First Halloween Kills reviews brutally split over 'darker, meaner, disturbing' sequel

·7 min read
First Halloween Kills reviews brutally split over 'darker, meaner, disturbing' sequel

Critics are hacking and slashing away at the long-awaited horror sequel Halloween Kills.

The Jamie Lee Curtis-starring film debuted Wednesday at the Venice International Film Festival, and initial reactions appear to be finely spliced into two categories: Those who are giddy over iconic killer Michael Myers' latest onslaught of gore, and others who are downright disgusted.

"Halloween Kills is a darker, meaner, more disturbing entry in the franchise. The kills are absolutely brutal and shocking in the best way," tweeted Collider's Rafael Motomayor, though he took issue with the film's abrupt ending (a final franchise entry, Halloween Ends, is slated for release next year). "It was great seeing old characters again, and there is a flashback that blew my mind. Sadly, this is 100% half a film."

Discussing Film critic Ben Rolph similarly called the movie "one of the most brutal films ever made," and The Wrap's Asher Luberto takes his analysis of director David Gordon Green's intense depiction of violence one step further.

"It's about the generational trauma bestowed upon Haddonfield. The action sequences are more than just action sequences; in Green's social allegory, they are a way for citizens to confront their trauma, their rage, their oppression, and to reclaim their power and agency through revenge," he wrote, referencing the film's plot that sees Laurie Strode (Curtis) and her family (Judy Greer, Andi Matichak) uniting the town's residents (including classic, returning actors like Kyle Richards and Nancy Stephens) in an all-out hunt for Myers. "We see Haddonfield not just as a victim of a masked assailant, but also a victim of larger forces who will stop at nothing to dehumanize their community."

Others were let down by the bloodletting, like The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney, who called the film a "latex ghoul mask so stretched and shapeless it no longer fits" that plays as wafer-thin as "exactly the kind of witless, worthless sequel that bled the franchise dry in the 1980s and '90s."

The Playlist's Jessica Kiang agreed, taking issue with the frustrating logic of the film's characters as it "doubles the body count of the previous installment while roughly halving its IQ" in the process: "Honestly, in the name of evolutionary natural selection," she finished, "maybe a town this dumb deserves Michael Myers."

See more Halloween Kills reviews below.

Ryan Green/Universal Pictures Michael Myers returns in 'Halloween Kills.'

Asher Luberto (The Wrap)
"Halloween Kills is no mere gore-fest — it's about the generational trauma bestowed upon Haddonfield. The action sequences are more than just action sequences; in Green's social allegory, they are a way for citizens to confront their trauma, their rage, their oppression, and to reclaim their power and agency through revenge. We see Haddonfield not just as a victim of a masked assailant, but also a victim of larger forces who will stop at nothing to dehumanize their community."

Jessica Kiang (The Playlist)
"What tension can there be when there's a killer who is virtually unkillable and absolutely ubiquitous? It's genuinely striking how few fake-outs or red herrings or surprises there are. Whenever someone hears a floorboard creak, Michael's in the house. No matter which car they get into, Michael's in the back seat. The shadow at the window? That'll be Michael. Every door that's mysteriously ajar? Why, hey there, Michael. Green's tactic in 2018 was to make a sequel to the 1978 film that simply ignored the fact that nine other Halloween films happened in the meantime. This was the best choice he, along with co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, could have made because all of those films are, to use the correct critical term, shite. But out with the bathwater, this time has gone the baby; in an effort to remake and refresh the mythology of the franchise, the writers (this time minus Fradley and plus Scott Teems) have strayed dangerously close to getting rid of it altogether, virtually destroying the one relationship of any substance at all, and the only one we really give a damn about: that semi-mystical, weirdly symbiotic link between Laurie Strode and her eternal faceless nemesis. Of all the things Halloween Kills had to kill, why that?"

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Green has made exactly the kind of witless, worthless sequel that bled the franchise dry in the 1980s and '90s.... What's most disappointing is that after reimagining Curtis' Laurie as a fierce warrior grandmother, hardened by PTSD into a tough customer at considerable cost to her personal relationships, here she's basically sidelined in post-surgery recovery. She gets to spout some wobbly Halloween lore, about Michael transcending mortality to become a superhuman disseminator of fear. But mostly she's just killing time waiting for the inevitable showdown in the closing chapter."

Ben Rolph (Discussing Film)
"Halloween Kills is a non-stop, blood-rushing blast. David Gordon Green takes the brutality of his 2018 film and amps it up, breaking the dial in the process. Michael literally mows his way through the entire town of Haddonfield, no character, big or small, is ever safe. There are some absolutely gnarly kills that will become ingrained in spectators' minds. It's shocking to the highest degree. In terms of the film's scare factor, audiences will be undoubtedly biting their nails in anxiety. Green successfully keeps the viewer on edge as one anticipates the sudden arrival of Michael's cold knife piercing through his next victim."

Ben Croll (IndieWire)
"Green has money to burn and time to kill, and the town of Haddonfield is right there waiting. And if this bloody entr'acte, whose title addition works as both noun and verb, has little to offer but a jacked up body count on a bed of fan service, it serves both with panache, charging forward as an almost elemental slasher outing unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. To paraphrase Ian Holm in that other late '70s touchstone that spawned an unkillable franchise, you do have to admire its purity. That would be purity of purpose, mind you, and not quite of theme. On that front, Halloween Kills is more than a bit muddled..."

Savina Petkova (AwardsWatch)
"Halloween Kills swaps the personified cyclical trauma of Laurie for an angry, multitudinous crowd but what it achieves has little to do with communal kinship. In fact, only if read as a social critique on mob mentality, the film can amend its ambiguous political stance. But whenever Haddonfield citizens regurgitate stock-like ultimatums about the end of their suffering as a society, these words are nothing more than a testament to how much of a projection Michael Myers's evil nature can be. No doubt, it's not up to slasher films to dissect the killer's psychology but the ones who attempt to do it without holding off its resourcefully choreographed killings make the most thrilling watch. And here Green's outdone himself: Michael's nimble use of pipes, torches, lamps, and all other household items when stabbing or suffocating his victims elevates the horrific experience to an uncanny degree, almost as if people are being butchered by their own homes. Yes, the massacres will live up to the expectations of a blood-thirsty audience, but their intellectual cravings couldn't possibly be quenched by a simplistic delineation between 'only good' and 'only evil'. Or should we say, 'only Laurie', or 'only Michael'?"

Halloween Kills premieres Oct. 15.

Subscribe to EW's BINGE podcast for full recaps of RuPaul's Drag Race, including our new season diving into all five All Stars seasons, featuring exclusive interviews with Jujubee, Alexis Mateo, Shea Couleé, Alaska, Detox, BenDeLaCreme, Kennedy Davenport, and more. And be sure to catch up on our BINGE recaps of RuPaul's Drag Race seasons 1-13 with Symone, Jaida Essence Hall, Trixie Mattel, Katya, Peppermint, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour, and more!

Related content: