co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride and the rest of their Blumhouse collaborators relaunched Halloween in style, complete with a new score from John Carpenter and his son Cody. 

And now we have the just released Halloween Kills, the second chapter in Green's Halloween trilogy, originally meant to hit theaters in 2020 but delayed until this year due to Covid. 

When the trailer hit, it looked well worth the wait:

  

Woo, that looked like it was gonna be brutal! And as it turns out, it was! Some trailers promise a lot and the movies don't deliver but Kills gave me everything the trailer set me up for. Namely, a massive body count. Even for this jaded slasher buff, the kills in Kills were insane.  

These films are way too new to say for certain how they'll stand up over time, especially as we still have yet to see how the trilogy ends, but as time has softened my views of even the shittiest Halloween sequels, I feel confident that these movies will age just fine. At this point, even if the last film tanks, I'll be happy with the two we got. 

I know Kills rubbed some fans wrong but from my perspective it rocked. Not only did it rock, it fixed my issues with the previous film. 

Even though Halloween '18 established that Laurie and Michael weren't related, the movie still turned on the idea that it was all about Laurie vs. Michael and it felt like the plot shoehorned that confrontation in, facilitated by an out of left field plot twist involving Michael's psychiatrist. 

At a certain point in Halloween '18, there was that need to physically transport Michael from point A to point B so that big confrontation between he and Laurie could play out but the plot mechanism to make that happen was so awkward and it seemed that if that was where the movie was obviously going, if Michael's mission was always to get to Laurie, why couldn't it have been done in a smoother way? 

However, in Kills, it is established that Michael never gave a shit about facing Laurie again. Bringing Michael and Laurie together again was all to do with his psychiatrist's obsession and for all the preparing that Laurie did in her certainty that Michael would one day come back to finish the job, we understand now that he didn't care at all. 

He would have been perfectly fine never seeing Laurie again. His impulse is simply to kill. The scenes in '18 where he is just going into random houses and killing people felt like filler to me at the time, just scenes to pad out the body count, spinning wheels until the movie could get us to that big final act with Laurie and Michael. Now, in light of Kills, those scenes feel right to me. That was what Michael cared about. It was only his psychiatrist that forced him off course. 

As fans we've been as conditioned as Laurie to believe that Michael has a special, singular obsession for her, even if they weren't related. This movie makes it absolutely clear that, no, Laurie is not special to Michael.  

You could say that Halloween '18 already did that but we don't fully feel it there because that movie is so rooted in Laurie's perspective.  

Laurie believes that Michael is coming for her and, because of the history of the franchise, we believe it too. If anything, I thought it was a weakness of '18 that Michael was so passive about getting back to Laurie, that he was manipulated into facing her again rather than choosing to go after her. As it turns out, that was the whole point. 

Laurie's belief that Michael was planning to come for her was given superficial credence by the actions of Michael's psychiatrist but that was his machinations, not Michael's. 

For Laurie, and us, to realize that killing her is no more important to Michael than murdering the next ten random people he encounters is a major corrective move. It liberates the series from the bad baggage it's been carrying since 1981. 

Since Halloween II, the sequels have been trying to explain Michael. 

It is the single biggest mistake the series made. It instantly put the sequels on the wrong foot, and, until now, the subsequent films acted as though they were obliged to forever perpetuate that mistake. 

It's ok for us to get where Jason is coming from. He's protecting his turf, he's avenging his mother, he's punishing misbehavior. Whatever. 

All of that is fine. It doesn't take away from the fun of the character to know all that. The fun of Jason and the scariness of him is knowing that if you set foot in his territory, he's going to get you. 

And with Freddy it's also not detrimental for us to have the full picture on him. He was a sick fuck, the parents of his victims got themselves some street justice and the children have to pay for the sins of the parents. But Michael is a character that works best when we have no idea why he does what he does, when he is a blank.  

There's a lot of overripe dialogue in Kills from both Laurie Strode and Tommy Doyle concerning Michael. I think that's fine and fully in line with Halloween tradition. They're referring to Michael in the same kind of hyperbolic terms that Loomis used to. Some may roll their eyes when Tommy urgently tells a crowd that Michael is an "apex predator" but I love it. That's some prime Halloween shit right there. 

Past all the talk about evil and transcending, though, Kills has the single best line of dialogue spoken about Michael in the whole series, save for the classic Loomis lines from the original. When Robert Longstreet as Lonnie says about Michael that "he creeps, he kills, he goes home," it's a statement so unsettling in its utter plainness. It describes Micheal in the simplest terms but rather than reduce him, it only affirms his essential sense of mystery. "He creeps, he kills, he goes home" should be the mantra that any future caretakers of Michael Myers should be guided by once Green and co. are done.  

Given how well Kills addressed my issues with Halloween '18, I hope that's reason to believe that Green has had a solid final chapter mapped out from the start. Right now, they're two for two in my opinion. A kick ass third film would be pure Halloween heaven. 

2 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

So glad to hear some positive thoughts. I didn't go gaga over Kills, but I didn't hate it. And I think I will grow to like it more. And I am still hyped up and excited for Halloween Ends.

🎃 Happy Halloween! 🎃

Jeff Allard said...

I know Kills is a divisive movie for some fans, which surprises me as, if not for social media, I would have assumed that it pleased fans across the board! I really dug it and I hope that Ends will find a way to top it. Guess we'll find out next October!