“Halloween Kills” is a different, yet same of the franchise

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“Halloween,” the horror movie franchise that frightened moviegoers for the first time in 1978, is back. So much is familiar in “Halloween Kills,” that a moviegoer might think he or she has wandered into a retro version of the movie. This is especially true if a moviegoer has been waited on by an elderly theater employee who insists on calling it “Halloween Two,” any time someone said “Halloween Kills.” Confusing. But, the makers of “Halloween Kills” are aware of their history and the popularity of their story. They have also read cultural cues and gone for representation, which, when written sounds like pandering, but in the movie looks like real-life, so that works. Even though “Halloween Kills” does not deliver what its trailers promise, it still delivers big ideas about human nature and evil.

“Halloween Kills”: old premises die hard

Spoiler alert: The trailers for “Halloween Kills” focuses on the idea of “evil dies tonight.” Presumably, then, horror fans lined up to see one of modern horrors worst bogeymen get his just desserts, or hatchet. This premise sounds good and there is a scene where this happens, but something goes awry. This off-the-mark approach is best left for the viewing.

What horror masters (like John Carpenter here) and all good storytellers have in common is a knowledge of human nature. The age of cancel culture, misinformation, rumor, and the power of downright lies are represented here. An innocent man is mistaken for Michael Myers because he broke out of an institution? Anyone who knew the size, shape, and movements of Michael should have known that was the wrong guy. Another tragedy. A little too late, those responsible for it tried to stop it, and the voices calling for justice and rationality were silenced.

Early on, the movie almost begins like a joke: several slasher survivors go to a bar…Aside from that, here is when audiences begin to notice that Haddonfield, Illinois is not the provincial town it was when viewers were first introduced to it. There are black people: black female doctors and black male nurses (in at least one instance married to each other), there are elderly people in interracial relationships, there are committed homosexual couples, and there are mouthy kids – – nothing new there. The small city looks like so much of the United States. Audiences know the landscape and the demographics. At no point did the citizens turn on each other and blame lifestyles or orientation. For a moment, it seemed the movie would only be scary in flashbacks. But that idea is soon disposed of.

“Halloween Kills”: Michael Myers gets new ideas

After a few kills, it becomes clear that Michael has learned staging. He poses his victims as if he would take pictures of them for his serial killer Instagram. Sometimes, when he kills people in their homes, Michael poses people like a photo he likes in their house. It is weird. Is this his way of respecting family?

Michael has changed in other ways. Gone are the strident tones that announced his coming. It is chopped up and all but erased and taken over by mean guitars. Also, there seems to be no placement of the Blue Oyster Cult classic, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” There was not even a modern replacement song. It might only be missed by fans of the original, and fans of hard rock.

Audiences do learn more about Michael Myers. Still, it was a little sad watching the middle-aged and elderly adults he tortured as children and teenagers still unable to rid themselves of him. People have more discussions about Myers and his effect on the survivors. As a result, audiences learn more about why Michael is so difficult to kill. This, and the eventual end of the movie, show audiences why the franchise is probably not ending soon.

In this installment, Jamie Lee Curtis is underused as she reprises her role, sort of. She is still Laurie the babysitter, but she is a grandmother now. She confronts Michael. That is something else that is different – – people address Michael, and he appears to stop and listen. But he eventually does whatever he’d planned to. If Michael Myers is what the citizens of Haddonfield claim he is, will he be a paranormal phenomenon next? Audiences wonder.

“Halloween Kills” is worth seeing. The movie is scary, and will even provide unsettling moments for jaded horror viewers. The phrase “evil dies tonight” is a good thought. It just doesn’t happen the way viewers are led to believe it will.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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