‘Halloween Kills,’ and That Makes for a Bloody Mess

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Halloween Kills (CREDIT: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Robert Longstreet, Charles Cyphers, Dylan Arnold, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Director: David Gordon Green

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Blood, Guts, Viscera, Screaming

Release Date: October 15, 2021 (Theaters and Streaming on Peacock)

According to Halloween Kills, there are two main reasons why you should avoid mob justice:

1. You might go after the wrong person and end up killing an innocent man.
2. The guy you’re targeting seemingly can’t be killed.

That second lesson applies specifically to the Halloween film franchise (although it can certainly be extended to other horror classics). These seem like pretty obvious lessons, but I guess I should cut the characters in this film some slack, considering that they don’t have the same context that we viewers do. In case you need a refresher: the David Gordon Green-directed Halloween Kills is a direct sequel to the 2018 Halloween (also directed by Green), which was itself a direct sequel to the original 1978 Halloween that ignored all the other sequels. So while in the current continuity it might be a slight surprise to the residents of Haddonfield that Michael Myers is indestructible, it’s not at all surprising to the audience.

As the Halloween franchise is 43 years old and a dozen films deep, it’s forgivable if it doesn’t pull off too many genuine shocks anymore, so long as it has something to say. And Halloween Kills certainly wants to have something to say vis-a-vis that mob justice angle. But it seems to me like the townspeople seeking justice are actually fairly effective. Sure, the misidentification is pretty bad, but they eventually do manage to corner Michael. Their plan would have worked against someone a little more mortal!

But of course, the dictates of pre-planned sequel-dom make it clear that an ultimate victory is fully out of reach. A third entry directed by Green, entitled Halloween Ends, is already on the schedule for next October. So right now, we can feel pretty confident that Michael will return and that Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode will as well. Everyone else, even some returning favorites (including child star-turned-Beverly Hills housewife Kyle Richards herself), are a little more vulnerable.

So then, we’re left to hope that the set pieces are at least effective. Pretty much all of them are throwbacks to the style of the original. Some are pretty funny, others are melodramatic, all of them end in relentless violence. Probably the most amusing is the series of scenes with Michael McDonald (the steamroller-crushed security guard from Austin Powers) and Scott MacArthur (best-known for the short-lived Fox sitcom gem The Mick) as a couple just trying to have a relaxing Halloween night in. Unfortunately, they decided to live in Michael Myers’ former home, and that just doesn’t bode well for their future together. If Halloween decides to go in a sillier and campier direction, they’ve got the blueprint right here.

Halloween Kills is Recommended If You Like: Saw-style gore, Inevitable death, Anthony Michael Hall springing into action

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Masks

‘The Forever Purge’ is a Modern Dystopian Nightmare

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The Forever Purge (CREDIT: Universal Pictures/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rabin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton

Director: Evarardo Gout

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Sniveling, Racist, Terroristic Violence

Release Date: July 2, 2021 (Theaters)

I thought we were done with The Purge. With the 2016 release of The Purge: Election Year, a new administration ascended and officially ended the annual night of state-sanctioned lawlessness. But horror franchises never say die, so this one went the prequel route with 2018’s The First Purge. There was also a two-season TV series that debuted that same year, which I watched one episode of. As far as I know, it has little, if any, bearing on the movies. Now all the legal crime’s been reinstated in The Forever Purge, and as the title indicates, there’s a contingent intent on it never ending. But after such a satisfying conclusion in Election Year, that’s such a depressing prospect to me. So pretty much the only way I can find The Forever Purge palatable is by pretending that it’s essentially a standalone entry, so that’s what I’ll do.

It’s not too hard to pull off this mental trick, as Forever carries over no characters from any previous entries (save for the ever-present specter of the “New Founding Fathers of America” regime that conceived of The Purge in the first place). This time around we’re in Texas, with a white ranch-owning family and a Mexican family that works on the ranch as our requisite set of people who would prefer to barricade themselves up during this here Purge, thank you very much. (Josh Lucas’s Dylan Tucker, the biggest jackass of these clans, has the most selfish reason for opposing this ritual, as he declares, “I hate the damn Purge. It’s just hard to be social on that night.”) Then there are the truly demented forever purgers, among the most thoroughly evil caricatures of any good grindhouse flick.

After living through a pandemic and its attendant heightened anxiety, I’m not exactly in the mood for the 24/7 terror promised by The Forever Purge. Hell, I’m not usually ever in the mood for that, but at least when the earlier Purge editions came out, they felt much further removed from reality than they do now. But insurrectionists demanding that the government make their already-extreme policies even more extreme is very much a part of recent American history. At least The Forever Purge allows for some catharsis by making it very clear that it is on the side of the systemically downtrodden. This has always been an “eat the rich” franchise, and this time that’s clearer than ever, what with the villains aiming to essentially start a race war. In conclusion, I can’t remember any other mainstream film in my lifetime basically saying “Maybe Mexico is a better place to live than America right now,” so I have to applaud The Forever Purge‘s gumption and conviction.

The Forever Purge is Recommended If You Like: Revisiting a nightmare world

Grade: 3 out of 5 Purges

This Is a Movie Review: The Latest ‘Halloween’ Examines the Brutal Roles of Killer and Survivor

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CREDIT: Ryan Green/Universal Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Nick Castle, Toby Huss

Director: David Gordon Green

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Relentless Knife Piercings All Over the Body

Release Date: October 19, 2018

What if your purpose in life is to kill people? What if your purpose in life is to be in a decades-long struggle with that killer? Horror sequels that come many years after the original and feature the same main character unavoidably grapple with matters relating to the circular nature of fate. Halloween, the same-named sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, is especially committed to those questions in a way that deepens the meanings of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode without straying too ridiculously far from their initial incarnations.

As a direct sequel to the 40-years-earlier initially entry, this Halloween ignores everything that happened in all previous sequels and reboots. It is thus somewhat confusing that it opts for the identical title, but it is also thematically appropriate. Director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley are working under the presupposition that where evil struck once, it will strike again, in much the same manner that it did before. That is certainly what Laurie Strode believes, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to her iconic role once again by jumping headlong into the disaster preparedness lifestyle. Michael has been locked away since the night of his rampage, but Laurie is convinced he will escape and kill again. Her relentless focus on readying herself for that probability has helped her survive, but it has also ruined her relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and anyone else she has ever been close with.

Green understands what made Carpenter’s approach so effective, as he similarly relies on tension-building instead of jump scares when showing Michael at work. We see more of the bloody brutality than we used to, which in one way is an indication that it is so hard to shock anymore but in another way is so frightening in its implication that rehabilitation may be impossible in some cases. For Michael, killing is practically a vocation. There are attempts by a few characters to explain his motivations, but he remains so terrifying mysterious, because the explanation ultimately never goes beyond the tautology of “he kills because he has to kill.” While Laurie is one of his favorite targets, there is a mythically eternal element to their struggle that suggests that he cannot ever actually kill her and also that she cannot ever kill him. Thus, at the moment that she gains the upper hand and we see his confused reaction, it is devastating. Not because we sympathize with the killer, but because the saga may very well have finally reached the point when it must end.

Halloween is Recommended If You Like: Halloween (1978), Disaster preparedness

Grade: 4 out of 5 Stabbings