Evil dies tonight! Evil dies tonight!
This is the chant started by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) as he rallies together the scared townspeople of Haddonfield to take the fight to serial killer Michael Myers (Airon Armstrong/Nick Castle/James Jude Courtney). It’s become something of a meme unto itself, a joke that lightens the horror of ghastly murder and horrendous violence that befalls each of the 31 victims in director David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills. But it’s not a joke. Not really. It’s a symbol of a pain that’s festered in the fictional town for forty years. With very little subtlety, Green and co-writers Scott Teems (The Quary) and Danny McBride (Halloween (2018)) explore how the violence done in Haddonfield in 1978, under the guidance of John Carpenter and Debra Hill, didn’t just send final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) spiraling, but all who were touched by the evil of Michael Myers. Across roughly 40 minutes of bonus materials and with an extended cut as a bonus, audiences can return to Haddonfield on the night the town tried to end their fear and discover (among it all) that evil doesn’t end when the heart stops.
If you’d like to go into Halloween Kills without spoilers, I recommend heading over to the initial release spoiler-free review. Moving forward, there will be no avoidance of sensitive film-related material.
Hitching a ride to the hospital to treat their wounds, Laurie Strode, Karen Nelson (Judy Greer), and Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak), three generations of Strode women, relax in the knowledge that Michael Myers is trapped in Laurie’s basement, her house an inferno. That is, until they see fire trucks racing to the rescue and their screams to let it burn from the back of a truck fall on deaf ears amid the sirens. The first responders end up being the first sacrificed for Michael’s freedom as he makes his way from Laurie’s home into Haddonfield, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Unwilling to let Michael take any more lives, the remaining survivors from 1978 band together behind Tommy Doyle to hunt down Michael and reclaim their town. But what chance do they have against a figure who cannot be reasoned with, scared, or turned away? What chance do they have to beat back evil incarnate?
Halloween Kills is a film which works better as an idea, a concept, than in execution. How one feels about that idea will, therefore, color how one feels about the execution. In the same way I love Jordan Peele’s US (2019) as thematic piece, a metaphor for the prominence of ineffectual platitudes over meaningful change, one might ignore the questions which arise within the narrative under scrutiny; therefore, to a degree, I’m willing to delight in the absolute carnage that is Halloween Kills even if, even on home release, the questions that plagued me still don’t feel wholly answered. How does Michael know the layout of his town when he hasn’t visited for four decades? How could Tommy Doyle not know what Michael looks like compared to escape inmate Lance Tivoli (Ross Bacon) when the killer’s face was plastered all over televisions earlier in the evening? A certain amount of rage/fear-induced blindness will only get you so far, especially when (a) Tivoli lacks the size of Michael and (b) runs away, not fades away. But without Tommy’s blindness, we don’t get the absolute tragedy of Tivoli’s death at the hands of the hospital mob. Without that, there’s no innocent blood on Tommy’s hands and no physical sense of what trauma does to a person, or people, who’ve lived with trauma. There’s also the fact that Halloween (2018) and the start of Kills imply that only a few people still carried said trauma, so the fact that an actual mob forms feels unearned except for that the narrative needs it. What allows Kills to get away with creating the mob comes from the fact that the perspective shifts from being an outsider looking at Laurie in Halloween to one of the aggrieved we follow in Kills. Again, this is idea versus execution. Where I take issue with the execution, the ideas within it are rich and, to a degree, quite gratifying (though a tad on the nose), even as they go so far to imply via the ending that Michael is beyond death, powered by something supernatural or is a true force of evil.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the violence in Kills is a result of sequelitis or a thematic metaphor (Michael’s pissed and he’s taking everyone with him) and the answer may not come until Ends arrives in October 2022 (maybe? Hopefully?), but, for now, my presumption is a bit of both. The original film isn’t the blood-letter that most modern slashers are, nor is 2018’s cannon-busting follow-up. So it makes a bit of sense to unleash a little bit here before the end of this new trilogy. It also makes sense to pit a hyperviolent Michael against a hyperviolent mob. We’ve gotten Laurie vs. Michael already and now she’s recovering from her injury a few hours before and is, therefore, useless throughout the film, but the *idea* of violence clashing with violence, whether as protector or violator, is fertile ground to explore what violence does to us as a people. Again, there’s the interesting metaphor hanging about, getting in the way of a perfectly good time, even if the narrative is a little weak overall. That said, if you like your slashers extra pulpy, Kills does deliver there and the extended cut just ups it. If you liked what you saw in the theatrical/streaming release, you’ll get a total of four extra minutes that offers the alternate ending and several bloodier altercations.
Speaking of the extended cut, one of the changes is a different ending which sees Michael and Laurie connect over the phone after the death of Karen. This has been discussed in articles since the initial release, but now we get to see it. Without going into greater detail, it connects Michael and Laurie directly via phone and amplifies the energy of the ending. The trick is, there’s going to be a four-year time jump, so that ending would be more-or-less wasted. That said, the one thing I’ll give Gordon, Teems, and McBride is, as painful as it is as the audience to see Greer leave the series as both actor and character, it’s a brilliant way to make the films personal. In both 2018’s Halloween and Kills, it’s made clear that Michael was never searching for Laurie in the first place, not even way back in 1978. She was just in the wrong place. It felt personal to her in 2018, so the film did, too. Now, with Karen gone, even with the knowledge that it was Dr. Sartain’s (Haluk Bilginer) infatuation with understanding Michael that put him at her home, there’s only one way Ends can conclude: with a face off. It’s manufactured, to be sure, but with the blood-relation removed after excising Halloween II (1981), it’s the only way to create a head-to-head and it’s brilliant. Except this time, especially with the four-year jump providing the opportunity, it’s going to be Laurie and Allyson against Michael and it’s got the potential to be brutal.
Whether you’re a new fan to the franchise like myself or you know all about the witches, curses, reboots, and restarts, the bonus features will offer you something to appreciate just how much love of the genre and material the cast and crew possess. Interestingly, the three deleted/extended scenes aren’t of the violent variety, so you’ll have to watch the extended cut if you want more ultraviolence, but they do offer small character moments, like Allyson talking with former Chief Brackett. The gag reel is, of course, a hoot (yes, I said “hoot”) as this group clearly had a ball on set. My favorite moment is what sounds like Green cracking jokes over a loudspeaker at Curtis during Laurie’s surgery scene. For those who just want to get down to business, there’s a fast-cut sequence of every death in the film, with the final one lingering so that the weight of it really hits you (R.I.P. Karen). The remaining featurettes — five in total — expound on the filmmaking process, the Halloween legacy, and explore some of the things which continue to bother me even with insider knowledge. The best thing about these featurettes, beyond the knowledge you come away with, is how infectious and welcoming it is. Though the content is incredibly specific to both the film and series, at no point did I feel like an outsider observing it. Part of this is because the bulk of their references stick to 1978 and 2018 Halloween, as well as this film, but the remarks or comments to other films are explained enough through either image or content so that any could understand. Horror has it gatekeepers, like any genre, so it was a welcome surprise not to feel that sense of distance at any point while listening and learning from this glorious horror hounds. You can just hear and feel the vibe from on-set coming at you through the featurettes and it’s a rare thing to feel that.
Before wrapping things up, let me give you some advice about how to access the features. According to the press release, all the below bonus features are included in each format of Halloween Kills. The review copy I was sent didn’t included a DVD, but I can verify that everything is there on the 4K UHD disc, the Blu-ray disc, and the digital edition. I can also verify that selecting either the theatrical or extended cut is super simple with the on-disc feature presented as “Play” then making your choice, whereas the digital edition you just pick. Where things get a little squirrely is the commentary track. On the discs, only one commentary track is listed, whereas, on digital, two individual tracks (theatrical and extended) are presented. If you want to listen to the commentary track on disc, just select the regular commentary and then press play on the extended cut edition. On digital, you’ll have to select the specific commentary track you want. At first glance, I presumed that the physical version didn’t include commentary for the extended cut and it was a digital only feature, but I figured it out after poking around. I’ve seen some home releases place a special track with the audio settings before, so this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, just not the first thing I would think to do. It’s a small thing, but something you should be aware of. Outside of the additional four minutes, the commentary tracks include the exact same people: Director/co-writer David Gordon Green and actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer.
As I wrote in my initial Halloween Kills review, as much as I enjoyed the film, it’s hard to pass full judgement knowing that it’s the middle story in a trilogy. Unlike 2018’s Halloween, which was a standalone, Kills *needs* Ends to complete its tale. Perhaps the answers I seek will be found there. Only time and patience will tell.
Halloween Kills Special Features:
- Haddonfield’s Open Wounds – Those who die at the hands of Michael Myers are not his only victims. We look at some of the returning characters, and why their past traumatic encounters with The Shape made them natural candidates to try and defend Haddonfield against him. (7:15)
- The Kill Team – It takes a big team to create a film the scale of Halloween Kills, especially when part of the task is raising the bar for Michael’s gruesome kills. We hear the people behind the mayhem discuss how they continue to push the franchise to new heights. (11:03)
- Strode Family Values – Filmmakers and cast discuss the three generations of Strode women that have been terrorized by The Shape, and the roles Laurie, Karen and Allyson play in trying to vanquish his evil. (3:38)
- 1978 Transformations – Shooting new footage that matches the feel of the iconic 1978 footage is no easy task, and even takes a little bit of luck. We reveal some of the secrets of how filmmakers achieved these stunning sequences. (5:51)
- The Power Of Fear – The impact of Michael Myers’ pure evil extends far beyond his victims. We examine how fear of The Shape changed the psychology of the people of Haddonfield. (4:28)
- Kill Count (0:54)
- Feature Commentary – Director/co-writer David Gordon Green and stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer (1:45:07)
- Feature Commentary (Extended Cut) – Director/co-writer David Gordon Green and stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer (1:49:07)
- Gag Reel (3:13)
- Three (3) Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Allyson Meets Brackett (0:35)
- Sondra’s Drone Finds The Shape (1:52)
- Protestors Rock Outside Hospital (1:03)
Available for streaming on Peacock October 15th, 2021.
Available on digital December 14th, 2021.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD January 11th, 2022.