“Halloween Kills” Sees Big Box Office Success and Mixed Reactions Among Fans

Christian Pensa, Reporter

Photo via IMDB.com

Following the massive success of David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), a 12th and 13th installment to the long-running franchise were announced in July of 2019. The first of these, titled Halloween Kills, was released this fall in theaters and on Peacock, NBC’s home streaming service. While the film grossed $49 million for its opening weekend, for many Halloween fans, this movie quickly earned a spot on the lower end of their rankings of the franchise, with a mere 40% critic rating and 66% audience rating from rottentomatoes.com.

In a review of the film uploaded to YouTube, horror reviewer Cody Leach praises the film for its opening sequences. For Leach, the flashback sequence that the movie begins with “is by far my favorite part of this movie. I thought they did a brilliant job with that,” he said. “The story direction that they gave as far as filling in that little gap of what happened in 1978, how did Michael get caught? I thought it was awesome.” He also speaks briefly about the violence in the film, saying, “This movie is titled Halloween Kills, and that is exactly what they are going for here. This is in competition with Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009) for the most gory and the most relentlessly brutal chapter in the Halloween saga.”

Voice actor and self-proclaimed Halloween superfan Dave McRae had similar things to say about the opening flashback sequence. “They did such a tremendous job on the flashback…everybody that was involved, the entire crew did such an amazing job at making a Halloween purist like me smile.” McRae also preferred the atmosphere of this film to its 2018 predecessor. “The visual aesthetic, the lighting, the mood, and the atmosphere…that feeling, that style, that look was missing from the 2018 film,” he says. “In this movie I liked the tonal shift…it was cooler, it was darker, it felt more like autumn in the midwest.”

In spite of this praise, the two also had negative opinions about certain aspects of the film. In his video, Leach says, “I think there are some integral issues with this movie that even Halloween die-hards are not going to be happy with.” He took issue with the unsatisfactory ending as well as the emphasis of violence over tension, saying, “The ending of this movie was so unsatisfying…that honestly, despite the fact that I know a third and ‘final’ film is coming, I have no interest in seeing what happens with this story,” and “What I was not ready for was for all of the tension, all of the atmosphere, and all of the scares in this movie to be sacrificed to give us a bunch of carnage.” 

McRae critiqued some issues with storytelling, primarily regarding the pacing. “I think the pacing in Halloween ‘18 is far better…the pacing in this movie seems a little strange, but that also could be because every time we go back to [the scenes in] the hospital, I don’t think these moments…are strong enough to make me glad we’re [there]. I’m like ‘can we go back to Myers killing?’”

In spite of fans having some positive things to say about the film, critics’ responses were mostly negative. In a review written by Brian Tallerico, editor of rogerebert.com and President of the Chicago Film Critics Association, he criticizes the messy, forced social commentary. “This film muddies its entire concept with a bizarre, unrefined commentary on mob mentality that is quite simply some of the worst material in either [director David Gordon] Green’s career and the history of this rocky franchise….” Similarly to McRae, Tallerico also found the pacing to be mediocre, saying “The biggest difference between the visions of [Halloween (1978) director John] Carpenter and Green comes down to momentum. The first “Halloween” is lean and mean, whereas this movie can’t maintain focus for longer than a few minutes… .”

Rotten Tomatoes Top Critic Richard Whittaker also found the movie to be a frustrating, misguided entry in the series. In a review for The Austin Chronicle, he said “Many of the great slasher movies have less gore and more plot than audiences recall, but Halloween Kills lacks any of the lean efficiency of John Carpenter’s original, and the tedious conversations flatly delivered will lodge in the brain longer than any of Michael’s mayhem.”

With the final sequel planned to go into production in January 2022 and set for release in October, horror fanatics are looking forward to the conclusion of the franchise in spite of their opinions on Kills. As Richard Whittaker continues in his review, “Maybe Halloween Kills will make more sense when the finale of the trilogy, Halloween Ends, gives [its] themes some context. But as a sequel to the deliciously absurd 2018 resurrection, it’s a ponderous bore, far-too-intermittently broken up by spurts of the franchise’s signature gore.”