‘Halloween Kills’: Where did the old Michael go?

The Michael Myers of the past has been sacrificed to the modern horror movie cliche in the latest installment of the “Halloween” franchise: “Halloween Kills.”  (Warning: Spoilers ahead for several of the “Halloween” films.)

Michael Myers, the main antagonist of the “Halloween” series, is one of the most well-known horror movie villains of all time. With 12 movies including the 1978 original, one might assume that the story has lost its charm, but while the newer additions are entertaining, they don’t deliver the same scares that they used to, and they are falling prey to popular culture.

“Halloween Kills” opens up right where the previous film left off with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) making her escape from her deadly second encounter with Myers after 40 years of living in fear. Laurie makes it to the hospital assuming that Michael is finally gone and she and her family have escaped him and are safe. But that is very much not the case when Michael emerges from Laurie’s burning home to continue his killing spree. OK, this Michael looks familiar: determined, maybe supernatural, walking through fire, unable to be killed. But wait, we find out later it’s not the Michael we’ve all come to know in this newest film version.

These recent additions to the “Halloween” movies have taken a frustrating approach by pretty much ignoring everything that happens in the previous films, except for the main plot laid out by the original. We are led to believe that Laurie has not had any other encounter with Michael since that first Halloween night way back then. This approach leaves a lot of major plot points from other films in the series out, like the fact that Michael is related to Laurie, so viewers are playing catch-up, or just saying “Uhhhh…what?” The creators may have made this decision to make this movie stand alone, but it ends up feeling like they threw Jamie Lee Curtis into this newest film for a quick buck. I mean, surely Curtis can remember that her character is, in fact, Michael Myers’s sister – since she played that character in the original!

The entire town of Haddonfield is still greatly affected by that violent Halloween so many years ago and that fear turns into panic when the public learns that Michael is again out. The townsfolk form a mob led by three people who came face to face with Michael when they were children. While the idea of teaming up to end Michael Myers may sound like a good one, it’s horribly executed. Most of the time the mob is chasing after people only thought to be Michael and not Michael himself, which amounts to little more than cheap thrills. The film is obviously trying to make a statement about the stupidity of mob mentality, but it’s poorly done. It just leads to a good chunk of the movie being devoted to people running around and screaming while the audience is bored.

The main issue with the movie, though, is how Michael Myers’s character has changed. In the original film, Michael is presented as a man with no emotion. He kills just because he can, because he has to, and then he moves on. There is no sense that he gets much of anything out of it all. This is what makes Michael unique among horror movie villains. He’s a machine. A blank slate against which the audience can project their own imagined motivations. He isn’t human. This all changes in “Halloween Kills.”  Michael’s behavior is much more intentionally violent and angry; he kills people in ways that lead viewers to believe he’s enjoying what he’s doing. This makes him seem more like the boring slasher villain popular today than the mysterious super-human that made the original “Halloween” such a creepy, scary movie. “Halloween Kills” presents a killer who gains pleasure from chaos and violence – we’ve all seen too much of that on film – and it’s completely different from the essence of Michael’s original character. And it was that difference that made him so frightening.

Overall “Halloween Kills” is a disappointing addition to the “Halloween franchise.” It’s still scary at times and is fine for anyone looking for a basic Halloween scare, but for die-hard “Halloween” fans this feels like nothing more than a cash grab.