Professional BBC film critic Mark Kermode reviewed A Dog’s Journey when it came out and the gist of his review came to, “I absolutely love dogs so 9 minutes in I cried, I cried 3 times in total, and Dennis Quaid looks like my brother – who I dearly love – so all my critical faculties failed.” You can tune into the review here. I like to keep this review in my back pocket because as a film guy it’s pretty common to run into people who take film criticism really seriously. Pretention runs extremely high in art fields, and film has some of the most toxic behaviors of pretention. An outright worship of those who produce content considered prestige, and thus creating a world of comparison and competition in something otherwise intended to be entertaining.
Now, how a movie stands up to itself, how a movie handles what it wants to say, how it says it, and what it tries to get at from start to finish, that I suppose is what a movie can be held up to, but even then these things start to fall apart when we watch a movie, read a book, or even see a commercial that makes us feel things. Those things can be anything: happy, sad, awe, anger, etc. What we feel, well, we don’t necessarily ask for. We may do things to prompt feelings, but we don’t choose to feel them, they just happen to us, and we then decide to make choices and observations based upon those feelings.
I write all this because, unbeknownst to me when watching Halloween Kills the first time, this movie was not well received. Apart from Letterboxd, my podcast, and my email, I am largely offline. I don’t use any of the big social media platforms, as my cohost, Daniel, runs our Podcast Twitter (@CineDoctrine). It’s part of what makes our podcast fun, as I’ll ask Daniel, “Wait, what’s going on? What are people talking about?” and he’ll fill me in. I get to be a real straight-man audience-insert. In fact, it took me a few days later to find out that people didn’t like Halloween Kills, and that primarily because I saw the RT score on Peacock. Both the critic score and the audience score at the time were below 40%! Crazy!
This was strange to me, as I initially felt Halloween Kills was a serious improvement to Halloween (2018), a movie that landed as #63 out of 68 movies I’ve seen from that year (see my 2018 ranked list here). I did not like Halloween (2018) one bit. I found it boring, frustrating, tiresome, and I felt the character of Michael Myers was wildly inaccurate to what I had come to know from the original film, which is bizarre considering how simple he is. Even so, I couldn’t wait to watch both sequels, and I got my ticket for Halloween Kills in advance.
Even cooler, I saw the theater was going to be packed (more-so than when I saw Dune, interestingly) and even my theater experience was a blast. Audience members were heavily engaged with the film, routinely shocked and startled when Michael made his debut, laughing occasionally with the release of tension, and enjoying virtually every minute of the film.
Additionally, there were several people in costume, one of whom I ran into while going to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I looked up in the mirror and there stood a stocky, intimidating shape wearing the Michael Myers overalls and mask. He stood there ominously as I dried my hands and it genuinely gave me a scare! I nervously chuckled and said, “That’s cute!” as I left. Then, when I sat down in the theater, the same figure walked throughout, staring at audience members. Audible comments of shock and laughter could be heard as he stalked someone ready to kill, and it made the experience all the more exciting.
He wasn’t alone, as there was another figure dressed as Michael who confronted the other, spookier Michael. They swooped in for a hug, but the spookier Michael was very-much in character. He nonchalantly rejected the hug, as most Michael’s would, but it was clear they were having a fun time interacting with one another. There was also someone dressed as Freddy Krueger, which I also thought was extremely cute. I wonder if someone was dressed as Ghostface?
I do wonder if my theater experience improved my time with Halloween Kills. Like, in the way blinders hide away things we don’t want to see. That may be possible. Some of the movie’s wild choices may be easy to ignore when I’m enjoying my neighbors experience to a graphic kill, or the entire Big-John-Little-John sequence (one of the best offerings this movie has to give!). It’s fun to participate with others, and it’s something people lose when they’re streaming at home. That’s not to decry streaming as a net-negative. It’s just different, and I’m sure watching Halloween Kills on Peacock by oneself is kind of… boring. Not to say the movie doesn’t have anything to offer to the solo viewer in terms of heady or philosophical stimulation. I.e. it’s not a thinking man’s movie. I watched it a second time on Peacock, restarting it before recording our podcast episode, then finishing it on my phone while I completed some chores (somewhere, a director cries as they read that I watch movies on my phone) and the movie was fine, if not a little better that second time around, but more on that later.
Sure, it was clear certain parts of the movie wouldn’t land (specifically that mob stuff, which in the moment I even thought to myself would be a huge point of contention among audience members and critics), but the rest of the movie clearly was a crowd pleaser, and I counted myself among them: greatly pleased.
It’s sort of why I’m finding it so interesting to see people not like this movie. Which is okay! I’m not bothered people think this movie is stupid, overly serious, and outright ludicrous at times. I even texted my cohost after my screening, “Can’t wait till you see it. It’s so silly.” Because it really is. The entire mob-plot is silly, Tommy Doyle is silly, Laurie Strode is silly, and even Jamie Lee Curtis is a tad silly when you see her in interviews. Or, God-forbid you watched that bonus feature The Night She Came Home on the Scream Factory release of Halloween. It’s so boring, but you see how particular Jamie Lee Curtis is as a person, and man does that come through in this movie.
It’s so clear that a lot of people working on this movie, Jamie Lee Curtis included (as she is credited as Executive Producer) wanted to use the Halloween franchise – of all franchises – to say something. A movie whose foundation is based in simplicity turning into a complex horror drama about the infectious dangers of untethered fear and cultural trauma doesn’t seem rational, nor reasonable, but I’m not going to say it’s impossible. And, in a way, Halloween Kills succeeds in saying what it wants to say, even if what it’s saying (fear is bad mmkaaaay) is said in some of the most clear-cut and borderline juvenile ways possible (“Now he’s turning us into monsters.”).
But, that’s sort of what I love about this movie. Because Michael doesn’t really care about others. As Daniel says in our episode, Michael thinks about killing and how to kill better. He isn’t turning anyone into monsters, he isn’t after Laurie Strode, he’s just a killing machine who kills. And where the movie tries to say something about humanity, Michael, a system, or anything else Jamie Lee Curtis and company want to talk about, Michael is right around the corner ready to kill and prove everyone wrong.
It’s why I’m starting to liken up to the ending of this movie. For every character trying to figure Michael out, or even trying to make sense of how to stop him, Michael kills. One minute a character ponders evil and the second evil kills them as if to stop them from trying too hard. It’s this great irony that I seriously don’t think was intended by anyone who made the film. It’s like Michael is coming to life in this movie proving those who made it completely wrong. Michael kills, and thinks about killing, and sometimes that includes a writer, director, and executive producers ideological idea of who Michael is.
Michael Myers represents very little. I wouldn’t even necessarily say he represents evil. His killings never seem out of evil, even if murder is inherently evil. And before I ponder further and put myself at risk of Michael coming into my home and crushing my skull against a computer monitor, Michael is just fear, and that’s it. The movie wants to start with a monologue about how, “We must not succumb to fear.” but it never ponders how fear isn’t something you give into, it’s just something that happens. It happens, and it’s rational. And, I’m sorry, but Michael is scary and that’s all there is to it.
Laurie, honey, you don’t need to be the person to kill Michael. I kind of think that’d be the worst idea in the world. It worked in Halloween (2018) because that was your movie, about your trauma, and about you overcoming it. But Halloween Kills is a bit more complicated and chaotic than your movie was. It’s kind of stupid at times, and at others it’s kind of awesome (I just love the first 30 minutes of this movie!). But at the end of the day, I think this films critic failure is part of what makes it work. No matter how much characters shout “Evil dies tonight!” and reminisce about something that happened 40 years ago to 3 teens, it just doesn’t matter. Michael Myers is Michael Myers. Everyone knows it, and that’s why so much of the movie arguable “sucks”. And then it’s awesome again because Michael just does his thing: he kills.
Am I rooting for Michael? Not really. I liked a lot of the characters in this movie, I found their motivations reasonable (albeit illogical), and the silver screen has been graced with two of the greatest side characters ever (Big John and Little John Oscar nods please). I don’t want any of these people to die. But the fact that Michael sort of just destroys everyone in this movie is the icing on the cake to all the platitudes and philosophy attempting to blead through the script.
Yes, I’ve done some amazing mental gymnastics to justify an 8/10 score for this movie. I’ve done a lot of metatextual work to explain what I like about this movie, and for that I am a little frustrated. I don’t know why but every year or two there’s a movie where I feel the need to justify why I like it, and that’s kind of a shame. But need I pine one last time to make my case than to say; read the first paragraph again, and possibly watch the video linked, too. At the end of the day, film criticism is kind of a joke. Entertainment is just that: entertainment. It’s fun to take seriously, but only if we make it fun. When it stops being fun, we don’t need to take it seriously. And, for me, I had a lot of fun with Halloween Kills. So, 8/10 for me, and plenty future rewatches to come.
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Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!
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