Halloween Kills

Written by Alexander Reams

93/100

I love movies. I have since I saw the first Iron Man. Films will sometimes come along and remind me why I love them. David Gordon Green’s follow-up to 2018’s Halloween is one of those films. 

Beginning back in 1978 on the first night Michael came home, we are introduced to a young Deputy Hawkins (Thomas Mann) and his partner Pete McCabe (Jim Cummings). They are hunting Michael after his killings, Laurie has been rescued, and now the hunt continues. Before he returns to his childhood home, Michael runs into a young boy, Lonnie Elam (who will become a surprising lookalike to actor Robert Longstreet). After this encounter, Michael makes it to his home and waits for his next victims to come to him. He is truly an animal, and he hunts like one, why would he go out and risk being seen when he knows they will come to him. Eventually, this comes to pass, with Hawkins and McCabe reaching the house. When they do, one can imagine what happens. We already know Hawkins survives, and Michael is apprehended. 

Jump to 40 years later, a quick recap for those who did not watch 2018’s Halloween. Michael escapes, Laurie is suffering from PTSD, Michael does some stabbing and choking, Laurie, her daughter Karen, and granddaughter Allyson trick Michael and trap him in Laurie’s “Batcave” and light the place up like a Roman candle. That was the end, or until Blumhouse decided to make 2 more sequels. Now all they have to do is have Michael (logically) escape a burning house. 

To my surprise, they took this challenge and conquered it with relative ease. Then made it macabre, beautiful, and horrifying. From Michael’s opening scene, escaping Laurie’s trap and cutting through several firefighters with ease. Gordon Green’s DP from 2018’s Halloween Michael Simmonds returns for Halloween Kills and his skill of blocking horrific, violent set-pieces is showcased once again. The lighting, using the fire as a gorgeous backdrop to show the silhouettes of the firefighters being slain. Making the entire sequence appear like a painting.

After he makes quick work of these firefighters, Michael begins to hunt, presumably for Laurie, who is now in the hospital recovering from the wounds that she received at the end of the previous film. Which was a welcome rush of realism to this franchise, Laurie is not a young woman anymore, she can’t jump back up immediately and go toe-to-toe with Michael again. She needs time to heal, which means in this film she is mostly relegated to the sidelines. While some might be disappointed, I was not, this gave time to other characters who were sidelined in the first film, i.e. Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter. She takes center stage and shows how great of a performer she can be when she is given the right material. 

Following its 2018 predecessor, Halloween Kills also has something to say about society, and is now even more relevant after its countless delays. The idea of a mob mentality after the majority of 2020 is constantly in the social zeitgeist and here the creatives behind the film took that idea and turned it into Michael being the creator of more monsters and having them destroy the town for him. These survivors of Michael’s attacks and his continued hold on them have poisoned their outlooks on life and their ability to reasonably react to his return to Haddonfield.

Gordon Green and company’s return to the iconic franchise managed to do the impossible, continue the stories set up in the first film, tell a story between the beginning and ends of this trilogy, and deliver even more brutality than the first. With this writer loving the latter aspect the most. With every kill I felt the blood spattering and the force of Michael’s presence crushing my soul with every step he took. The final 15 minutes are some of the best filmmaking of Gordon Green’s career and set up a finale that cannot and should not be missed. Truly the Empire Strikes Back of horror films(or at the very least Halloween).

Halloween Kills Trailer

Halloween Kills is currently available to stream on Peacock and playing in wide theatrical releases.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

The Blazing World

Written by Patrick Hao

35/100

The Blazing World is part of a concerning trend with genre movies in which filmmakers and the film press feel like in order to instill these films with a sense of importance, these films have to be didactically about real world trauma. The Babadook, a movie I love, is the first one of these films that come to mind in the way that the press hailed it as great because it tackled such heavy subject matter like postpartum depression. As that movie garnered praise and attention, more and more genre films have seemingly felt the need to be shallow and explicit about the very “trauma” at their core.

Recent examples, such as Candyman, The Night House, and the David Gordon Green’s new Halloween movies come to mind as films that put the subtext as text in a way that feels self-conscious in asserting their importance to the public discourse of trauma. This feels especially disconcerting given that a genre like horror has always been about trauma as the root of fear, but it was allowed to exist as subtext. The Blazing World lives in a pretentious self-consciousness.

The title, The Blazing World, comes from Margaret Cavendish’s seminal 17th century story about a utopian society, but this film has little to do with that, having drawn more inspiration story and style-wise from C.S. Lewis or Lewis Carroll. The film follows Margaret who accidentally drowns her sister as a child while her parents (Vinessa Shaw and Dermot Mulroney) are fighting. As she contemplates suicide, she is whisked away to somewhere else through the help of a man named Lained (Udo Kier as an Udo Kier type) and a portal. Now, as an adult (played by the writer-director Carlson Young) as she returns home, she is on a surrealist journey fueled by her subconscious defined by trauma and loss.

As Carlson Young’s debut feature after spending more than a decade as a young actress doing Disney television and Scream Queens, it is easy to understand that Young wanted to throw everything at the wall to see what stuck. Her surrealist subconscious is bathed in different hues and seems informed by works from Lynch and Jodorowsky. But, in how misguided it is, The Blazing World is probably more like Terry Gilliam’s Tideland

The world that Margaret finds herself in is neither surreal enough to allow the dreamscape to wash over the viewer nor tethered in emotions that are relatable. There is barely even tension in some of the horror focused scenes. Any room left open to interpretation is undercut by the fact that we are supposed to be seeing this as a trigger of Margaret’s trauma. There is even a character who explicitly tells Margaret what she is going through is traumatic.

The lighting and production design is also self consciously cool. The aesthetic may be best described as mid-2010s Tumblr chic with “One Perfect Shot” energy. It’s so self consciously cool that it might as well be this Letterboxd list – cool to look at but devoid of substance. But, as a calling card, Young certainly displays enough of any eye to deserve a bigger budget, and maybe a better script. It’s also hard to be too harsh on a film like The Blazing World. It is clearly a personal passion project with a lot to prove. But it also seems emblematic of a trend in genre movies that should be quickly reversed. Let subtext be subtext.

The Blazing World Trailer

The Blazing World will be available in limited theatrical release and to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms on October 15th.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.