Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bent Out Of Shape

Year: 2021
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Wow. It's been a while since I've had reason to review a current movie on the blog proper (I do still do that occasionally over at Alternate Ending, when I watch bullshit that Tim doesn't want to cover). But we can't just sit with our thumbs up our asses when there's a new Halloween movie out in theaters and also everybody's favorite streaming service Peacock! The film's release (and the subsequent release of the trilogy capper Halloween Ends) was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so let's see if time has muted by ambivalence toward 2018's Halloween.

Spoiler alert: It hasn't.

Halloween Ends picks up on the same night as Halloween 2018. Well, it spends about eight seconds there before launching into a wholly unnecessary flashback to the events of Halloween night 1978 which both serve as a revision to Halloween II which was erased out of continuity and delivers absolutely no material that is interesting in the slightest, though where would we be if we didn't have a dead-eyed doppelgänger of Donald Pleasence's Dr. Sam Loomis (Tom Jones Jr. in creepily accurate prosthetic makeup, with a spectacularly unconvincing vocal imitation by Colin Mahan)? Talk about a Halloween: Resurrection!

After that flashback gives us insight into two characters who have no major bearing on the plot, we again pick up in 2018. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being rushed to the hospital by her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Having smugly and gleefully erased Halloween II from the continuity, the screenwriters can now recreate it themselves by sidelining Laurie into a hospital bed for literally the entire film.

The killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle for the legacy value, but James Jude Courtney for anything that requires physical effort that they can't ask of a 74-year-old man, which is almost everything Michael does in the movie) was left for dead in Laurie's burning basement. Guess how that goes? He emerges and begins his rampage through Haddonfield anew. A mob gathers to take him down once and for all, led by survivors of his original 1978 rampage: babysittees Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall, taking over from Brian Andrews and Paul Rudd) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), pisspants coward Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet, taking over for whoever the hell played that kid who Donald Pleasence hilariously scares away from entering the Myers house by shouting "Get your ass away from there!"), nurse and "Dr. Loomis' best friend even though I'm pretty sure they met for the first time that night in 1978" Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), and former sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), whose daughter Annie was killed by Michael 40 years ago.

I know filming was wrapped before the pandemic shut down productions, but Dylan Arnolds cheekbones seem three years more prominent, so I'm not sure what happened.

Can you tell I hated the screenplay for Halloween Kills? I cannot stress enough how richly hypocritical it is that the 2018 film drooled all over itself for retconning the Michael Myers-Laurie Strode sibling relationship that many fans disliked and then proceeded to repeat the much worse mistakes of many other films in the franchise, almost beat for beat. I've already mentioned Laurie getting Halloween II-ed (this is also a result of this being the middle film in a trilogy, but could we not have gotten Laurie and Michael together in one shot, even?), but this film also emulates Rob Zombie's Halloween in presenting Haddonfield as a low rent white trash haven where every word out of a body count character's mouth is shrill and vexing. And no specific spoilers on this, but it has a Myers backstory that's nearly as bad as Halloween 6, to boot.

There is not a single returning character who is treated with anything resembling respect. Not that I necessarily need the film to respect Lonnie Fucking Elam, but this reboot series has consistently failed to recognize any of the actual ways human beings react to trauma or even remember things from 40 years ago. Laurie has always born the brunt of this instinct, being twisted into an unrecognizable gremlin of a woman, but Tommy Doyle doesn't so much go from 0 to 60 as start as 60 and rampage through every scene like Michael Chiklis playing a rabid caveman. It doesn't even do justice to the characters we just met, running Allyson through an absolutely inscrutable arc that doesn't square with anything we know of her from the 2018 film. And dear lord, at one point, Charles Cyphers even gets to trot out his classic "one good scare" line even though he has no reason to recall something he said offhand to a teen girl 40 years ago 12 hours before anything memorable happened that day - honestly it would have had more creative integrity if he had said "It's Halloween. Everyone is entitled to one good scare... motherfucker."

Now don't misunderstand me. I don't mind that some of these characters become bad people or have bad things happen to them. I'm not particularly devoted to the lady who drove Dr. Loomis to Smith's Grove 40 years ago. It's just that every line of dialogue is stiff and unnatural, every action is ill-motivated, and while every character is packed with personality traits rather than being one-note body count fodder, none of these traits resemble anything a person would actually do or say, dunking the audience into a surreal morass of nonsense that's impossible to claw your way out of. There's a gay couple in the film that I have heard criticized for being offensive stereotypes, but I take umbrage with that interpretation considering that you can't be a stereotype if you're not performing a recognizable human behavior.

Also these films have an asshole problem. In that every character is one. 

But here's the thing. I don't hate this movie. I would, I really would, if it weren't for two things. First, the kills are generally pretty damn solid. They're a little too brutal to call "fun," but in terms of squeamish slasher movie joy, they deliver on all fronts, more than a typical Halloween outing. The creative weaponry is more Jason's milieu, but in this film, any object in Michael Myers' hands can become a deadly weapon, whether it's a light bulb, a car door, a stairwell, or his own thumbs. There are also some unique angles to the proceedings (when's the last time you saw someone get stabbed in the armpit?). The effects are terrific, the sequences are visceral and gut-jangling, and while they fail to capture the elegance of the violence of the Carpenter original, that is something I am fully willing to forgive for the 12th movie in a slasher franchise. I'm not a monster.

Also, the score is straight-up terrific. John Carpenter, his son Cody, and his godson Daniel Davies have assembled a superb collection of variations on the original electronic score. They have let themselves off the leash this time, no longer tying themselves to amplified versions of the classic Halloween themes, but really creating a minor key fantasia on what Halloween might have sounded like with several more million dollars and the piano was on fucking fire. Nothing reaches the heights of "The Shape Hunts Allyson," which was the standout track of the 2018 film (and is brought back in such a way that the filmmakers clearly figured out what they had after tossing it off in a 50-second scene the first time around). However, this score would have a much harder time giving us a standout, because every new composition is a bone-vibrating success.

Good music and good kills really do elevate a slasher movie. Hell, those two things are the only reasons Friday the 13th is remembered fondly. It doesn't make the horrible script that actively avoids having a plot or accomplishing anything satisfying with even a single character any less crushing. But it is somewhat of a balm for the pain of sitting through the worst scenes of the film, which are largely relegated to anything in the hospital or involving Tommy Doyle (AKA most of the scenes).

TL;DR: Halloween Kills is a sequel that learns all the wrong lessons from the franchise it's attempting to resurrect.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1401
Reviews In This Series
Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981)
Halloween: Resurrection (Rosenthal, 2002)
Halloween (Zombie, 2007)
Halloween II (Zombie, 2009)
Halloween (Green, 2018)
Halloween Kills (Green, 2021)


  1. In reading this in the middle of writing about Halloween 4, I'm now terrified I've been misspelling Michael Myers' name for almost a decade.

    I still need to see HK. Iirc, I liked H'18 better than you. I know I liked it better than Tim, but that's true of maybe literally all Halloween movies.

    1. The Halloween franchise is full of tricky names. I still have to Google how to spell Donald Pleasence's surname every single time.

      You definitely liked 2018 better than me, so you may have a chance. But I also don't think they do that film any justice either. So I imagine you'll like HK worse than '18, but better than I like HK.